Mercer wordmark

Is There Common Ground on Abortion?
Mercer Events to Explore that Question Around Roe v. Wade Anniversary


January 9, 2012

Media Contact: Mark Vanderhoek, (478) 301-4037 or

ATLANTA/MACON – Mercer University’s Center for Theology and Public Life will sponsor a series of discussions on the topic of abortion as part of the Mercer Lyceum initiative. The four events, to be held on the Macon and Atlanta campuses Jan. 24-25, are built around the theme “Can We Find Common Ground on Abortion?” Speakers include Rachel Laser, former senior counsel to the National Women’s Law Center, and Dr. David Gushee, Mercer’s Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life. The discussions follow the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on Jan. 22, 1973, in which the court deemed abortion a fundamental right.

All four of the events are free and open to the public, including two presentations on Jan. 24, titled “Common Ground on Abortion?,” the first at noon in the Trustees Dining Room on the Atlanta campus and the second at 7 p.m. in the Presidents Dining Room in the University Center on the Macon campus. There will be two more presentations in Macon on Jan. 25: “Religion, Ethics, and Abortion: a Conversation,” at 10 a.m. in Newton Chapel, and “Abortion, Law and the 2012 Election,” at 3:30 p.m. in the Walter F. George School of Law Moot Courtroom.

“Not a mere pro-con debate, this dialogue will offer cogent and fair articulations of the two major alternative perspectives on abortion, and then focus especially on social and governmental practices and policies that that can offer constructive common ground,” Dr. Gushee said. “For example, it ought to be possible for both those who favor abortion rights and those who oppose them to agree that no woman should feel that she must have an abortion because she lacks health care during pregnancy. This is but one of many areas of potential common ground.”

Laser and Dr. Gushee have participated in open-minded discussion through previous work together and have found that there are areas for common ground with compromise, Dr. Gushee said. The two have also worked together on both national dialogue efforts and on common ground legislative proposals aimed at reducing the need and demand for abortion.

Laser is currently senior vice president for message development at Hattaway Communications, where she leads major message research and development initiatives. She has a diverse background in political strategy, message development, policy advocacy and coalition-building. She previously served as director of the culture program at Third Way, an influential think tank known for sophisticated research and strategic message development. At Third Way, she launched the Come Let Us Reason Together Initiative, which mobilized evangelical Christians and progressive activists to work together on social issues. She also helped draft and build support for the first-of-its-kind pro-life/pro-choice abortion bill in Congress. A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago Law School, Laser worked as senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center and general counsel for Planned Parenthood Metropolitan Washington.

As Distinguished University Professor, Dr. Gushee teaches at McAfee School of Theology and throughout Mercer in his specialty, Christian ethics. As director of the Center for Theology and Public Life, he organizes events and courses to advance quality conversations about major issues arising at the intersection of religion, ethics and public policy. Beyond his work at Mercer, he is co-founder and board chair of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a columnist for the Huffington Post, Washington Post, and Associated Baptist Press, a regular contributor to the editorial page of USA Today, and a contributing editor for Christianity Today. His next book project, a major scholarly work with Eerdmans Press set for release this year, explores the theological roots and implications of belief in the sanctity of human life—and the stark consequences of its rejection.

He has published 12 books and many hundreds of essays, book chapters, articles, reviews, and opinion pieces. His books include the award-winning Kingdom Ethics, and, most recently, The Future of Faith in American Politics (Baylor, 2008) and Religious Faith, Torture, and Our National Soul (Mercer, 2010). Dr. Gushee’s research interests focus on issues emerging at the intersection between Christian faith, ethics and public policy. He was the principal drafter of both the Evangelical Climate Initiative (2006) and the Evangelical Declaration against Torture (2007) and is a leading progressive evangelical activist as well as scholar.

About the Mercer Lyceum
The Mercer Lyceum is an effort to help coordinate existing University lectures and events, as well as new ones, around a single theme. The Lyceum will allow for more in-depth discussions, and, organizers hope, more in-depth learning, while helping to create new partnerships among the many disciplines at Mercer’s campuses. The Lyceum has been approved for four years, with two biennial cycles focusing on a single theme. The first theme is “Rebuilding Democracy” and will run from Fall 2011 to Spring 2013. The theme is built in part to help educate students about the challenges facing American democracy – hyper partisanship, governmental gridlock, low voter turnout and weak understanding of constitutional democracy, as well as outside threats, such as the growing gap between rich and poor, a shrinking middle class and the decline of America’s influence in the world. The Lyceum will help to inform students about these issues, but also help to train them to become better citizens themselves by examining possible solutions to those issues. The organizers hope the conversations help them find ways to address those challenges both as citizens and as professionals in their chosen careers.

About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit
— 30 —