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abortion on demand

A message to Irish politicians - stop using the phrase 'abortion on demand'

Unless you’re talking about the Horizon Box, stop using the phrase “on demand”.

EARLIER TODAY, TODAY FM’s Juliette Gash reported that Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney said that he does not “support something that would mean abortion on demand in Ireland”.

Coveney’s use of the phrase “abortion on demand” quickly caused consternation with many pointing out that other medical procedures don’t usually come with “on demand” tagged on at the end.

For instance, have you ever heard of someone availing of a tonsillectomy on demand? Does your GP offer, say, ear syringing on demand? Of course not. Medical procedures – yes, that includes abortion – are generally sought and carried out as required and needed.

There’s no ‘on-demand’ feature. This isn’t the Horizon Box we’re talking about.

Recently the phrase “abortion on demand” has managed to creep into Irish discourse, with politicians and media outlets adopting the term and tossing it around with abandon.

“Janey Mac, I don’t know about that, eh, abortion on demand,” says the male TD who will never, ever have to deal with an unwanted pregnancy and would sooner wipe his arse with a hedgehog than actually represent his female constituents. “What would middle Ireland say?”


Abortion on demand.

It’s an emotive phrase, one that’s designed to scaremonger and conjure up images of thoughtless women availing of abortions like manicures. “Ah yes, I’ll just get a little abortion on demand and have a flick through Grazia.”

As Dr. Joan McCarthy, a lecturer in nursing and midwifery in UCC, told the Citizens’ Assembly in February, “I think the judgment they make isn’t a trivial one because by definition, no woman chooses to have an unwanted pregnancy. It’s not about will I pick this coat or that winter coat. It’s not that kind of decision. It’s not a consumer decision. It’s not a trivial choice.”

The phrase abortion on demand, I think, is a harsh way of understanding the decision that the pregnant woman or girl has to make. It’s not an abstract choice. She isn’t choosing from a menu. She has to take into account in the context of her pregnancy the constraints of her personal circumstances. For example, other children, other dependents, her values and goals, her health risks, her life risks.

The Citizens’ Assembly did not employ the phrase and instead called for abortion with “no restriction as to reasons”.

Afterwards, the Pro Life Campaign warned that the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendations could lead to, you guessed it, “abortion on demand”.

To see politicians adopt and normalise pro-life rhetoric over neutralised language is jarring and suggests a distrust of women among elected representatives in Dáil Éireann, as well as little appetite for implementing the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly.

“Oh, we can’t legalise abortion and have those shrill, uppity women think they actually have any control over their own lives. What if they start an uprising?”

Here’s what Google comes up with when you search the phrase “on demand”:

gogoel Google Google

Huh. That’s weird. Why isn’t there anything about abortions? Oh, that’s right. Because it’s not a thing.

From now on, let’s pledge to only use the phrase “on demand” in the context of streaming American cable television shows. “Did you know that Mad Men is available on demand?” “No, I didn’t! Thank you for this useful information.”

If you’re a politician, don’t speak in riddles and say things like, “I don’t support something that would mean abortion on demand in Ireland.”

Just say what you really mean.

I don’t support something that would mean equal rights and full bodily autonomy for women in Ireland.

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