Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dale Jaffe


Background: Over one half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Nurses are on the frontlines of the health care work force and often encounter women with unintended pregnancies in the clinical setting. They may find themselves responsible for options counseling and helping these women to explore their options of pregnancy, adoption and abortion. Discussing these three options in a non-judgmental, well-informed manner allows the woman to consider all possibilities. Leading this type of conversation requires specific skills and knowledge as well as the ability to deliver this information in a therapeutic, nonbiased manner.

Purpose: The intent of this study was to analyze data regarding the inclusion of options counseling and abortion education in undergraduate nursing programs in New England. Identification of gaps can provide opportunities for curriculum reform. Due to the enormous impact that nurses have with patients, institutions have a responsibility to provide their students with accurate, honest, factual, current knowledge about options counseling including abortion. Doing so is a public health issue with the incentive of not only providing women with optimal health care and better maternal-fetal outcomes, but also to reduce spending nationwide. This study can support efforts to accomplish these goals.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was sent out via email to the faculty members of accredited undergraduate nursing programs throughout New England. It was active for approximately three months between June 2015 and September 2015 with intermittent reminders sent during that time frame. The survey inquired about personal attitudes, inclusion/exclusion of options counseling and abortion education as well as methods used to include this material in the curricula.

Results: All states in New England were included in this study. Fifty percent of responding institutions reported that they include options counseling and abortion education in the curricula, while the remaining 50% reportedly do not. When asked to identify reasons that this content is not included in the current curricula, 80% of respondents indicated that it is not a curriculum priority due to time constraints. The main identified methods that support inclusion of options counseling and abortion in the curricula include classroom sessions focused on technical/evidence-based instruction, classroom sessions focused on ethical issues and assigned readings.

Conclusions: Options counseling and abortion education is not adequately covered in undergraduate nursing curricula across New England. This data set is remarkably similar to a study done in 1997, showing that in the course of nearly 20 years, there has been little advance in the inclusion of options counseling and abortion education. In many instances, this material is given equal or more attention in ethical discussions rather than focusing on technical evidence-based instruction. Personal attitudes about abortion have been correlated with the inclusions of options counseling and abortion education and likely affect the content that is incorporated in the curricula.



Number of Pages

79 p.