SC notes need to ‘fine-tune’ provisions to allow unmarried women abortion till 24 weeks of pregnancy
The court, however, reserved its verdict on the interpretation of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will interpret the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act to ensure that the law does not prohibit unmarried women from having abortions up to 24 weeks, PTI reported.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, JB Pardiwala and AS Bopanna made the observations while hearing a plea by a 25-year-old unmarried woman, seeking to terminate her pregnancy of 24 weeks. The woman told the court that her partner had ended the relationship and refused to marry her, according to Hindustan Times.
“We need to fine tune the provisions in the MTP Rules,” the bench said. “Going by the legislative intent, a widow has lost support of her life partner and in divorce too, there is loss of support from life partner. This logic will equally apply to a woman who has been abandoned.”
Under the law, abortion is permitted till 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, women and minors who have been sexually assaulted, raped or the child is borne out of incest, can abort the foetus at 24 weeks.
The four-week extension is also available for married women, divorcees, widows, women with mental illnesses, disabilities, those who are pregnant in disaster or emergencies, and whose marital status changes during their pregnancy. The conditions also state that abortion can be allowed if there is a substantial risk of the child being born with a serious physical or mental abnormality.
On July 15, a Delhi High Court bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad had declined the petitioner in the case permission to abort her pregnancy. The bench had said that the woman’s pregnancy arose out of a consensual relationship and this was not covered under any clause of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules, 2003.
However, on July 21, Justice Chandrachud along with Justice Surya Kant expanded the scope of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act to include unmarried women and allowed the 25-year-old to abort her pregnancy.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre and assisting the court on the matter, said there was no discrimination between married and single women under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act of 2021.
Bhati said experts have stated their views and according to them categorisation has been done to avoid the misuse of laws, including the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act due to sex determination of the foetus.
“One thing, we should make it clear that we are going to draft our judgement in such a way that we are not going to dilute the provisions of PC-PNDT Act,” the court told the additional solicitor general.
The bench also said that women who are pregnant because of failure of birth control device should be allowed to terminate the pregnancy up to 24 weeks. “Why should we not say that such a right be extended up to 24 weeks as all women are equally circumstanced to suffer the same mental agony of an unwanted pregnancy due to failure of birth control device,” the judges observed.
The court, however, reserved its verdict on the interpretation of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, PTI reported.