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Lawrence Lader

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Lawrence Lader (2001)
Lived August 6, 1919-May 7, 2006
Occupation journalist
Spouse Joan Summers Lader

Lawrence Lader was born in 1919 to Jewish parents. In his early adulthood he was a supporter of Marxism. He, along with Betty Friedan and Bernard Nathanson, was one of the founders of the pro-abortion group NARAL. Betty Friedan described him as "the founding father of the abortion movement".[1]

Lawrence Lader has been described by Betty Friedan as the "father of abortion rights." A 1941 graduate of Harvard College, he was the founding chair of NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League. Mr. Lader is a journalist and author of 11 books including Abortion, which was quoted nine times in the US Supreme Court's[wp] Roe v. Wade[wp] decision; The Margaret Sanger Story and the Fight for Birth Control, the first published biography of Margaret Sanger; and most recently A Private Matter: RU-486 and the Abortion Crisis. In 1975 he founded Abortion Rights Mobilization, which today is at the center of the struggle to make the French abortion pill RU-486[wp] available to American women.[2]

Lawrence Lader was born 1919 in New York, N.Y. He graduated from Harvard University in 1941 and later served during World War II. Lader was a writer and journalist who worked for Reader's Digest and The New Republic, and wrote many books about abortion rights. His 1966 book, Abortion, was the first major book published about the then-taboo subject. It was influential in the Roe v. Wade[wp] decision: the Supreme Court[wp] cited Abortion numerous times in its decision. Lader strongly supported abortion rights, co-founding the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, later changed to the National Abortion Rights Action League (now NARAL Pro-Choice America[wp]). Lader's other titles include The Margaret Sanger Story and the Fight for Birth Control (1955) and Bold Brahmins: New England's War Against Slavery, 1831-63 (1973). He and his wife, Joan Summers Lader, had a daughter, Wendy.

According to Anne Nicol Gaylor, co-founder of FFRF who served with Lader on the NARAL Board of Directors, Lader was a freethinker. In 1987, Lader wrote the book Politics, Power, and the Church: The Catholic Crisis and Its Challenge to American Pluralism, which criticized the influence of the Catholic church. Lader wrote, "The Catholic hierarchy still rejects pluralism when many of its moral beliefs and dogma are in dispute. Through legislation on divorce, school prayer, abortion, and a host of issues, it has sought to legalize its moral codes." He supported the separation of church and state, stating: "Catholic power, allied with Fundamentalism, has threatened the American tenet of church-state separation and shaken the fragile balance of our pluralistic society." Lader was awarded FFRF's Freethought Pioneer Award in 1989 for his 1988-1989 lawsuit against the Catholic Church, which asked for the church's tax-exempt status to be removed because of its political lobbying. The lawsuit was lost on standing. Lader died of colon cancer.[3]


  • The Margaret Sanger Story and the Fight for Birth Control, Garden City 1955, 352 pages, ISBN 0-8371-7076-1; Greenwood Press 1975, 348 pages, ISBN 0-8371-7076-1
  • Abortion, Beacon Press, 1966, 212 pages
  • Margaret Sanger: pioneer of birth control (with Milton Meltzer), Crowell, 1969, 174 pages
  • A Guide to Abortion Laws in the United States, Redbook Publishing Company, 1971, 8 pages
  • Abortion II: making the revolution, Beacon Press, 1973, 242 pages
  • The Margaret Sanger Story and the Fight for Birth Control, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1975, 348 pages
  • Power on the Left: American Radical Movements Since 1946, Lightning Source Incorporated, 1979, 440 pages
  • RU 486: the pill that could end the abortion wars and why American women don't have it, Addison-Wesley, 1991, 172 pages
  • A Private Matter: Ru 486 and the Abortion Crisis, Prometheus Books, 1995, 254 pages
  • Ideas triumphant: strategies for social change and progress, Seven Locks Press, 2003, 194 pages
  • Remembering the Horror Before Roe V. Wade: Desperate Letters Before 1973, Institute for Democracy Studies, 2003, 12 pages


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