All women have the right to a safe and legal abortion process and making any distinction between a married woman and a single woman in this regard is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled today.
The court’s groundbreaking ruling by Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice AS Bopanna also saw the court recognize marital rape, albeit only within the scope of abortion.
The court ruled that under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the definition of rape must include marital rape. This observation may pave the way for subsequent sentences on marital rape, a subject of intense debate in the country.
A woman’s marital status cannot be grounds for depriving her of the right to an abortion, the court said, ruling that even single women would have the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy within 24 weeks. The court said that depriving single or unmarried women of the right to abort an unwanted pregnancy is a violation of fundamental rights.
He said a distinction between married and single women under abortion laws is “artificial and constitutionally untenable” and perpetuates the stereotype that only married women are sexually active.
The landmark verdict came at the request of a 25-year-old single woman. The woman had appealed against a Delhi High Court order which ruled that she is not entitled to an abortion under the Act as she was not married and the pregnancy followed a consensual relationship. The woman had said that she was 23 weeks pregnant.
She told the Supreme Court that her partner had refused to marry her. She stated that she is the oldest of five siblings and that her parents are farmers, and she emphasized that she does not have the means to raise a child.
On July 21, the court allowed the woman to abort the fetus as long as a medical board concluded it would not harm her. The court also issued a notice to the center to address the question of marital status with respect to the right to abortion. On August 23, its verdict on the interpretation of the abortion law had been reserved.
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