New Delhi, 29th September 2022: Calling it a ‘ray of hope, abortion and women rights activists across India welcomed and celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling that allows married and unmarried women to have an equal right to get a legal abortion in the country. They’ve called it a ‘progressive’ move that lets women make decisions on their own when it comes to their bodies.
VS Chandrashekar, Campaign Advisory Group Member, Pratigya Campaign, said, "Today’s Supreme Court judgement, striking down the distinction between married and unmarried women’s access to abortion care, is indeed progressive and welcomed. It further strengthens women’s sexual and reproductive rights and bodily autonomy in the country. More importantly, it recognizes marital rape as far as MTP Act/access to abortion care is concerned. At a time when sexual and reproductive health and rights are under threat globally, this progressive judgement stands out as a ray of hope."
Anubha Rastogi, Independent Lawyer & CAG member, Pratigya Campaign said, “This ruling reinterprets the provisions of the MTP Act, which otherwise exclude women on grounds of their marital status from accessing MTP between the 20-24 weeks period, in a progressive manner. It also questions the unreasonable classifications made under this law. This interpretation is the law of the land and will ensure that single women seeking MTP beyond 20 weeks are not denied their rights on grounds of the narrowness of the law.”
Debanjana Choudhuri, Gender Specialist said, “The Supreme Court judgement is progressive towards the pregnant person The right to reproductive autonomy is related to bodily autonomy. Therefore, the decision to terminate is firmly rooted in their right of bodily autonomy. I welcome the judgement by the SC, it is definitely needed.”
Mr. Ashutosh Kaushik, CEO, FRHS India and CAG member for Pratigya Campaign said, “All debates about women’s rights arguably are centered around choice. It’s the ability to identify and pursue goals or a way of life without being bound by religious or social stigmas or biases. The judgement has shown some light towards the safe abortion practice that a pregnant person wants to take, free of stigma, free of disrespect, free of abuse.”
Context - In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on 29th September said that all married and unmarried women have an equal right to get an abortion in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and further added that marital rape will be considered as rape for the purpose of abortion.
A bench of Justices 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 top court was hearing a petition of a 25-year-old single woman, whose plea to terminate her 24-week pregnancy was denied by the Delhi High Court.
The Supreme Court is of the view that any distinction between married and single women under the abortion laws is "artificial and constitutionally unsustainable" and gives space to the stereotype that only married woman are sexually active.