Lader, Lawrence 1919–2006

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Lader, Lawrence 1919–2006


See index for SATA sketch: Born August 6, 1919, in New York, NY; died of colon cancer, May 7, 2006, in New York, NY. Journalist, activist, and author. Lader was a cofounder of the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America and author of the seminal work on the subject, Abortion (1966). Although he grew up in a conservative family, he adopted more liberal perspectives upon attending Harvard University. He earned a B.A. in 1941 and met his first wife, Jean MacInnis, who would introduce him to feminist Betty Friedan. Lader enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942, and was assigned to the Armed Forces Radio Service as officer in charge of New York troop information. He reported from the Pacific theater, and this experience led to his early journalism career. Lader became a freelance reporter, notably as a foreign correspondent during the Arab-Israel War, and sometimes worked editing jobs for such magazines as Coronet and Glamour. He also regularly contributed stories to the Saturday Evening Post, Look, American Heritage, Reader's Digest, and Life. Deciding he would like to write a book, Lader picked birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger as the subject for his biography The Margaret Sanger Story (1955); he later cowrote Margaret Sanger, Pioneer of Birth Control (1961). Through his interviews with Sanger, Lader became interested in the subject of abortion, which in the 1950s was considered a shameful secret. Extensive research led to his writing Abortion, a history of abortion and an examination of then-current practices. Praised by feminists such as Friedan for its frank discussion and its support of a woman's right to control her body, the book was quoted repeatedly by U.S. Supreme Court justices during the landmark 1973 case Roe vs. Wade that granted women the right to abortions. Before this decision, however, Lader found himself being approached by women wanting abortions and seeking his advice. He referred them to doctors who would perform the procedure, and because it was illegal at the time, he was often questioned by the police. He was never charged with a crime, however, and the experience of realizing just how many women needed support on the issue led Lader to become an ardent activist. He and Friedan founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws in 1969, an organization later renamed NARAL Pro-Choice America. Serving as chair of the executive committee until 1972 and as chair of the board until 1976, Lader founded Abortion Rights Mobilization after stepping down from the NARAL board. The focus of his new organization became the legalization of RU 486 in the United States. This drug, a "morning after" abortion pill, was legal in Europe but not approved for use in the United States. Lader worked to bring attention to RU 486, gaining publicity for the issue in 1992 while attempting to bring the drug into America illegally. He even worked to develop the drug within the United States using a pill obtained from China for analysis. Writing two books on the subject, RU 486: The Pill That Could End the Abortion Wars and Why American Women Don't Have It (1991) and A Private Matter: RU 486 and the Abortion Crisis (1995), Lader finally helped convince the Food and Drug Administration to legalize the pill in 2000. Among his other publications are Breeding Ourselves to Death (1971), Power on the Left: American Radical Movements since 1946 (1979), Politics, Power, and the Church: The Catholic Crisis and Its Challenge to American Pluralism (1987), and Ideas Triumphant: Strategies for Social Change and Progress (2003).



Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2006, p. B14.

New York Times, May 10, 2006, p. A20.

Washington Post, May 11, 2006, p. B6.