VALUES CLARIFICATION AND PREGNANCY DECISION-MAKING GUIDE

If you have just had your pregnancy confirmed (either by urine or blood test or by ultrasound), and you are not sure whether you want to continue the pregnancy or terminate it, you may find the following list of questions useful tools when thinking through your options.

We have set out the questions in a values clarification section and, then, they are divided on the basis of the possible options — you may have already got to a point where you would exclude one option because of where you are at in your life. That’s fine — listen to yourself; trust yourself.

From our experience, people from all walks of life can face decision-making around a pregnancy, from those who are in a committed couple relationship (be it lesbian, homosexual or heterosexual) to those who are not in a relationship, to those who are ‘in between’ and feel their relationship has not developed very far. Whatever your personal situation, we hope this document assists you in your journey.

Questions regarding your values

  • What are my values on abortion, parenting or adoption, in my situation?
  • Where do my values come from? (Religion? Family? Friends? Media? My previous experiences?)
  • Do I personally agree with the values of my religion, family, friends or partner?
  • What are some different values/beliefs about this topic that I haven’t thought about?
  • Who benefits from me acting on my values/beliefs?
  • How committed am I to my personal beliefs and values? Do I always follow through with what I believe in? Have I ever not acted on my beliefs and values? If so, were the consequences positive or negative?
  • Do my values and beliefs cover all circumstances? Are there any exceptions to the rule?
  • Values and beliefs are sometimes formed through life experiences. Does this experience affect or alter my values and beliefs? Or, does this experience reinforce how strong my beliefs are?
  • Are values and beliefs the most important part of my decision? Are other factors more important (e.g. finances, emotional state, relationship, care of existing children, career/study responsibilities)?
  • If I am doing something that goes against my beliefs, how can I prepare myself for coping afterwards?

Questions regarding the pregnancy itself

  • How do I feel about this pregnancy?
  • Was it intended?
  • If it is your first pregnancy, what impact has it had on your knowledge of your body and of your fertility?
  • If I had a choice, when, and under what circumstances would I want to be or get pregnant?
  • Do these/should these feelings about the pregnancy play a role or affect my decision one way or the other?
  • Do I know how my partner feels about this pregnancy?
  • Do I know how my family feels about this pregnancy?

Questions to consider regarding whether to continue the pregnancy

  • Do I want to be a parent at this stage of my life?
  • What are the positives and/or negatives of continuing this pregnancy? (Get a piece of paper and create headings: ‘positives’ and ‘negatives’ and write your thoughts down under the category they fall into.)
  • How will I feel six months from now if I continue?
  • How do I feel about the prospect of becoming or being a parent?
  • How will I feel in two years?
  • If I continue the pregnancy, what will change in my life? (Consider: finances; career; education; housing; emotional state; relationship with partner; relationship with family; relationship with friends; etc)
  • Am I in a position to support myself/a child?
  • Who can support me if I can’t?
  • How do I feel about my current partner or the man involved?
  • Do I know how my partner feels about the possibility of continuing the pregnancy?
  • What will my relationship with my partner be like if I continue this pregnancy?
  • Would I feel resentment towards the child and/or my partner/the man involved?
  • Do I know how my family feels about the possibility of my continuing the pregnancy?
  • What will my relationship with my family be like if I continue with the pregnancy?
  • What are my ideal circumstances through which I would like to enter parenthood?
  • Whose feelings/desires am I taking into account when I consider the option of continuing the pregnancy?
  • Am I putting his/her/their feelings/desires in front of my own?
  • Am I making this decision freely or am I being pressured?
  • If this situation is not in accord with my view of the ideal circumstances for entering parenthood, do I feel that I can accommodate the current situation and subsequently feel reconciled with a decision to continue the pregnancy?
  • What strategies can I pursue so that I feel reconciled and accepting of a decision to continue the pregnancy?

If having difficulty with the option of continuing the pregnancy…..

Consider the questions below:

  • What do I want my life to be like in one year?.....five years?.....ten years?
  • How will what I decide about this pregnancy, affect what I want for myself in the future?
  • What would have to change, or be different, for me to clearly know what to do about this pregnancy?

Questions to consider in regard to the option of adoption

  • How do I feel about adoption?
  • What are the positives and negatives of adoption? (Get a piece of paper and create headings: ‘positives’ and ‘negatives’ and write your thoughts down under the category they fall into.)
  • How do I feel about placing my child for adoption?
  • Do I know how my partner or the man involved feels if I place the baby for adoption?
  • What will my relationship with my partner or the man involved be like if I place the baby for adoption?
  • Do I know how my family feels about the possibility of adoption?
  • What will my relationship with my family be like if I place the baby for adoption?
  • How will I feel six months from now as I consider placing my baby for adoption?
  • Would an open adoption process make this option more attractive (i.e. where the adoptive parents allow you regular contact with the child as it grows)?
  • Is there an agency which can assist me with the adoption process so that my integrity and dignity is respected, so that an open adoption process is ensured?
  • Am I making this decision freely or am I being pressured?
  • Whose feelings/desires am I taking into account when I consider the option of adoption?
  • Am I putting his/her/their feelings/desires in front of my own?
  • How will I feel a year after the adoption is completed? Two years? Ten years?
  • What strategies can I pursue so that I will feel reconciled and accepting of a decision to adopt?

If you are having difficulty with the adoption option…..

Consider the questions below:

  • What do I want my life to be like in one year?.....five years?.....ten years?
  • How will what I decide about this pregnancy, affect what I want for myself in the future?
  • What would have to change, or be different, for me to clearly know what to do about this pregnancy?

Questions to consider in regard to the option of terminating the pregnancy?

  • How do I feel about abortion (terminating a pregnancy)?
  • What are the positives and negatives of terminating my pregnancy? (Get a piece of paper and create headings: ‘positives’ and ‘negatives’ and write your thoughts down under the category they fall into.)
  • What are my ethical/religious/personal beliefs about abortion?
  • When do I believe life begins?
  • How do these beliefs affect this decision?
  • How will I feel six months from now if I have an abortion?
  • How will I feel in two years?
  • Am I making this decision freely or am I being pressured?
  • Whose feelings/desires am I taking into account when I consider the option of terminating the pregnancy?
  • Do I know how my partner (or the man involved) feels about the possibility of abortion?
  • What will my relationship with my partner or the man involved be like if I terminate this pregnancy?
  • Do I know how my family feels about the possibility of abortion?
  • What will my relationship with my family be like if I terminate this pregnancy?
  • Am I putting his/her/their feelings/desires in front of my own?
  • What strategies can I pursue so that I will feel reconciled and accepting of a decision to terminate the pregnancy?

If having difficulty with the option of terminating the pregnancy…..

Consider the questions below:

  • What do I want my life to be like in one year?.....five years?.....ten years?
  • How will what I decide about this pregnancy, affect what I want for myself in the future?
  • What would have to change, or be different, for me to clearly know what to do about this pregnancy?

Some final comments…..

Not all women will find all parts of this values clarification and pregnancy decision-making guide useful — it is simply a tool to utilise so to clarify one’s thought processes and to assist in making the decision that is right for you. At the end of the day, whatever decision you make, you are the one who must live with that decision, you are the one who must reconcile herself to her decision as you are the only one who can implement the decision.

Remember to be kind to yourself over this decision-making period. Remember you need time and space (uninterrupted) so to clarify your mind and come to whatever decision is right for you. You will also need time and space and no interruptions to talk with your significant others (whether partner or the man involved or family or trusted friends). Talk to trusted others. Be guided by your knowledge of yourself. Whatever decision you make, make it as freely as you possibly can within whatever constraints you are facing so that it is the right decision for you.

Grief and loss

It is worthwhile remembering that grief and loss issues can come up for women and men either way the decision goes, that is, you (and your partner or the man involved) can feel grief and loss whether the decision is to continue the pregnancy, or to adopt or to have a termination. Grief and loss issues are, in fact, a part of our life and can be felt following a number of significant markers in our life. For example, after becoming a parent one can feel a sense of grief and loss about one’s own childhood as one compares one’s parenting style/aspirations with one’s own childhood. We can also feel significant grief and loss after the break-up of a relationship or after being made redundant/sacked.

What is important at times such as these or when one is facing decision-making over a pregnancy is to allow oneself, if possible, the time to think through the issues and to seek support. If you are not getting the kind of support you know you need, then try other sources of support such as your GP (if you are on good terms with them), or one-on-one counselling at a women’s health centre or community health centre, or talking with trusted friends.

If you feel grief and loss after your decision in regard to a pregnancy, whatever that decision is, allow yourself the time and space to journey through the feelings; contact our service for further support and advice; read articles about grief and loss issues; contact us for referral to a specialist grief counsellor.

Suggested readings:

Coping with Grief by Mal McKissock — a small book but very appropriate for those who go through ongoing grief and loss issues; useful also for those who experience some grief and loss but not in an ongoing sense — is available from ABC Shops for $10.95 — well worth the $10.95!

Women Cope well with Abortion summary by Liz Wilson of article by Romans-Clarkson, S.E. (1989) entitled: "Psychological Sequelae of Induced Abortion", in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 23, 555-565. The summary appears in Right to Choose Spring 1992, published by Women’s Abortion Action Campaign. Copies of the summary are available from The Bessie Smyth Foundation — please phone and we can mail you a copy.

"The Psychological Sequelae of Induced Abortion", by S.E. Romans-Clarkson (1989) in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 23, 555-565. Likewise for a copy of the full Romans-Clarkson study please phone The Bessie Smyth Foundation and we can mail you a copy.

This questionnaire has been adapted from a ‘Pregnancy Decision-Making Questionnaire’ which was utilised by Bessie Smyth Foundation counsellors for the 25 years we owned and managed a termination of pregnancy service. We understand that the questionnaire originated in the United States. It has been modified and adapted by The Bessie Smyth Foundation’s Abortion Information, Referral and Advocacy Service so to assist women in their decision-making in regard to the options in relation to a pregnancy.

Adapted and modified by Margaret Kirkby for The Bessie Smyth Foundation August and December 2003 — we also wish to thank staff at Children by Choice in Queensland and Jo Perks, Women’s Health Nurse at Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre for their feedback and assistance in developing this guide December 2003