24 September Sunday

Married or Unmarried, All Women Are Entitled To Safe, Legal Abortion : Supreme Court

Web Desk(Tvm)Updated: Thursday Sep 29, 2022

NEW DELHI : In a landmark judgment bestowing dignity to woman’s right to decide on whether or not to keep her unborn, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that all women irrespective of their marital status are entitled to have safe and legal abortion.

In its verdict, the Court said exclusion of unmarried women, who conceive from partners they might not be married to, from the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules is unconstitutional.

Distinguishing between married and unmarried women for matters relating to  sexual activity  cannot be Constitutionally sustained, the Bench headed by Justice Y Chandrachud observed.

“All women are entitled to  safe and legal abortion, “ the Court clarified pointing out that the 2021 amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act does not make a distinction between married and unmarried women.

Context : A 25-year-old umarried woman who was 23 weeks pregnant approached Delhi High Court seeking legal abortion of her baby. She had  conceived in a live-in relationship but the father refused to accept responsibility of having a baby, the woman  said. The Delhi High court however refused to intervene stating that since the pregnancy arose out of consensual relationship and not marriage, she was not covered by any provisions of the MTP.

MTP : Apart from the married, MTP or Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules lists  following categories as eligible to terminate pregnancy

(a) survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest
(b) minors
(c) change of marital status during ongoing pregnancy(widowhood and divorce)
(d) women with physical disabilities(major disability as per criteria laid down under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016(49 of 2016)
(e)  mentally ill women including mental retardation
(f)  the foetal malformation that has substantial risk of being incompatible with life or if the child is born may suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped.
(g) women with pregnancy in humanitarian settings or disaster or emergency situation as may be decided by the Government