Updated: Thu, 29 Sep 2022 01:25 PM IST
THE SUPREME court on Thursday upheld that all women are entitled to safe and legal abortion and women's marital status should not be made a ground to deprive her of the right to abort unwanted pregnancies. "Single and unmarried women have right to abort under Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act & rules till 24 weeks of pregnancy," the Supreme Court ruled.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, JB Pardiwala and AS Bopanna delivered the verdict on the interpretation of the MTP Act, and whether unmarried or single women can be allowed like their married counterparts the benefit of abortion up to 24 weeks.
The top court said the distinction between married and unmarried women under the abortion laws is “artificial and constitutionally unsustainable” and perpetuates the stereotype that only married women are sexually active. "The rights of reproductive autonomy give similar rights to unmarried women as that to a married woman," the bench held.
Insisting on a "forward-looking" approach, the Supreme Court on August 7 opined that any discrimination between married and unmarried women in respect of the medical termination of pregnancy law in India that does not allow a single woman to go for abortion after 20 weeks, violates her personal autonomy.
The top court had said that it will interpret the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and the related rules to see if unmarried women could be allowed to abort up to 24-week pregnancy on medical advice.
The upper limit for the termination of pregnancy is 24 weeks for married women, special categories -- including survivors of rape and other vulnerable women such as the differently-abled and minors; the corresponding window for unmarried women in consensual relationships is 20 weeks.
The apex court in its August judgment had questioned if a married woman is allowed to terminate up to 24 weeks of pregnancy under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy [MTP] Act, 1971, and the Rules framed under it, why denying the same to unmarried women, even though the risk is same for both.
The bench had said that it can strike down the restrictive clause "for being manifestly arbitrary", which in turn would allow extending the benefit of terminating pregnancy above 20 weeks to unmarried women also.
(With Agency Inputs)