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Abortion on Demand

Feminism Definition

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Abortion Protest March

Photograph from an abortion protest march in New York City, 1977.

Peter Keegan / Getty Images

Definition: Abortion on demand is the concept that a pregnant woman should be able to access an abortion at her request. “On demand” is used to mean that she should have access to an abortion:

  • without a waiting period
  • without having to first prove a special circumstance such as rape
  • without having to travel to another state or county
  • with no further cost-prohibitive restrictions

Nor should she otherwise be thwarted in her attempt. The right to abortion on demand could apply to either the entire pregnancy or be limited to a portion of the pregnancy. For example, Roe v. Wade in 1973 legalized abortion in the first and second trimester in the United States.

Abortion on Demand as a Feminist Issue

Many feminists and women’s health advocates actively campaign for abortion rights and reproductive freedom. During the 1960s, they raised awareness of the dangers of illegal abortions that killed thousands of women each year. Feminists worked to end the taboo that prevented public discussion of abortion, and they called for the repeal of laws that restrict abortion on demand.

Anti-abortion activists sometimes paint abortion on demand as abortion for “convenience” rather than abortion at the woman’s request. One popular argument is that “abortion on demand” means “abortion is used as a form of birth control, and this is selfish or immoral.” On the other hand, Women's Liberation Movement activists insisted that women should have complete reproductive freedom, including access to contraception. They also pointed out that restrictive abortion laws make abortion available to privileged women while poor women are unable to access the procedure.

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