Advocates are hailing India’s Supreme Court’s decision upholding a woman’s right to an abortion up to 24 weeks into pregnancy regardless of marital status as a “milestone.”
Supreme Court Justice D.Y. Chandrachud handed down the decision on Thursday that an unmarried women cannot be denied their right to a late-term abortion.
A 25-year-old single woman had reportedly filed a petition to terminate her pregnancy resulting from a consensual relationship after the relationship failed.
Earlier this year, the Delhi High Court denied her right to terminate her more than 20-week-old pregnancy, arguing that the law for such late-term abortions did not cover unmarried women.
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Chandrachud’s ruling effectively granted the woman interim permission to receive an abortion.
"Even an unmarried woman can undergo abortion up to 24 weeks on par with married women," said the presiding judge.
India’s 1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act had limited access of the procedure to married women, divorcees, widows, minors, "disabled and mentally ill women" and survivors of sexual assault or rape.
Based on Chandrachud’s ruling, the “decision to have or not to have an abortion is borne out of complicated life circumstances, which only the woman can choose on her own terms without external interference or influence.”
The court noted that every woman should have the "reproductive autonomy" to seek an abortion without the need to consult a third party.
PARI (People Against Rapes in India) founder Yogita Bhayana called the ruling “a first step, it is a progressive step."
India’s landmark ruling comes amid the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade judgment, effectively erasing a constitutional right of women in the U.S. to abortion.
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