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.