supreme court allows termination of pregnancy at 24 weeks to unmarried woman
India – In a significant order, the Supreme Court in India allowed a 25-year-old unmarried woman to abort her 24-weeks pregnancy arising out of a live-in relationship. With this case, the Supreme Court expanded the scope of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act to include unmarried women.
The Supreme Court said, “A woman’s right to reproductive choice is an inseparable part of her liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.” The bench observed that the Delhi High Court took an “unduly restrictive” view on this matter.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and AS Bopanna said, “Denying an unmarried woman the right to a safe abortion is not rights.” They condemned the Delhi High Court’s decision to not allow an unmarried woman safe abortion. They also said, “Live-in relationships have been recognised by this Court.”
The Amendment of the MTP ACT
The top court observed that after the 2021 amendment, the MTP Act uses the word “partner” instead of “husband” in the explanation of Section 3, which means unmarried women are covered under this act. They can’t be denied abortion by anyone. Reportedly, the use of the word “partner” under this act ascribes to an intention of Parliament to cover “unmarried woman”.
The bench of Justices also noted that a widow or a divorced woman is also allowed to terminate pregnancy in the term of 20-24 weeks in India. The bench led by Justices DY Chandrachud said that allowing a woman to suffer an unwanted pregnancy will be contrary to the spirit of the legislation.
The woman moved to the Supreme Court on July 19 seeking an abortion after the Delhi High Court declined her plea last week on the ground that she was “unmarried”. The High Court had observed that an unmarried woman, whose pregnancy arises out of a consensual relationship, is not covered under the MTP Act.