Women’s rights activists applauded India’s top court’s decision on Thursday to uphold a woman’s right to an abortion up to 24 weeks into her pregnancy, regardless of her marital status.
After the United States, the abortion issue has become divisive on a global scale. The Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade ruling from 1973, which had made the procedure legal throughout the US, was overturned in June.
The Supreme Court of India’s Justice D.Y. Chandrachud held that a woman’s marital status could not determine her right to abort, saying ‘Even an unmarried lady can undergo abortion up to 24 weeks on par with married women.’
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, which dates back to 1971, had only allowed married women, divorcees, widows, minors, ‘disabled and mentally ill women,’ and survivors of sexual assault or rape to have the procedure.
The court’s verdict stated that ‘the decision to have or not to have an abortion is borne out of difficult life circumstances, which only the woman can select on her own terms without external intervention or influence.’
A woman should always have the ‘reproductive autonomy’ to get an abortion without contacting a third party, it was stated.
The ruling on Thursday was made in response to a petition filed by a woman who claimed that although her pregnancy was the consequence of a consenting relationship, she had sought an abortion after the relationship ended.
Activists hailed the decision as a turning point for Indian women’s rights.