Adopting a forward-looking approach, the Supreme Court (SC) has said every woman is entitled to choose abortion. Insisting that the law must evolve with the times, the SC has ruled that a woman’s marital status can’t be the ground to deprive her the right to abort an unwanted pregnancy
A certain section of the media reported the court’s judgment: “Single and unmarried women have the right to abort under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and rules till 24 weeks of pregnancy,” the court said.
“Prohibiting single or unmarried pregnant women with pregnancy between 20-24 weeks from accessing abortion while allowing married women would fall foul of the spirit guiding Article 14,” the court was quoted as saying.
The court added, “Law in modern times is shedding the notion that marriage is a precondition for the rights of persons. The MTP act must consider the realities of today and must not be restricted by old norms. The law must not remain static and must keep in mind changing social realities.”
A bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud also observed that for the MTP, the meaning of rape must include marital rape.
“If Rule 3B(c) is understood as only for married women, it would perpetuate the stereotype that only married women indulge in sexual activities. This is not constitutionally sustainable. The artificial distinction between married and unmarried women cannot be sustained. Women must have autonomy to have free exercise of these rights.
“We would be remiss in not recognising that intimate partner violence is the reality and can take the form of rape. The misconception that strangers are exclusively or almost exclusively responsible for sex and gender-based violence is a deeply regrettable one,” read the SC ruling published by the media.