Abortion. On demand.

“Abortion on demand”

We hear that phrase a lot. It comes from anti-choicers. Scaring the middle-ground with talk of floodgates opening and irresponsible women demanding- always demanding- abortions whenever they feel like it. In Ireland, even a hint of legislation that just might save the lives of pregnant people needing abortions is met with this. If we don’t allow women to die for want of lifesaving terminations, we are opening the doors to abortion on demand. If we acknowledge that mental illness, despair and suicidality are threats as real as septicaemia, it’s the floodgates we’re opening.

To abortion on demand. Abortion on demand. But what exactly is abortion on demand?

Oh, those hysterical women

You don’t hear stories of women requesting abortions. Anti-choicers don’t talk about women who consider the alternatives available to them and come to the conclusion that abortion is the best decision to make. They don’t mention women talking it over with their loved ones and partners, weighing up their options, figuring it out. And there’s nothing about the people who find themselves pregnant and know, straight away, that there is no way that they can or would ever want to carry to term. Or those who are simply unable to survive pregnancy. Or who would survive it, but at a cost to their health that they would never be willing to pay.

You don’t hear that. You hear “opening the floodgates to abortion on demand“.

‘Abortion on demand’ isn’t just a phrase used to evoke images of women marching into hospitals and commanding hapless doctors to terminate their pregnancies or else. It also evokes fear of the women who aren’t in hospitals, who aren’t pregnant, but who demand to own their own bodies if they are. ‘Abortion on demand’ is about the idea that women might just want to take our own lives into our own hands. That we refuse to be deemed incompetent. That we don’t need panels of psychiatrists, doctors and legislators telling us what’s best for us. That we can do that ourselves.

Yes. On demand.

I’ve never heard of a human right being granted on request. Have you? A group who, having been denied equality, set things right by asking their oppressors politely if they wouldn’t mind treating them with equal rights and dignity, please?

Our rights are not granted from above. We take our rights when we demand them and refuse to take no for an answer. We get them from years of showing up, not shutting up, getting in the way, arguing and always, always demanding what is rightfully ours.

Let me be clear. A person who is pregnant has the right to an abortion in only one circumstance: when they ask for one. And if that request is not acceded to? Damn right we’ll demand it.

6 thoughts on “Abortion. On demand.

  1. The “on demand” phrasing always struck me as a strange (and ludicrously inflammatory) way of saying “available.” When else would I want access to abortion? Certainly not when I *haven’t* demanded it…

  2. There’s a slogan in the US: “abortion on demand and without apology”. I always liked that.

    I noticed how Susan McKay actually denied being in favour of abortion on demand on Prime Time the other night. Yet AFAIK she has always said that she supported the right to choose. It’s extremely disappointing when women who we expect to stand up for abortion rights cower in the face of being challenged on the extent of their commitment.

  3. Pingback: Pro-choicers Begging For Blood | Consider the Tea Cosy

  4. The “on demand! has always annoyed me. Even in countries where abortion is legal, there is no circumstance under which a woman strolls past a family planning clinic on her lunch break, decides to have an abortion and is in the stirrups 5 minutes later. You need to call, you need to book an appointment, you need to fill out a medical questionnaire or answer medical questions, you need to figure out how to pay for it. And, uh, most women actually take some time to consider what to do between peeing on a stick and booking in at a clinic. I’m just saying.

    • I understand your point, Mara, but it was the women’s liberation movement that coined the phrase. I don’t think there was ever any intention for it to mean a sort of ears-pierced-while-you-wait, no-appointment-necessary type of operation, it just meant that abortion should be available to any woman who wanted one. As far as I can tell that’s still what it means to most people – on both sides of the debate.

  5. I’ve been trying to come up with some form of argument against the inanity that is the phrase “abortion on demand” as it makes my blood boil everytime I hear it, but now I’ve read this, you’ve pretty much nailed it. Much thanks!

    I really wish the anti-choicers *would* bring up the couple who sits down, talks it out and decides an abortion is the best option because then you can actually have some interesting dialogue at the core of the issue. But no…

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