I read in the National Catholic Register an assertion that the numbers that Justice Blackmun cited in Roe vs. Wade came largely from a book called "Abortion" and that ex-Abortionist Bernhard Nathanson confessed to making up those numbers cited in that book.

Lader had written his Abortion book to craft an argument that would repeal abortion laws in every state — and, amazing as it sounds, he succeeded. His fabricated abortion history, along with two error-ridden abortion history papers by NARAL attorney Cyril Means, provided the underlying structure for Roe v. Wade and are explicitly cited in the opinion 14 times

The Men Who Wrote Roe v. Wade

I don't have Nathanson's book, but found a quote on a prolife site:

Statistics in Lader’s book and in later NARAL press releases were fabricated, an admission later made known by Nathanson, a pro-life convert. In his essay, ‘Confession of an Ex-Abortionist,” Nathanson wrote, “Knowing that if a true poll were taken we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls,” he confessed.

Subverted: How Lies and Lader changed the Law on abortion

I saw this question and thought the answer could possibly be that people are still citing the fabricated numbers, but I don't know which "14 citations" in Roe would be worth looking in to.

In any event, this appears to be a prolife talking point that is definitely worthy of a fact-check; if for no other reason than it is a little bit damning of the whole abortion movement (not that any side is incapable of falsification).

  • 4
    What’s an “abortionist”? Commented May 21, 2022 at 9:36
  • 5
    @KonradRudolph: I suppose it's not that common of a word, but it's someone who performs or causes abortions. Commented May 21, 2022 at 14:04
  • Where in the NCR article is the claim made? It seems to say nothing about Nathanson except that he was a cofounder of NARAL. It says Lader's book has "many historical, social, legal and theological errors" but doesn't elaborate.
    – benrg
    Commented May 21, 2022 at 16:18
  • I don't understand your next-to-last paragraph. Lader and Nathanson don't seem to be mentioned in that other question. If you want to find the citations, the full text of Roe v Wade is here and you can just search it for "Lader" and "Means". I count 7 citations for each, so that part of the articles seems to be correct.
    – benrg
    Commented May 21, 2022 at 16:27
  • @benrg, I was trying to do part of the work of finding what the 14 citations were. My guess is that this mostly comes from Nathanson's book. Nathanson and Ladler certainly worked together and it stands to reason that Nathanson references their relationship and the work they did together to influence Roe in his book. So the question is mainly about the ncregister article, I could delete the other reference if it makes the question clearer. The other question is just about the statistics used in Roe being implanted in the subconscious - conspiracy stuff, probably irrelevant. Commented May 23, 2022 at 13:43

1 Answer 1


Considering the claim:

Lader ... his Abortion book ... along with two error-ridden abortion history papers by NARAL attorney Cyril Means, provide the underlying structure for Roe v. Wade and are explicitly cited in the opinion 14 times

the Roe v. Wade decision cites to:

Abortion by Lawrence Lader in footnotes 9, 17, 21, 26, 33, 44, 57 and 58 (8 times)

The Law of New York Concerning Abortion and the Status of the Foetus, 1664-1968: A Case of Cessation of Constitutionality by Cyril C. Means, Jr. in footnotes 21, 22 and 47 (3 times) and

The Phoenix of Abortional Freedom: Is a Penumbral or Ninth-Amendment Right About to Arise from the Nineteenth Century Legislative Ashes of a Fourteenth-Century Common-Law Liberty? by Cyril C. Means, Jr. in footnotes 26, 33, 42 and 47 (4 times).

So there are 15 instances of citations to the 3 references mentioned in the claim.

The title of the question improperly combines two separate claims. None of the quoted claims say that the decision relied upon "statistics" from the 3 references.

Mostly, the decision relied upon the 3 references for legal and religious views.

For example footnote 26 is:

Means, The Phoenix of Abortional Freedom: Is a Penumbral or Ninth-Amendment Right About to Arise from the NineteenthCentury Legislative Ashes of a Fourteenth-Century Common-Law Liberty?, 17 N. Y. L. F. 335 (1971) (hereinafter Means II). The author examines the two principal precedents cited marginally by Coke, both contrary to his dictum, and traces the treatment of these and other cases by earlier commentators. He concludes that Coke, who himself participated as an advocate in an abortion case in 1601, may have intentionally misstated the law. The author even suggests a reason: Coke's strong feelings against abortion, coupled with his determination to assert common-law (secular) jurisdiction to assess penalties for an offense that traditionally had been an exclusively ecclesiastical or canon-law crime. See also Lader 78-79, who notes that some scholars doubt that the common law ever was applied to abortion; that the English ecclesiastical courts seem to have lost interest in the problem after 1527; and that the preamble to the English legislation of 1803, 43 Geo. 3, c. 58, § 1, referred to in the text, infra, at 136, states that "no adequate means have been hitherto provided for the prevention and punishment of such offenses."

Footnote 57 says, in part:

For the position of the National Council of Churches and of other denominations, see Lader 99-101.

The one place that the decision slightly relies on Lader for statistics concerns footnote 44.

This footnote is associated with the sentence in the body of the text:

Mortality rates for women undergoing early abortions, where the procedure is legal, appear to be as low as or lower than the rates for normal childbirth.

Overall, the decision, though relying on the 3 references 15 times, does not overtly rely on the references for any specific false statistics.

  • 1
    I'd rather see an explanation of of what whether or not the statistics (which I may be mistakenly conflating with polling data, I used the word to mean the same thing) could be shown to be falsified. The extent to which the decision relied on them is a matter of opinion, I think. Commented May 24, 2022 at 17:43
  • 2
    @PeterTurner This is the essay by Nathanson: catholicnewsagency.com/resource/55401/an-ex-abortionist-speaks He talks about polls as well as statistics for number of illegal abortions and deaths from illegal abortions.
    – DavePhD
    Commented May 24, 2022 at 18:22

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