All Women Are Entitled To Safe And Legal Abortion: Supreme Court Makes Landmark Judgement

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The Supreme Court made a landmark judgement and declared that unmarried women are also entitled to seek abortion up to 24 weeks.

The Supreme Court ruled that the exclusion of unmarried women who conceive out of a live-in relationship from the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Rules is unconstitutional. “All women are entitled to safe and legal abortion,” said the Court.

Supreme Court Abortion

Now, the abortion law will not make any distinction between married and unmarried women. The Court said, “Unmarried women have the right to get an abortion under the MTP Act.”

The apex court also recognised marital rape, within the context of abortions. The Court ruled that under the MTP Act, the definition of rape must include marital rape.

The bench of Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice AS Bopanna, and Justice JB Pardiwala held that the provisions in the MTP allowing women to terminate their pregnancy beyond 20 weeks cannot be denied just because a woman is unmarried.

The bench held that Rule 3B(c) cannot be interpreted in a manner that denies unmarried women the right to abortion beyond 20 weeks.

As per the MTP Rules, only minors, rape survivors, women whose marital status changed during pregnancy, mentally-ill women, or women with foetal malformation are allowed to terminate pregnancy up to 24 weeks.

In cases of pregnancy due to a consensual sexual relationship, termination of pregnancy is only allowed up to 20 weeks.

The apex court held that the distinction between married and unmarried women would violate the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution.

The present case arose after a July order, in which the court allowed an unmarried woman who conceived due to consensual sex to abort her 24-week-old foetus. The Delhi High Court held that an unmarried woman who conceived through consensual sex could not terminate the pregnancy after 20 weeks.

The woman took the case to the Supreme Court and on July 21, the apex court overturned the Delhi court’s decision. After allowing the abortion, the court proceeded to hold further hearings on the scope of the MTP Act and Rules.

Justice Chandrachud remarked, “Legislature has put upper cap of 24 weeks, why the distinction? Why restrict it based on a woman’s status?”

Suggested Reading: New Interpretation Of Abortion Law To Include Unmarried Women