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SC insists on 'forward-looking' approach, favours to include unmarried women under abortion law

Abortion laws in India: A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and JB Pardiwala said it will interpret the MTP Act and the related rules to see if unmarried women could be allowed to abort up to 24-week pregnancy on medical advice.

Poorva Joshi Edited By: Poorva Joshi @poorvajoshi1424 New Delhi Updated on: August 07, 2022 14:56 IST
supreme court, sc, mtp act, abortion laws
Image Source : PTI SC insists on 'forward-looking' approach, favours to include unmarried women under abortion law

Highlights

  • SC observed there should be no discrimination when it came to abortion.
  • The top court made these observations pointing to the medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) Act.
  • The Act doesn't allow unmarried women to terminate their pregnancy after 20 weeks.

Abortion laws in India: The Supreme Court on Sunday observed that there should be no discrimination between married and unmarried women in terms of who has the right to abortion or medical termination of pregnancy. The top court made these observations pointing to the medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) Act that doesn't allow a single woman to go for an abortion after 20 weeks, thus violating her personal autonomy.

A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and JB Pardiwala said it will interpret the act and the related rules to see if unmarried women could be allowed to abort up to 24-week pregnancy on medical advice.

"There has to be a forward-looking interpretation of the (MTP Act and Rules) law in view of the advancement made in the medical field," said the apex court.

What is the provision for abortion under MTP act?

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; the corresponding window for unmarried women in consensual relationships is 20 weeks. The bench asked Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, to assist the court in the exercise. It has now posted the case for hearing on August 10.

"When there are exceptions provided under the law, then why unmarried women can't be included to terminate 24-weeks pregnancy if the medical advice permits so? The parliamentary intent appears to be clear as it has replaced 'husband' with 'partner'. It shows that they have considered unmarried women also in the bracket of those allowed to terminate 24-weeks pregnancy," Justice Chandrachud said.

SC questions why unmarried women can't terminate pregnancy after 20 weeks

The apex court questioned if a married woman is allowed to terminate upto 24 weeks of pregnancy under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy [MTP] Act, 1971, and the Rules framed under it, why denying the same to unmarried women, even though the risk is same for both. The bench said it can strike down the restrictive clause "for being manifestly arbitrary", which in turn would allow extending the benefit of terminating pregnancy above 20 weeks to unmarried women also.

At the outset, the top court was informed that a 25-year-old woman, who was allowed to terminate her 24-week pregnancy on July 21, is safe after a successful procedure. Earlier, the bench had observed that a woman can't be denied abortion benefits merely on the ground that she is unmarried and allowed a woman to terminate her 24-week-old pregnancy subject to AIIMS Delhi concluding that the foetus can be aborted without risk to her life.

(With ANI Inputs)

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