Top Court opposes different abortion limits for unmarried women

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A woman whose live-in relationship has ended should be the identical rights to finish an unwanted pregnancy as a widowed or divorced woman, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday, indicating that it'll interpret the law to incorporate “unmarried woman” or “single woman” under provisions that allow abortions till up to 24 weeks.

The court made the observations while hearing a petition by a 25-year-old woman who challenged the lower 20-week limit under Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 that applies to single women who seek to finish a pregnancy. the lady said she had been abandoned by her partner.

“Going by the legislative intent, a widow has lost support of her life partner and in divorce too, there's loss of support from life partner. This logic will equally apply to a lady who has been abandoned,” observed the bench, which comprised justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, AS Bopanna and JB Pardiwala.

The court reserved its order, indicating its order will 

interpret the law to incorporate “unmarried” or “single” woman within the sections in question.

The specific gap was in Rule 3B(c) of the MTP Rules, 2003 that permits women who undergo change of legal status during the pregnancy — either by way of widowhood or divorce — to undergo termination of pregnancy till up to 24 weeks.

“Take a case where a woman is neither divorced nor widowed but deserted. She is toss and has no source of livelihood. Should the law be understood to mean that because she is technically not divorced, she cannot have the correct to abort her pregnancy?” the bench noted.

Extending the identical logic to unmarried women, the judges said: “For the aim of a woman’s mental state, both actual and foreseeable factors should be borne in mind. a lady on being deserted faces foreseeable difficulties. Such a situation where a girl is abandoned will apply to both married and woman.”

The court was posed with the identical situation within the case at hand where the petitioner, a 25-year-old woman hailing from Manipur, was in a very consensual relationship and realised in June this year that she was pregnant. By then, her partner had ended the connection, leaving her to approach the Delhi supreme court for termination of the 24-week foetus.

The state supreme court on July 15 declined permission on the bottom that she was unmarried. The Supreme Court, however, on July 21 allowed her to urge the foetus aborted at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The court held that the MTP Act recognised the woman’s bodily integrity and reproductive right and allowing her to suffer an unwanted pregnancy would violate this intent of Parliament.

Additional lawman (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, who assisted the court, said: “It becomes more vulnerable for an adult female to survive after desertion as a girl who is married falls back on families but in a very live-in relationship, not anytime the family is supportive of the woman’s decision.”

The court also noted another aspect in Section 3(2) of MTP Act that has for termination of pregnancy within the event of failure of contraception device either by woman or her partner but restricted the identical for a pregnancy within 20 weeks and not beyond.

“Why should we not say that such a right be extended up to 24 weeks as all women are equally circumstanced to suffer the identical mental agony of an unwanted pregnancy because of failure of contraception device,” the bench reasoned.

ASG Bhati informed the court that Parliament consciously adopted this distinction in light of prevailing social evils of sex determination and feminine foeticide. “The anguish of a lady in such a situation won't end even beyond 24 weeks but this will result in a conflict with Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act, 1994 which seeks to curb sex determination,” she said.

“While crafting the judgment we are going to make sure the PC-PNDT Act isn't diluted because it may be a salutary legislation gone Parliament,” the bench said. “We must accept legislative wisdom that if pregnancy has resulted from failure of contraception device, termination of pregnancy should be at the earliest date possible.”