The Supreme Court will carry out an interpretational correction in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. The current form of this act does not permit unmarried pregnant women to undergo an abortion at 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy, while married women can do so.
The Supreme Court had overruled a Delhi High Court ruling and allowed an unmarried woman to terminate a pregnancy at 24 weeks last month. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and JB Pardiwala observed, “Petitioner should not be denied the benefit merely on the ground that she is an unmarried woman”.
The 25-year-old unmarried woman was seeking to terminate her pregnancy, which had risen out of a consensual relationship. The Delhi High Court did not permit the woman to terminate her pregnancy and suggested that she go through with the pregnancy and give the child up for adoption.
Supreme Court Correction MTP Act
The Supreme Court said it was discriminatory to bar an unmarried woman from terminating her pregnancy when other similarly situated married women were permitted to do so. Additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati said the law allows all women to terminate unwanted pregnancies until 20 weeks. However, for women who were 20 to 24 weeks pregnant, the legislature took a conscious view in consultation with experts to limit it to specified categories.
The bench observed that the rules allowed married women to terminate their pregnancies at 20 to 24 weeks if the pregnancy resulted from a failure of a family planning device or to save the woman from mental agony.
The bench said, “If we say mental agony as a ground would be available to all women irrespective of their marital status, then the Rule would no longer be restrictive.” The bench added that the legislature mentioned “partner” in relation and did not stipulate marriage as a valid point in terminating a pregnancy.
The bench said, “If an unmarried girl becomes pregnant because of failure of a protective device, why should she be deprived of the benefits already given to certain categories of women?” According to the bench, it deprived the women of their dignity and their autonomy.
The court asked solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati to submit written submission regarding the issue and posted the case for hearing on August 10.