Designed by: Vicki Breitbart
                     Jini Tanenhaus
                     Planned Parenthood of New York City

Values clarification activities can be used in sites where abortion services are being implemented to assess staff readiness to implement abortion and to help staff deal with their personal concerns about working in a place that is providing abortions. It is helpful to have an administrator present the decision to implement services so that the values clarification is not perceived as an opportunity by vocal anti-choice staff to interfere with the establishment of abortion services.

The Values Clarification Workshop outline below is formatted to be given in a two-hour time slot. However, The Center has used this workshop in a modified format during the one-hour staff lunch break.  By shortening each section, it is possible to fit this valuable exercise into a shorter space of time, without compromising the important messages being imparted. Values Clarification Workshops should be led by individuals with training in mental health and group process.


To provide the opportunity for staff who are new to the provision of abortion to assess their attitudes and beliefs regarding the issues surrounding abortion.


After this workshop, staff will be able to:

  1. Identify the myths and reality surrounding the provision of abortion services in this country and the women who have them.
  2. Identify their own beliefs and attitudes towards the provision of abortion services and the women who have them.
  3. Separate their personal beliefs from their professional role in the provision of abortion services.

Fact Sheet on Abortion in the U.S.
Sentence Completion forms
Values Clarification Statements

I. Introduction: 5 minutes

Newsprint with goals and objectives outlined

Everyone goes around and states their role in the centers.
Facilitator describes the goals and the objectives for the session.

II. Establishing ground rules: 5 minutes

Newsprint and markers

Establish ways of working together. Participants in this workshop will be discussing very sensitive issues and they need a safe environment. Ex. Keep everything confidential; listen even if we disagree; there are no wrong answers.

III. Establishing empathy: 25 minutes

Materials: Newsprint and markers

Exercise 1:

The facilitator asks the group to think of a time when they were in trouble, had a problem or were in a crisis and went to someone for help — it could have been a friend, a teacher, a family member, someone from your place of worship or a counselor.

Participants are then asked to choose someone sitting near them. One member of each team is asked to talk to their partners about what it was like to ask for help. After two minutes the other member of the team is given a chance to talk about their experience asking for help.

The facilitator stresses that when participants are listening to their partners they can use what we call "minimal encouragers", things like "uh huh" or "mm", but they are not to ask questions or give any verbal response to your partner.


After the allotted time, the facilitator asks the group as a whole the following questions, listing the responses on the newsprint:

What did you hear it was like for that person to ask for help?
What was your partner’s message about what was helpful?
What was your partner’s message about what was NOT helpful?
What did it feel like talking for 2 minutes without interruption?
What are the important values in dealing with someone in a crisis?

Exercise 2:

The facilitator asks everyone to stand and introduces this exercise by saying:

We all do things that we "know better" not to do even though we know the consequences.

Now sit down if you smoke.
Now sit down if you ever eat too much.
Now sit down if you cross in between cars.
Now sit down if you work too hard or too many hours

The exercise ends when no one is left standing. The facilitator points out that:

We have all done something we know isn’t good for us even though we know what the consequences could be. We all have the right to "make bad choices". How do we provide a service without imposing our judgement on others? There is nothing that is "not judgmental". The goal is to separate the personal from the professional and to relate to clients on their terms.

IV. Myths About Abortion: 15 minutes

Newsprint and markers
Fact sheet on abortion

What do people say about women who get abortions? For instance: they are "selfish". They are irresponsible. They use abortion as birth control. The facilitator lists the responses on newsprint.
After brainstorming a list of stereotypes, hand out the fact sheet and share information about the reality of abortion in the U.S.

V. Values Clarification: 60 minutes

List of value statements (for facilitator only)
Signs that say: Strongly agree
                          Strongly Disagree
Masking tape
Sentence completions
Pens or pencils

Exercise 1:

The facilitator asks the group to stand and explains that she/he is going to read statements about abortions. She/he has designated one side of the room for people who "Strongly disagree" by posting a sign on the wall and the other side of the room for people who "strongly agree".

The facilitator explains that after each statement is read, people will move to where they think they are on the continuum. They can either move to where the sign is or anywhere else in the room that designates where they believe they fit e.g. The middle of the room is neither agree or disagree, close to the sign that reads "strongly agree", but not directly under it would be "somewhat agree".

To get people moving, the facilitator explains that the first example is not related to abortion but will give people the experience of moving to a place in the room that best represents their response to the statement. For instance:

I love chocolate cake, or
I really wanted the Yankees to win the World Series

Then the facilitator reads one of the statements on the Value Statements list. After the group stops moving to their positions, the facilitator has a few people explain why they moved to where they are. The people should be selected from various different positions in the room.

Exercise 2:

After the Values Statements have been discussed, the facilitator asks the group to return to their seats and hands out the Sentence Completion forms and pens or pencils. She/he asks the group individually and in private to fill them out and explains that when they are finished to fold them all the same way and place the responses in a basket or bag. The facilitator demonstrates the way to fold the form so that they will all look the same.

After everyone has deposited the responses in the basket or bag, the facilitator pulls out one at a time and reads the answer to one question on each form. The facilitator asks the group if they would like to share if they had similar or different reactions, but no one has to speak. This exercise gives people an opportunity to express their feelings, attitudes, and beliefs in a totally anonymous way.


  • Every woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy
  • Parental consent should be required for any teen requesting an abortion
  • Women who have more than one abortion are irresponsible
  • Male partners should have the right to be part of the decision about terminating a pregnancy
  • Abortions should be legal only up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.


  1. Abortions are:

  2. Women who have abortions are:

  3. A woman facing an unwanted pregnancy should:

  4. With a patient who has an unwanted pregnancy, the role of a primary care physician should be:

  5. My biggest concern about introducing abortions into our services is:

  6. If we provide abortions here, I am afraid that:

  7. Providing abortions here is:

  8. In this country, abortions should be:

(Source: Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2005 and National Abortion Federation, Fact Sheet, 2003)

Unintended Pregnancy and Abortion in the U.S.

  • Each year almost 50% of all pregnancies among American women are unintended.
  • Every year, about 1.3 million women choose to terminate their pregnancy with abortion.

Women Who Have Abortions

  • 35% of all women of reproductive age in America today will have had an abortion by the time they reach the age of 45.
  • Women who have abortions are from all racial, ethnic, socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Women of all faiths and religious backgrounds have abortions.
  • Of the women having an abortion
    • 31% are in school.
    • 68% are employed.
    • 27% live below the poverty line and another 31% are low income.
  • Over 80% of the women getting abortions are unmarried.
  • 52% of the women having an abortion have never had a previous one.

Contraception and Abortion

  • More than half (54%) of the women getting abortions reported that they used contraception during the month they became pregnant.
  • If abortion were used as birth control a typical woman would have 30 abortions in her lifetime.

Barriers to Abortion Services

  • Some of the most common barriers women experience to getting an abortion include:
    • Long distances to reach an abortion provider
    • Cost of the procedure/lack of insurance
    • State restrictions, such as waiting periods or parental involvement laws

Reasons Why Women Have Abortions

  • Many women who have abortions believe it is the most responsible thing a woman can do; 52% plan to have children at another time.
  • About 13,000 women each year have abortions because they have become pregnant as a result of rape or incest.
  • The most common reasons why someone has an abortion include:
    • Finances
    • Not ready
    • Life changes
    • Too young

Timing of Abortion

  • About 90% of all abortions are obtained in the first 12 weeks.
  • Some common reasons for late term abortions include:
    • Didn’t realize I was pregnant
    • Difficulty making arrangements for procedure
    • Afraid to tell parents or partner
    • Time needed to make decision

After Abortion

  • Research shows that relief is the most common emotion following an abortion. Women at risk for poor post-abortion adjustment are those who do not get the support they need, or whose abortion decisions are actively opposed by people who are important to them.