Carnegie Mellon University

Program for Deliberative Democracy

Department of Philosophy

Roe v Dobbs: 
A Deliberative Forum on the Issue of Abortion in America

In the summer of 2022 the Supreme Court overturned th 1973 Roe v Wade decision that made abortion a constitutional right. The Majority Opinion concluded in its Dobbs decision that Roe was egregiously wrong and sent the issue of abortion in American back to the states and the legislative process. As Justice Kavanaugh stated in his concurring opinion:

“The Court today properly heeds the constitutional principle of judicial neutrality and returns the issue of abortion to the people and their elected representatives in the democratic process.”

For those in the field of deliberative democracy, this “return to the democratic process” offers an opportunity to demonstrate the virtue and importance of inclusive, well-structured, and informed citizen discussions on this topic.

 To facilitate these discussions and their possible influence on policy, we are releasing as Fair Use four types of documents (in Word format): A Discussion Guide for Deliberative Forums [pdf version], a FAQ file [pdf version], a sample moderator agenda [pdf version] and a survey instrument [pdf version].

The Discussion Guide, titled “Roe v Dobbs,” covers the historical and legal background of the issue leading up to Roe, a summary of the arguments in Roe including the Dissent, the Casey decision up to the Dobbs decision and its dissent. Following the Dobbs decision, the background document looks at State and Proposed Federal Laws seeking to restrict abortion or protect abortion rights.

We acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all model for the various needs that groups and organizations may have, so we have created a simple text-based document that can be edited and repurposed by those interested in pursuing this. 

Many will use it to craft a shorter version and some will rewrite the text for student audiences, etc. We did not want to make these choices for others, so our approach has been "more is better than less." So too, we have left design choices (layout, graphics) up to groups who may wish to enhance these materials.

The FAQ file provides data on the issue of abortion derived primarily from the Guttmacher Institute, the Moderator Agenda is a timed, subject oriented guide for the conversations and the Survey Instrument is an updated version of the survey designed for our 2018 Deliberative Forum on the issue of abortion.