All women entitled to safe, legal abortion: Supreme Court

All women entitled to safe, legal abortion: Supreme Court

New Delhi: In a significant ruling on reproductive rights of women, the Supreme Court held on Thursday that all women are entitled to safe and legal abortion till 24 weeks of pregnancy under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, and making any distinction on the basis of their marital status is “constitutionally unsustainable”.
The top court also said that the meaning of offence of rape must include marital rape for the purpose of the MTP Act.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, JB Pardiwala and AS Bopanna said the rights of reproductive autonomy give similar rights to unmarried women as that to married women.
The bench, in its verdict, 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.
Under the MTP Act provisions, 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.
However, the time period is 20 weeks for widows and unmarried women, who are or were in consensual relationships, for allowing abortion under the statute.
The bench delivered the verdict on the interpretation of the MTP Act and whether unmarried women or single women can be allowed like their married counterparts the benefit of abortion up to 24 weeks.
The bench, on August 23, had reserved its verdict on interpretation of the MTP Act provisions which makes a distinction between married and unmarried women on the issue of abortion.
Observing there is a need to “fine-tune” the provisions in the MTP rules, the top court had also said it would like to add a category of women, who suffer desertion irrespective of marital status, to the seven categories of women eligible to seek abortion till 24 weeks of pregnancy.
PTI

 

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