A law, without a flaw: on availing abortion services

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Source: The post is based on the article “A law, without a flaw: on availing abortion services” published in The Hindu on 9th August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Relevance: About the recent court judgement on abortion.

News: The Supreme Court last week held that it will permit a 51-year-old unmarried woman to terminate her pregnancy. This judgement corrected the errors and addressed ‘violative of women’s right to bodily dignity.’

About the present judgement

Rule: The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 and its Rules, 2003 permit termination of pregnancies of up to 24 weeks in seven specific categories, including survivors of rape or sexual assault, minors, in case of physical disabilities and fetal malformation. These seven categories represent women who were “extremely vulnerable”.

Court’s interpretation: The court held that the legislature has not just used the word ‘husband’. It has also used the word ‘partner’. So the legislature is not just concerned about women who undergo pregnancy within marriage, but outside marriage too.

The court also held that an unmarried woman whose pregnancy is over 20 weeks may have also conceived in a similarly vulnerable situation.

Thus, the judgement makes access to medical abortion a level-playing field.

Read more: Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, 2020 – Associated Issues
Does this apply to all unmarried women?

The judgement could have been cited in support of other women in a similar situation, but it didn’t. So others would still have had to take the legal route, and wait upon the discretion of individual judges.

What is the significance of the court ruling?

India’s apex court’s move stands out because the United States’ Supreme Court’s recently overturned Roe vs Wade.

a) The judgement shows the Court’s willingness to be modern and progressive, in order to remove archaic inconsistencies in existing laws, b) The ruling show full spirit of Article 14 of the Constitution that guarantees to all person equality before the law and equal protection of laws.

Read more: The Debate Regarding Abortion – Explained, pointwise

The law cannot cherry-pick beneficiaries. So, the old principles on which old Acts were built, cannot continue to frustrate young women who claim autonomy of their own body.

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