The Issue of Abortion in America (Pennsylvania)

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 five years more and more bills have been introduced to regulate access to abortion. Today states like Texas and Mississippi have passed laws that effectively ban abortion in most cases. 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 potential interest was citizen input on the regulation of clinics. 

n 2019 the results of the forum were presented to the PA State Women’s Health Caucus, with a special focus in HB 2050. This bill would prevent termination of pregnancies if based solely on the diagnosis of Down Syndrome. This issue is discussed in an Op Ed in the PennLive feature of the Harrisburg Patriot News and is encapsulated in the following participant comment: “Those arguing against this bill note that it is still a matter of family choice as difficult and complex as this may be and that the law would take this choice away from the individual and place it within jurisdiction of legislators.”

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.

Recruitment & Host Sites

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

Principle Investigators for this Project

Dr. Robert Cavalier, Center for Ethics and Policy and Director of CMU's Program for Deliberative Democracy.

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.


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


Moving Beyond the Picket Lines

Background materials for this Community Deliberative Forum.

Frequently Asked Questions

Further background information for the discussions.

Final Report

This report contains both quantitative data and qualitative input resulting from this Community Deliberative Forum on the issue of abortion in America.

Supplementary Report on PA HB 2050

This is an additional report of quantitative and qualitative data gathered concerning Pennsylvania House Bill 2050.

An Op Ed from the PennLive feature of the Harrisburg Patriot News discussing this Community Deliberative Forum and its results.