In the recent discussion about abortion (and big ups to the Greens for getting it on the political agenda), several commentators who identify as pro-choice have stated sentiments to the effect that we have abortion on demand now. Except that we really clearly don't.
Getting an ingrown toe nail cut out is a medical procedure you can get on demand. You don't need anyone else's permission, you just need to have an ingrown toe nail and find someone who can cut it out to do so for you. The same with getting moles removed, whether possibly cancerous or not, having most forms of plastic surgery like rhinoplasty (nose job) or breast implants.
But to get an abortion, be it medical (ie by pills at an early stage of pregnancy) or surgical, two different people have to give their permission, after seeing your own doctor. Those people have to also be certified to give you that permission. For people with resources who are seeking terminations in Wellington or Auckland this probably isn't a big deal, and I can understand how some might think, from the outside, that it is basically abortion on demand (although to the best of my knowledge no definition of on demand includes requiring permission from other people). However that is a) not what the law says and b) not what the practice is.
To use a rather silly example, say that getting a can of Coca Cola (Symbol of the Free West) worked the same way as access to abortion. If Coke is on demand then you can rock up to an appropriate outlet and get one, no one else gets to say yes or no as long as you pay your $2.
If you could only get Coke in the same way as people can access abortion under NZ law then it would look something like this:
1. Find one of the limited number of dairies that offer Coca Cola cans. It may be in an out of the way place, there may be protesters outside (with signs reading "Coke promotes a culture of DEATH").
2. Once you've found a Coke-supplying dairy, seek and gain the permission of a person who works there and has certification. The certifying dairy worker will need to approve that you can have the Coca Cola for one or more of a small number of reasons that are outlined in law; most likely "thirst relief" which is found to be the reason for 98% of Coke purchases. You may not be thirsty right now, but you know you are going to be thirsty in the future, but you will need to carefully convince the certifying dairy worker that you should have the Coca Cola for "thirst relief" now. Other allowable reasons include high risk of diabetic coma without it.
3. You'll then need to go through Step 2 again with another certifying dairy worker. Hopefully there is more than one at that dairy, but if there isn't then you will have to go somewhere else.
4. It's likely you will then be referred to another dairy, which will actually have the can of Coke. You'll need to get an appointment there. Again it may be in an out of the way place, there may be protesters outside (with signs reading "Every Coke Kills a Living Thirst").
5. When you get to the dairy for your can of Coke you'll possibly be required to go through counselling to consider the consequences of drinking a can of Coca Cola and talk through other options, such as water, milk or going through with being thirsty.
6. You will then have to undergo a dietary examination, to assess precisely how thirsty you are, any other dietary influences that may lead to complications when you drink the Coke, a full history of your drinking history, and examine your suitability for drinking Coca Cola at this time. You'll be given advice on whether the Coke is a good idea or not. Likely there will also be a discussion about planning your future liquid intake so that you can avoid thirst again in the future.
7. Finally you get your can of Coca Cola. It's possible this will happen on the same day as the counselling and examination, but maybe not. Enjoy.
Imagine living in a small town with only one dairy, which didn't have Coke. The nearest bigger town also didn't have Coca Cola, and you'd have to fly or drive quite a way to get some, possibly taking time off work to do so and at some personal expense in regard to travel costs. That'd suck.
And that would not be availability on demand.
Abortion is NOT available on demand in Aotearoa New Zealand. In my opinion to continue to claim that it is does not help get the law or the practice changed to make abortion more available. It's not defacto on demand, it's not almost on demand. It is only allowed with the permission of two other people, neither of whom is the pregnant person (although their consent gets the ball rolling), and only for a limited list of reasons outlined by a law set over 30 years ago.
In my opinion the best place to get practical information on accessing abortion services in Aotearoa New Zealand is abortion.gen.nz.
Edited to Add: After I wrote this, but before it was scheduled to post, the Sunday Star Times published this article, including one person recounting her experience of accessing abortion under the current law.