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All women, married or unmarried, entitled to safe and legal abortion: SC

"Distinction between married and unmarried perpetuates a stereotype that only married women are sexually active," the top court said on the abortion law.

All women, married or unmarried, entitled to safe and legal abortion: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday (September 29, 2022) said that all women, married or unmarried, are entitled to a safe and legal abortion till 24 weeks of the pregnancy. 

"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 & rules till 24 weeks of pregnancy," the top court said.

"Distinction between married and unmarried women is artificial and constitutionally unsustainable, and perpetuates a stereotype that only married women are sexually active," the SC said on the abortion law.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, JB Pardiwala and AS Bopanna delivered the verdict on the interpretation of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, and whether unmarried or single women can be allowed like their married counterparts the benefit of abortion up to 24 weeks.

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 top court also said that the meaning of offence of rape must include marital rape for the purpose of the MTP Act.

 

Earlier last month, the bench had said it would interpret the MTP Act and the related rules in such a manner that discrimination between married and unmarried women is removed to allow abortion till 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Observing there is a need to "fine-tune" the provisions in the MTP rules, the SC had 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.

"Denying an unmarried woman the right to a safe abortion violates her personal autonomy and freedom. Live-in relationships have been recognized by this Court," it said.

(With agency inputs)

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