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Right To Safe Abortion For All Under MTP: SC

The SC conveyed that drawing a distinction between married and unmarried women in this case is artificial and constitutionally unsustainable as it perpetuates the stereotype that only married women participate in sexual activities

On Thursday, the apex court, in its verdict, said that all women are entitled to a safe and legal abortion. The Supreme Court also ruled that the exclusion of unmarried women who become pregnant in their live-in relationship from the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules is unconstitutional.

The bench stated that just like a married women, unmarried women are equally entitled to seek abortion of pregnancy in the term of 20-24 weeks arising out of a consensual relationship. A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud held that the definition of rape must include marital rape for the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.

The SC conveyed that drawing a distinction between married and unmarried women in this case is artificial and constitutionally unsustainable as it perpetuates the stereotype that only married women participate in sexual activities. The bench held that the rights of reproductive autonomy give similar rights to unmarried women as those to married women.

"Ours is a free country and this has been reiterated by this ruling of Supreme Court. An adult woman, married or unmarried, has a right to her body and what she does with it. If a pregnancy happens due to failure of a contraceptive, or due to forced intercourse or if the unborn baby is having major abnormalities (not compatible with life) then whether the woman is married or unmarried should not come in the way of her right of deciding to not continue the pregnancy. India has surpassed the USA in giving these basic fundamental rights to its female citizens," said Dr. Anita Kant, Chairman, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist Asian Hospital.

Previously, on August 7, the Supreme Court opined that any discrimination between married and unmarried women in respect of the medical termination of pregnancy law in India that does not allow a single woman to go for an abortion after 20 weeks violates her personal autonomy.

The upper limit for the termination of pregnancy is 24 weeks for married women, with special categories including survivors of rape and other vulnerable women such as the differently-abled and minors; the corresponding window for unmarried women in consensual relationships is 20 weeks. The top court had said that it would interpret the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and the related rules to see if unmarried women could be allowed to abort up to a 24-week pregnancy on medical advice.


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