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Unmarried women can’t be denied abortion choice: SC

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a woman cannot be denied the right to terminate her pregnancy simply because she is unmarried. A bench presided over by Justice D Y Chandrachud noted that the amendment made to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act in 2021 used the term ‘partner’¬†instead of ‘husband’¬†to cover even unmarried women.

The court emphasised that Parliament’s intent was not to limit the benefits to situations arising from matrimonial relationships. In fact, a widow or divorced woman is permitted to terminate a pregnancy between the ages of 20 and 24 weeks, according to the bench. The court was hearing a petition from a 25-year-old unmarried woman who challenged the Delhi High Court’s July 16 order denying her request to terminate her 24-week-old foetus due to her consensual relationship.

‘Allowing the petitioner to have an unwanted pregnancy goes against the parliamentary intent. She cannot be denied benefits under the Act solely because she is unmarried. The distinction between a married and unmarried woman has no bearing on the Parliament’s goal ‘, the bench stated.

On Friday, it directed AIIMS Delhi’s chief to convene a medical board in accordance with Section 3(2)(d) of the MTP Act to determine whether her pregnancy could be safely terminated without endangering her life. Maintaining that the High Court had taken an overly restrictive view in the case, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre on the interpretation of the law’s provisions.

The woman stated in her plea that it was difficult for her to raise the child because her partner refused to marry her. She also stated that she was one of her parents’ five siblings, all of whom worked in agriculture. Aside from that, giving birth to the child out of wedlock would result in ostracism and mental anguish. She also stated that because she was only an Arts graduate and did not work, she would not be able to afford to raise the child.

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