Supreme Court Allows Unmarried Women To Terminate Pregnancy Up To 24 weeks

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The articles I read day yesterday confused me a little bit. Therefore I thought I will write a quick update clarifying the ruling.

Under the erstwhile Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules 2021, the categories of women eligible for abortion of pregnancy up to 24 weeks were specified as:

1. survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest, minors, change of marital status during the ongoing pregnancy (widowhood and divorce),
2. women with physical disabilities,
3. mentally ill women including mental retardation,
4. the foetal malformation that has substantial risk of being incompatible with life or if the child is born it may suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped and
5. women with pregnancy in humanitarian settings or disaster or emergency situations as may be declared by the government.

Now, with this judgement, unmarried women also have a right to access an abortion up to 24 weeks. Please note that until this judgment, abortion was allowed up to 20 weeks among both married and unmarried women however unmarried women were not covered in the conditions specified for abortion upto 24 weeks.

“Petitioner should not be denied the benefit merely on the ground that she is an unmarried woman”, the Court observed in its order.

The bench further noted that after the 2021 amendment, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act uses the word partner instead of husband in the explanation to Section 3, the court said that this shows the legislative intent to cover unmarried woman under the Act.

This is a welcome judgment. Marriage or no marriage, a woman owes the autonomy to her body. High time society as a whole understands that the institution of marriage is totally irrelevant in today’s time and age.  Laws will follow, as the mindset changes.

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