SC Announces Unmarried Pregnant Women Also Have The Right To Abortion
In light of US Supreme Court overturning Roe Vs Wade, the Supreme Court of India led by Justice Chandrachud declared that unmarried women can access abortion. Know all about your rights as an Indian citizen!
The Supreme Court Chief Justice, D.Y. Chandrachud said that an unmarried woman has the right to abort her pregnancy even on the 24th week. The bench was hearing the plea of a woman who wanted to abort after her partner left her. The court quoted from precedents, "A woman's right to reproductive choice is an inseparable part of her personal liberty under Article 21 of Constitution. She has a sacrosanct right to bodily integrity. There is no doubt that a woman's right to make reproductive choices is also a dimension of personal liberty."
The Supreme Court also stated that the decision taken by the Delhi High Court was unduly restrictive to not allow the woman to undergo abortion at 23 weeks just because she is unmarried.
What Are The Rights A Pregnant Indian Woman Can Exercise?
Pratigya Campaign spokesperson - Ms. Anubha Rastogi, Independent lawyer and CAG member of Pratigya Campaign has voiced her opinion on SC opposes different abortion limits for unmarried women saying, "From the discussions that have taken place in the court during the hearing of the matter, one is hopeful that the interpretation to the otherwise restrictive provision of discriminating on the basis of marital status would be inclusive and a progressive one."
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare states that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 allows women to undergo abortion under certain conditions. Abortion is legal if:
The term of pregnancy is not more than 20 weeks
The procedure is approved by the doctor
The procedure is performed at a medical institution which has been recognized by the government.
A pregnancy can also be terminated up to 12 weeks but at all stages, the opinion of a doctor is mandatory
If the term exceeds 12 weeks or are less than 20 weeks, the procedure will require the opinion of two doctors.
After the 2020 amendment, the upper limit for termination a pregnancy was increased from 20 to 24 weeks on grounds of fetal abnormalities or pregnancies resulting due to rape.
Recently however, the Supreme Court clearly declared that even an unmarried woman who wishes to end her pregnancy on the 24th week has every right to exercise her right.
Anubha Rastogi also went on to say, "While the SC has stepped in and provided relief to the individual woman who challenged the Delhi High Court order refusing her permission for termination of pregnancy, it is to be seen how this interpretation would benefit women and pregnant persons in general who would otherwise have been able to request an MTP but for their marital status. There is hope from the reported discussions in the courtroom during the matter. This is a progressive step, while the judgment is yet to be pronounced, hopefully taking up to access to abortion being a right and not only legalized in certain circumstances."
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Despite Having This Right, Social Stigma Harms Women's Health
Due to the various social stigmas attached to termination of pregnancy especially for unmarried women, they are unable to access the right to safe abortions. Every day 13 women die in India because of unsafe abortion-related causes. It is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in India. Patriarchal norms of society take away a woman's autonomy. The law permits abortions but the ground reality is that when women go to clinics for abortions, they are asked to show consent of their husbands or partners for the procedure. Adults do not require a consent at all. But this is still prevalent.
The situation is even more difficult for unmarried girls and women because of the social stigma attached to abortion which then pushes them toward unsafe abortions, most often through unregulated use of pills prescribed by the local chemist. In some cases such that of women in rural India the awareness regarding abortion rights is almost nonexistent. Al of these circumstances together are hampering women's health. However, in light of the recent overturn of abortions rights in the United States, India has evolved a lot on this subject.