“Abortion on demand.”
What does it mean? Why do some people think it’s a bad thing? How does it influence policy decisions on reproductive healthcare? Let’s dive in.
Abortion on demand is the idea that women should be able to access abortion services without having to jump through hoops. It means that if a woman enters her doctor’s office or local women’s health clinic and asks (or “demands”) to have an abortion, she will be able to get the next available appointment. In this process, she won’t be subjected to unnecessary delays such as waiting periods, counseling sessions, being read a list of medically inaccurate statements, having to pay for a medically unnecessary ultrasound (which they may be forced to look at and which may be a penetrative, transvaginal ultrasound- even if they became pregnant due to rape or incest), having to notify their parents and/or get written consent from their parents, or having to go before a judge for a wavier of the consent by explaining why it would put them in a dangerous situation to tell a parent they are pregnant.
Abortion on demand also means that women who are past 24 weeks pregnant are able to access an abortion if their health or lives have been put at risk or if the probability of the infant being born with a severe birth defect is very high or if the probability of the child living more than a few days- or even a few minutes- is very low. Another aspect of abortion on demand is that all women- regardless of income, race, religion, and place of residence- have equal access to a safe, legal abortion. Overall, abortion on demand means that if a woman (or transgender man) wants or needs an abortion, they are able to access one in the same manner that they would receive any other healthcare procedure.
Now to our second question; Why do some people think that abortion on demand is a bad thing? I’d say there are two parts to this. Generally, some people have a negative reaction to hearing “abortion on demand” because the people most likely to use this term are against access to safe abortions, and speak with a tone implying that people who are “demanding” to be able to safely access this service are being forceful about something misunderstood to be morally wrong. So if abortion isn’t something you often think about, and the majority of what you hear about abortion makes it sound like a bad thing, then it makes sense that when one hears about people “demanding” an abortion, they view that negatively.
But more importantly, what is it about those who oppose abortion on demand (the ability of all women to access safe, legal abortion) that makes them believe the way they do? To answer this, we have to look at the hurdles that anti-choice people fight for and impose upon others as legislation and why they feel these measures are justified. What is the assumed benefit of implementing obstacles to this specific, time-sensitive, medical procedure?
Forcing women to make multiple appointments, view an ultrasound image, and be lectured based on scientifically false or misleading data largely influenced by a specific religious ideology all comes from the assumption that women approach getting an abortion without giving themselves enough time to consider their options, without the understanding that they have an embryo or fetus growing inside them, and without being aware of social or religious perceptions of abortion.
It also assumes that women enter the office or clinic without any sense of self-awareness, understanding of pregnancy, knowledge of accurate information, or an individual understanding and level of comfort with their religious beliefs or lack thereof. And if women who are seeking an abortion are assumed to be as simple-minded and suggestible as these “precautionary measures” imply, then it makes sense that legislators feel justified in assuring themselves that women have thought about whether or not to get an abortion, realize that the reason they’re at the clinic is because there is a potential child growing inside them, and understand that abortion is not a personal decision but rather one that the government, the Christian Church, and anti-women activists have the right to dictate and regulate. So of course, to these people, “abortion on demand” would be outrageous.
We have here the answer to our third question: How does the concept of “abortion on demand” influence policy decisions on reproductive healthcare? But I’d also like to address the pro-choice side of this question. To do this, let’s look at the facts. Despite the long list of unnecessary and inconvenient limitations on accessing abortion services, it remains the most common out-patient medical procedure in the country, with 1 in 3 women having an abortion in her lifetime. Half of all pregnancies are unplanned, including 80% of teen pregnancies. Over 40% of all unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.
Given these statistics, combined with the growing number of restrictions on abortion, this should tell us that women who need an abortion will get one, no matter what. Ideally, this should mean that since so many women require safe access to this procedure, that it would be made available, on demand, to any woman who wants one. Abortion on demand is logical. It’s practical. It’s necessary for the well-being of women and their families (especially considering that 60% of women who have an abortion already have at least one child).
If abortion on demand is so helpful to women and if opposition to abortion on demand is so demeaning to women, doesn’t it logically makes sense that abortion on demand would be the standard in a country that professes that women are full, equal citizens? Shouldn’t this pro-woman concept be reflected in our politics? Couldn’t we use its benefits to facilitate pro-choice legislation, instead of using it to demonize such a common and necessary procedure?
The way to address this disconnect is to first acknowledge that, in reality, this is a country where women make 77cents to every 1 dollar a man makes, “feminist” is a bad word, access to birth control and breast cancer screenings are issues in the campaign for President, advertising continuously reduces women to objects or body parts, for over 30 years the Equal Rights Amendment has failed to become Constitutional law, transgender women are unable to serve in the military or enjoy the protections of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and new mothers are not given adequate maternity leave or access to affordable child-care services.
Once we accept these realities to be true, we are compelled to fight them. Women are not stupid. Women deserve respect, and that includes respect from their government to make their own decisions about pregnancy. Abortion on demand is not a radical concept- well, unless you’re anti-woman. It is about equality and respect. It’s pro-woman. So unless you want to be against equal rights for women, I suggest you start fighting for abortion on demand. Our politics should reflect our values. I for one choose to value women. I support abortion on demand.