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Schonhardt-Bailey on Congressional Debates about Partial Birth Abortion

Abstract: I employ automated content analysis to measure the dimensionality of Senate debates on the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and compare these results with the final vote. The underlying verbal conflict leading up to the final roll call vote contains two important dimensions: (1) an emotive battle over the abortion procedure itself, and (2) the battle over the constitutionality of the bill. Surprisingly, senators appear not to have voted along the first dimension of the verbal conflict, but rather along the second dimension. The analysis of the deliberations of senators not only enables us to understand the complexity of the arguments that is not captured in the vote, but it also uncovers (and measures empirically) the strategies employed by legislators to shape the relevant lines of conflict, and ultimately, the final content of the bill.

Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey (2008), “The Congressional Debate on Partial-Birth Abortion: Constitutional Gravitas and Moral Passion,” British Journal of Political Science (forthcoming). Available here.

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