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Friday, September 22, 2023

All Women Married or Unmarried Entitled to Safe & Legal Abortion: Supreme Court

New Delhi: In a breakthrough ruling, the Supreme Court on Thursday passed the judgement that all women are entitled to safe and legal abortion and distinguishing between married and unmarried women will be considered ‘unconstitutional’. The Supreme Court said that the marital status of a woman can’t be ground to deprive her right to abort unwanted pregnancy. “Single and unmarried women have the right to abort under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and rules till 24 weeks of pregnancy,” it added.Also Read – Abortion Law: Married Woman's Forceful Pregnancy Can Be Considered As Marital Rape

The apex court further said, “Meaning of rape must be held, including marital rape, for purpose of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act SC says, distinction between married and unmarried women “artificial and constitutionally unsustainable”, it perpetuates stereotype that only married women indulge in sexual activities.” Also Read – Delhi Woman Kills Self After Forced For Abortion 14 Times, Suicide Note Found

The rulings came as the Supreme Court was scheduled to pronounce the judgment today on whether an unmarried woman can seek abortion of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks term in a consensual relationship. Also Read – Texas Clinics Halt Abortions After State High Court Ruling

Justice DY Chandrachud said the interpretation of the MTP act has to reflect the social realities. Social mores change and evolve as society changes and laws must not remain static and advance the cause.

“Unsafe abortions are preventable. Our understanding of mental health has to be considered in common parlance. Account must be taken of a pregnant woman’s environment,” the Supreme Court said.

“Married women may also form part of survivors of sexual assault or rape. A woman may become pregnant due to a non-consensual act by the husband. Sex and gender-based violence in all its form has been part of families,” Justice Chandrachud said.

“It’s ultimately the prerogative of each woman to decide as per her material circumstances. Various economical, cultural or social factors play a part… The artificial distinction between married and unmarried women cannot be sustained. Women must have the autonomy to have free exercise of these rights,” Justice said.

“The right to reproductive autonomy is related to bodily autonomy. The foetus relies on the woman’s body to sustain. Therefore, the decision to terminate is firmly rooted in their right of bodily autonomy. If women are prevented from this, the state would be stripping them of the long-term path they take. This would be an affront to their dignity,” Justice Chandrachud said.

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