Lawrence Lader

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Biographical Information

Lawrence Lader, "a writer who so successfully marshaled his literary and political efforts in support of abortion rights that Betty Friedan, the feminist author, called him the father of the movement," died in 2006.

He "helped found what was long known as the National Abortion Rights Action League and helped win New York State's repeal of abortion restrictions in 1970.

"He unsuccessfully sued the Internal Revenue Service to end the Roman Catholic Church's tax exemptions on the ground that its opposition to abortion had veered into the political arena. He successfully challenged some restrictions on the drug RU-486, known as the morning-after pill, and arranged to manufacture a version of it in the United States...

"Mr. Lader stumbled into the abortion issue while working on a biography of Margaret Sanger, who around 1910 began her crusade for birth control because of her horror of abortions, then dangerous and illegal. By the 1950's, he said, antibiotics and new technology had made the procedure much safer, but it was still illegal and seldom discussed.

"Mr. Lader wrote one of the first carefully documented books on the subject, "Abortion" (1966). It began, "Abortion is the dread secret of our society."...

"Lawrence Powell Lader was born in Manhattan on Aug. 6, 1919, and graduated from Harvard, where he helped found a radio station and worked on The Crimson. He was an Army lieutenant during World War II, and The New Yorker published war dispatches he submitted. He became a widely published magazine writer in Look, Reader's Digest and The New Republic, among others.

"He was also active politically, serving as district leader for Representative Vito Marcantonio, who represented East Harlem and is still considered one of the country's most radical congressmen. In 1948, Mr. Lader ran for the New York State Assembly on Mr. Marcantonio's American Labor Party ticket and lost...

"Mr. Lader's subjects besides abortion included the role of Boston's elite in the struggle to end slavery.

"On July 30, 1968, a small group of what Mr. Lader described as radicals met in his apartment to plan a national organization. The result was a meeting in Chicago in February 1969, where the first order of business was deciding whether to try to change abortion laws, as was already happening in many states, or to try to repeal them.

"The answer came in the name they chose: the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. When the Supreme Court legalized abortion four years later, the name was changed to the National Abortion Rights Action League. After two more name changes, it is now called Naral Pro-Choice America...

"In 1976, he left the abortion rights league, in part because he believed it was becoming too establishmentarian. He founded a new group, Abortion Rights Mobilization, that aggressively fought his battles against the Catholic Church and for RU-486.

"Mr. Lader is survived by his wife and a daughter, Wendy Summers Lader, both of Manhattan..." [1]


  • Lawrence Lader , The Margaret Sanger Story: and the Fight for Birth Control (Ty Crowell Co, 1969).

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