All women irrespective of marital status have right to safe and legal abortion, rules SC
The top court said: “Article 21 of the Constitution recognises and protects the right of a woman to undergo termination of pregnancy if her mental or physical health is at stake. Importantly, it is the woman alone who has the right over her body and is the ultimate decisionmaker on the question of whether she wants to undergo an abortion.”
In its landmark judgment, the apex court expanded the scope of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and the corresponding rules to include unmarried women for abortion between 20-24 weeks of pregnancy. It said limiting the provision to cover only married women will render it discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
The bench said after the amendment, the scheme of the MTP Act does not make a distinction between married and unmarried women for the purpose of medical termination of pregnancies. The amendment Bill was termed as a “progressive legislation” introduced to uphold women’s right to live with dignity, it added.
“If Rule 3B(c) was to be interpreted such that its benefits extended only to married women, it would perpetuate the stereotype and socially held notion that only married women indulge in sexual intercourse, and that consequently, the benefits in law ought to extend only to them. This artificial distinction between married and single women is not constitutionally sustainable. The benefits in law extend equally to both single and married women,” it said.
On July 21, the top court had allowed a 25-year-old to abort her 24-week pregnancy arising out of a consensual relationship. In the judgment, the top court dealt with various aspects of the issue, including forced pregnancy. The woman had moved challenged the Delhi High Court, which refused to entertain her request to terminate her 24-week foetus, under Rule 3B, dealing with categories of women entitled to abortion, of the MTP Rules, 2003.