The Supreme Court concluded today that all women have the right to a safe and lawful abortion procedure and that it is illegal to differentiate between married and unmarried women in this regard.
The court acknowledged marital rape in the historic ruling as well, albeit strictly within the context of abortion.
Here are the top 10 reasons for this historic decision.
- The ground-breaking verdict by the bench of Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice JB Pardiwala also saw the court accept marital rape, though strictly within the realm of abortion.
- The court decided that marital rape must be included in the definition of rape under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. This finding might set the stage for forthcoming decisions regarding marital rape, a contentious issue in the nation.
- Married women may also form part of class of survivors of sexual assault or rape. Ordinary definition of the word rape is sexual intercourse with a person without their consent or against their will regardless of whether such forced intercourse occurs in the context of matrimony,” the court noted.
- The court ruled that even unmarried women would be allowed to end an undesired pregnancy at 24 weeks and stated that a woman’s marital status cannot be used as a justification to deny her the right to an abortion.
- The court found that it “cannot be overstated” how an unintended pregnancy affects a woman’s health and mind. highlighting the biological changes that pregnancy causes in women’s bodies. According to the court, a pregnant woman’s right to bodily autonomy and decisional autonomy underpins her choice to either carry a pregnancy to term or have it terminated.
- The court ruled that making an abortion law distinction between married and unmarried women is “artificial and constitutionally unsustainable” and supports the myth that only married women engage in sexual activity.
- If women with unwanted pregnancies are forced to carry their pregnancies to term, the State would be stripping them of the right to select the immediate and long term direction that their lives will take, the judgement stated.
- A 25-year-old single woman’s petition led to the historic decision. The woman had filed an appeal in opposition to a Delhi High Court ruling that she was ineligible for an abortion under the Act because she was single and the pregnancy was the result of a consenting relationship.
- The woman had reported that she was 23 weeks into her pregnancy and that partner had refused to marry her. She had stressed that she lacks the resources to raise a child while stating that she is the oldest of five siblings and that her parents are farmers.
- On July 21, the court gave the woman permission to abort the foetus as long as a medical board found that it wouldn’t harm the woman. The bench had then stated that the word “partner” has been substituted for “husband” in the 2021 amendments to the abortion law. This, according to the court, demonstrates that Parliament did not intend to limit the availability of abortion to just married relationships.