Program for Deliberative Democracy

Beyond the Picket Lines: A Deliberative Forum on the Issue of Abortion, with a focus on Clinic Regulations

October 6th, 2018


Forty years after the Supreme Court Decision on Roe v. Wade, the political debate over the issue of abortion continues. Since the 1990s this debate has moved to the State Houses and during the past two years alone over 40 bills have been introduced to regulate access to abortion. Yet discussions in the State Houses often lack informed public input on the issue and thus deprive these law-making bodies of representative citizen engagement in the conversation. Such informed citizen opinions are also necessary for consideration by the Court Justices themselves.

Carnegie Mellon’s Program for Deliberative Democracy in partnership with Temple University’s Institute for Survey Research sought to address this problem of informed citizen opinion by sponsoring a Community Deliberative Forum on the issue of abortion in America on October 6th 2018.

The data drawn from the exit surveys from this event may have ‘consulting power’ and could be used by stakeholders to influence concrete policy discussions in State Houses across the country. Of special interest will be citizen input on the regulation of clinics.

Our experience in developing these kinds of events convinces us that we can not only address this issue in a civil and constructive manner, but that the very process of informed, well structured conversations itself demonstrates the advantages of a more deliberative, less divisive democracy.

Table Discussions


There are several documents available for download: A Report containing both quantitative data and qualitative input (and a separate report on PA HB 2050). A copy of the Discussion Guide as well as the FAQ file (Frequentely Asked Questions) used as background information for the discussions.

There are two videos: A 3 minute project overview used for funding purposes and a 45 minute excerpt of the Expert Panel at Temple. In light of recent issues relating to 'abortions later in prenancy' see also a CNN inteview with two Ob-Gyns in the field.

Temple University's Center for Public Health Law Research helped create a State Regulations data base.
The project also partnered with GovTrack to provide additional resources for participant follow-up. Instructions on how to use GovTrack as well as a sample bill and vote were part of this follow-up exercise.


Recrutiment of participants was faciliated by the University of Pittsburgh's Survey Reseach Program and Temple's Institute for Survey Research. Host sites were Carnegie Mellon Univsersity in Pittsburgh and Temple University in Philadelphia.


Generous support for this project comes from
Judith A. Wright, Carnegie Mellon, CIT Class of 1969.

Project PI's are Dr. Robert Cavalier, Center for Ethics and Policy and Director of CMU's Program for Deliberative Democracy and Dr. Heidi Grunwald, Director, Institute for Survey Research at Temple University and Co-Director, Center for Public Health Law Research, Beasley School of Law, Temple University

For further information on this event, please contact Dr. Robert Cavalier through email at (


© Copyright 2016 Program for Deliberative Democracy; for more informatiom, contact Robert Cavalier at