Activity 8-1: What Are the Issues?
Summary This activity is a class discussion about abortion. Students use a combination of ready-made and self-made scenarios to examine the moral and ethical issues of this potentially emotional subject.
✓ clarify their personal views on abortion.
✓ listen respectfully to the views of others.
- Activity Report (one copy per group)
- None if discussion is open to whole class
- One copy of Activity Report per group if group work is selected
The abortion issue can elicit emotional responses. Decide if you will handle the discussion as a whole class or by dividing the class into groups. If you divide the class into smaller groups, consider the groupings carefully.
If needed, define the term “moral issues.”
Estimated Time 40-45 minutes
This activity can be extended depending on class interest.
This activity has Guidance/Language Arts/Social Science/Science connections. It can be extended to include:
Language Arts or Social Studies Allow 2-3 days for groups to prepare an oral, written, or visual presentation on “Abortion: Is it ever right?” Limit oral presentations to 5 minutes. Groups should use factual information when possible to avoid a purely emotional response.
Prerequisites and Background Information
Introduce Activity 8-1 by asking the class what they think makes an issue controversial. Can they list some controversial items that have been in the news the last few years? How should people discuss issues when they have strongly held differing views? Have they seen examples in the news of bad ways of disagreeing? Have they seen examples of positive ways? Review the ground rules for class discussions. Since these are sensitive issues it is recommended that the class be reminded that everyone is entitled to their views and beliefs. People should be understanding and respectful of other people's views. Address the issues-do not attack the person.
Steps 1-2 Ask the students to respond to the following question: “Is it ever okay to have an abortion?” Then tell them to put their responses away. At the end of the class discussion they can refer back to their papers to see if they have changed their minds and why.
Step 3 Read the directions to the Activity Report with your students. The introduction to this activity gives these scenarios:
a. A woman is raped and later discovers she is pregnant.
b. A pregnant woman feels she is not yet prepared to give birth and raise a child.
c. The pregnant daughter of an abusive parent was told that she would be beaten “within an inch of your life” if she ever got pregnant.
d. A doctor warns a pregnant mother that giving birth again could be fatal to her.
e. A young, pregnant woman is told by her boyfriend that she must get an abortion or he will leave her.
Students are then asked to write at least one realistic scenario involving a pregnant woman. These should be collected and screened for inclusion in the discussions.
Step 4 Using any or all of these scenarios, lead the class in a discussion of the moral dilemma of abortion. For each scenario, bring the following questions into the discussion:
a. What are the moral issues involved? Is abortion “right” or “wrong”?
b. Who decides if something is “right” or “wrong”?
c. Where does freedom of personal choice stop and responsibility to others start?
d. Whose interests are at stake? The mother's? That of the fetus? Society? How do these conflicts get solved and by whom?
e. When does the fetus become a “person”? Who decides? How do they decide?
f. Do developing fetuses have a right to be born?
g. Since we are all entitled to our religious and moral beliefs, how do we decide what law must apply to all people?
An alternative to a whole-class discussion is a group discussion. Give each group a scenario to discuss among themselves, each in turn, as the rest of the class listens. The class can then ask the group to respond to their questions at the end of the group discussion. This will extend the class time and focus the attention of the class on a variety of scenarios.
Conclude Activity 8-1 by allowing the students about five minutes to refer back to the original question they answered. Did they change their minds? Why? This can be their private, quiet time to reflect, and to calm down before their next class period.
Use student responses during class discussions and the responses on the Activity Report to assess if students can
✓ identify the complexity of the issues surrounding abortion.
✓ explain the wide range of beliefs.
✓ explain why these questions have no “absolute” answers.
✓ identify the factors that affect an individual's opinion about abortion.
Write a letter to someone who is contemplating an abortion. In your letter, discuss your personal views about abortion.
- Sample answers to these questions will be provided upon request. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to request sample answers.
- What are two common side effects of the IUD?
- At what point in pregnancy do abortions become illegal in this country?
- What does pro-life mean? What does pro-choice mean?
Activity 8-1 Report: What Are the Issues? (Student Reproducible)
Your teacher will set the “ground rules” for your group discussion on abortion. Then, your teacher will assign your group a scenario involving a pregnant woman who must make a decision regarding abortion.
Think about and discuss the following as they apply to the scenario you are given:
- What are the moral issues involved? By choosing or not choosing to have an abortion is she making the “right” or “wrong” choice?
- Who decides if this choice is “right” or “wrong”?
- Where does freedom of personal choice stop and responsibility to others begin?
- Whose interests are involved? The mother's? That of the fetus? Society? How do these conflicts get resolved?
- When does the fetus become a “person”? Who decides? How?
- Does this developing fetus have a right to be born?
- Since we are all entitled to our religious and moral beliefs, how do we decide what law must apply to all people?
- Is it ever OK to have an abortion?
There are no easy answers to these questions. Your generation, like the present generation of adults, has to face the challenging issues of abortion. So, give serious thought to these issues now.