Woman can become pregnant by choice irrespective of her marital status: SC

Updated: Sep 29 2022 9:14PM

New Delhi, Sep 29 (PTI) "A woman can become pregnant by choice irrespective of her marital status," the Supreme Court said on Thursday, underlining the right to decisional autonomy also means women may choose the course of their lives.

The top court said a woman is often enmeshed in complex notions of family, community, religion, and caste and such external societal factors affect the way she exercises autonomy and control over her body, particularly in matters relating to reproductive decisions. In its landmark decision, the top court expanded the scope of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and the corresponding rules to include unmarried women for abortion between 20-24 weeks of pregnancy, saying limiting the provision to cover only married women will render it discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, AS Bopanna and JB Pardiwala said besides the physical consequences, unwanted pregnancies, which women are forced to carry to term, may have cascading effects on the rest of their lives by interrupting their education, career, or affecting their mental well-being. "A woman can become pregnant by choice irrespective of her marital status. In case the pregnancy is wanted, it is equally shared by both the partners. However, in case of an unwanted or incidental pregnancy, the burden invariably falls on the pregnant woman affecting her mental and physical health," it said. The top court's verdict came on an appeal of a woman from the North East challenging the Delhi High Court order denying her permission to abort her pregnancy out of a consensual relationship after her partner refused to marry and left her. The bench added that Article 21 of the Constitution recognises and protects the right of a woman to undergo termination of pregnancy if her mental or physical health is at stake.

"Importantly, it is the woman alone who has the right over her body and is the ultimate decision maker on the question of whether she wants to undergo an abortion,” it said. Justice Chandrachud, while writing the 75-page verdict on behalf of the bench said the ambit of reproductive rights is not restricted to the right of women to have or not have children.