Supreme Court
Supreme Court. File image

New Delhi: In a historic judgment on abortion rights and marital rape, the Supreme Court on Thursday observed that unmarried women are also entitled to seek abortion of pregnancy in the term of 20-24 weeks arising out of a consensual relationship.

“All women — married or not — are “entitled to a safe and legal abortion process”, the top court said.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, JB Pardiwala and AS Bopanna delivered the verdict on the interpretation of the MTP Act, and whether unmarried or single women can be allowed like their married counterparts the benefit of abortion up to 24 weeks.

The Court maintained that the 2021 amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act does not make a distinction between married and unmarried women

The Court ruled that the exclusion of unmarried women who conceive out of live-in relationships from the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules is unconstitutional.

Observing there is a need to “fine-tune” the provisions in the MTP rules, the top court had also said it would like to add a category of women, who suffer desertion irrespective of marital status, to the seven categories of women eligible to seek abortion till 24 weeks of pregnancy.

In its judgment, the bench also recognized marital rape but stopped short of criminalizing it as that’s pending in another case.

“The meaning of rape must include marital rape solely within the meaning of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and Rules,” the court said.

This would mean married women have the right to abortion if the husband forced her to have sex.

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