Lawrence Lader, a pioneer in the fight for abortion rights who in 1966 wrote the groundbreaking book on legalizing abortion, died on Sunday at the age of 86 of colon cancer. A co-founder of NARAL Pro-Choice America (at the time called the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) and its founding chair, Lader was a key leader in the fight to legalize abortion in the state of New York in 1971 and in the nation in 1973. The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade cited Lader’s 1966 book (Abortion) at least seven times. Lader’s passion for abortion rights was an outgrowth of his work on an important biography of Margaret Sanger.
In 1975, Lader founded the group he would lead for the rest of his life, Abortion Rights Mobilization (ARM). In his later years, Lader’s group published many full-page ads in the New York Times in support of abortion rights.
Lader was also a leader in the 12-year campaign to make medical abortion available to American women, working closely with the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Lader not only had a flair for publicity for the issue, but he was an innovative strategist,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. In 1992, when the drive to bring mifepristone (RU 486) to the US was bogging down, Lader assisted Leona Benten in breaking the import ban on RU 486 and gaining attention for the issue. He also wrote a book on RU 486 and funded clinical trials. For his leading efforts, in 1992 the Feminist Majority Foundation named him a “Feminist of the Year.”