Supreme Court allows the unmarried woman to terminate a pregnancy at 24 weeks, overrules Delhi HC order 

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The Supreme Court has passed an ad-interim order to allow abortion of pregnancy of 24-week from a consensual relationship.

Supreme court abortion law

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New Delhi:  The Supreme Court on Thursday passed an ad-interim order allowing abortion of 24-week pregnancy from a consensual relationship. However, this is with respect to the decision of the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS). 

Aborting pregnancy is of high risk for the woman. Therefore, the SC has subjected the order to a medical board to make a decision about the abortion of a foetus without harming the woman.


Delhi HC on Abortion:

A few days back, the High Court of Delhi had refused to allow a 25-year-old woman to abort her 23 weeks and 5 days old pregnancy.

Taking into consideration the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003, the HC held that a pregnancy arising out of a consensual relationship is not covered under the law and therefore cannot be granted.

The division bench comprised Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad.

Further stating that the law only allowed termination of pregnancy of 20 weeks and less, the court refused to go beyond the statute.


SC Overrules:

Taking into consideration the petition by a 25-year-old unmarried woman the Supreme Court of India observed that, the “Petitioner should not be denied the benefit merely on the ground that she is an unmarried woman.”

The Supreme court noted that after the 2021 amendment of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, uses the word partner instead of husband in the explanation of Section 3 and that this shows the legislative intent to cover unmarried women under the Act.

The Bench stated, “We are of the view that allowing the petitioner to suffer an unwanted pregnancy will go against the parliamentary intent.

The benefits under the Act cannot be denied to her only on the basis of her being unmarried. The distinction between a married and an unmarried woman has no nexus to the object sought to be achieved by the Parliament.”

Negating the view of the high court, the top court termed it as an unduly restrictive view in as much as Rule 3(b) speaks of change in the marital status of woman, followed by expressions widowhood or divorce and held that expression change in marital status must be given a purposive interpretation.


Eligibility As Per the Law:

As per The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Rules, 2021, the category of women eligible for abortion of pregnancy up to 24 weeks were specified as survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest, minors, change of marital status during an ongoing pregnancy (widowhood or divorce), women with physical disabilities, mental illness in women comprising mental retardation, the foetal information that is significantly risky for the child’s life and women with pregnancy in humanitarian setting or a disaster or an emergency situation as declared by the government.


Constituting a Board:

“The use of words woman or her partner shows an intention to cover unmarried woman which is in consonance with Article 14 of the Constitution,” the bench said while asking the AIIMS Delhi Director to constitute a medical board in terms of provisions of Section 3(2)(d) MTP Act.

“In the event, the Medical Board concludes that the foetus can be aborted without any danger to the life of petitioner, the AIIMS shall carry out the abortion in terms of the petition,” the order states.

The Supreme court also issued a notice to the Union Government and has sought the assistance of Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati on the legislative interpretation.

The decision of the Supreme Court in the matter can be termed as another revolutionary step toward women’s freedom to navigate through life.

The peril of being a woman begins with the birth and seems to be unending but with steps such as these, the women of the world are encouraged to take their decisions and to stand by them. 

The Supreme court’s decision will set a precedent in the times to come, allowing society to accept women as an equal!

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Shreeyashi Ojha
Shreeyashi Ojha
Writing for me is like the ebb and flow of life! There are lows and highs but we keep moving forward. I for one, feel emotionally driven towards writing as an expression. I take keen interest in history, national and international politics and government policies. Having completed my Master's in History, I have an incisive acumen for understanding the ever-changing rationale of politics, society and economy.

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