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The Supreme Court declares that married or single, all women have the right to a safe abortion


By CNBCTV18.com IST (Released)

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The Supreme Court has said the distinction between married and unmarried women under abortion laws is artificial and constitutionally untenable. This perpetuates the stereotype that only married women are sexually active, the court heard.

Both married and unmarried women have the right to safe and legal abortions, the Supreme Court said in delivering its verdict Thursday on the interpretation of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.

The court said that marriage cannot be the source of the right to abortion and that other structures beyond families must be recognized for such rights.
The Supreme Court has said the distinction between married and unmarried women under abortion laws is artificial and constitutionally untenable. This perpetuates the stereotype that only married women are sexually active, the court heard.

“The decision to carry a pregnancy or to abort one rests on reproductive autonomy and is rooted in bodily autonomy. Treatment cannot be withheld on the basis of marital status,” the court said.

The bench of judges DY Chandrachud, AS Bopanna and JB Pardiwala also said: “Preventing an unmarried woman from terminating a pregnancy beyond 20 weeks is contrary to article 14.”

Article 14 states that the state shall not deny anyone equality before the law on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

Under MTP rules, only survivors of rape, minors, women whose marital status changed during pregnancy, women with mental health problems, or women with fetal malformations are allowed to terminate their pregnancy until at 24 weeks.

In case of pregnancy due to consensual sex, termination of pregnancy was only allowed up to 20 weeks according to law and rules.

Noting this, the Supreme Court ruled that all women, regardless of marital status, are entitled to a safe and legal abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy under the MTP Act.

The Supreme Court’s big verdict on marital rape

“Rape means sex without consent and intimate partner violence is a reality. Also in this case, a woman can become pregnant by force…Any pregnancy alleged to have been caused by force is rape,” the court said. News 18 as told.

“Under the MTP Act, rape must also include marital rape… Sexual assault by husbands can take a form of rape,” he added.

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