On this date in 1919, Lawrence Lader was born 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 decision: the Supreme Court 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). 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. D. 2006
“[The Catholic church] remains rooted in the past, an autocratic structure through which the pope and bishops make all decisions, and their constituents follow them without question.”
—Lawrence Lader, Politics, Power, and the Church, 1987.