The Article 'Remarkable decisions related to Pregnancy' by Aman Pathak highlights the recent significant judgment by the Supreme Court where an unmarried woman has been allowed to terminate her pregnancy. The Article contains various other decisions of the Supreme Court which reflect the paramount value that has been given to women's health and their choice also and even… Read More »

The Article 'Remarkable decisions related to Pregnancy' by Aman Pathak highlights the recent significant judgment by the Supreme Court where an unmarried woman has been allowed to terminate her pregnancy. The Article contains various other decisions of the Supreme Court which reflect the paramount value that has been given to women's health and their choice also and even proves that causing trouble to the woman's rights is also a violation of certain Constitutional provisions. The author briefly makes the reader aware of the exceptional view of the various High Courts of the Country. It is true to say Law and Courts simultaneously protect women's reproductive rights in the best possible manner.

A Brief Introduction: Remarkable Decisions related to Pregnancy

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act provides provisions related to safe abortion and also safeguards the dignity, autonomy, and confidentiality of a woman.

In a recent development, the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India was faced with a case, adjudication of which has set the broad & liberal interpretation of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 2021 on a pedestal equivalent to most of the developed nations.

A twenty-five years old unmarried woman was in a consensual relationship and found out that she was 22 weeks pregnant, since her relationship failed apart from other economic-financial constraints, she decided to terminate her pregnancy.

The aggrieved woman had approached the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi under the writ jurisdiction, seeking directions that she be permitted to terminate her ongoing pregnancy and also to include unmarried women within the ambit of Rule 3B of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules 2003 (as amended on 21.10.2021) for termination of pregnancy, for a period up to twenty-four weeks.

Since the Hon'ble High Court did not consider the unmarried women category within the ambit of "any woman", the lady had to approach the Hon'ble Supreme Court.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court, while allowing the prayers, thereby including unmarried women's right to safe abortion, did not only protect the physical & mental health of women at large but has also given a new shape and ambit to the freedom, integrity, and protection to women irrespective of their relationship status.

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The Hon'ble Supreme Court considered the harmonious scheme of the Act in accordance with the legislative intent since it has already been decided in Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Administration[1] by the Hon'ble Court that a woman has a sacrosanct right to bodily integrity and a woman's right to reproductive choice is an inseparable part of her personal liberty; giving a narrow interpretation thereby not including unmarried woman would have been disastrous.

More so, when the Hon'ble Court has already held that a woman's right to make a choice, whether to procreate or not, is a facet of Article 21 as per the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy Retd. & Anr. v. Union of India and Ors.[2] and live-in-relationships have also been held to be a domain of personal autonomy in the case of S Khusboo v. Kanniammal[3]

The Hon'ble Supreme Court, while holding that proper interpretation of the statute in consonance with the intent of the law enacted by the parliament, would not lead to a distinction between the right of a married woman & an unmarried woman.

With the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021 the word previously used "any married woman or her husband" was replaced by the word "any woman or her partner", with this amendment, the legislature made the best possible attempt to transcend beyond the conventional forms of relationships and bridge the gap, however, the Medical termination of pregnancy rules did not envisage and include unmarried women even though included other categories such as divorcees, widows, minor, disabled, mentally ill, survivors of sexual assault or rape.

With the liberal view & interpretation by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of the legislative intent and the statements of object reasons, there will definitely be a relief to women at large, as otherwise would have been not only discriminatory in terms of rights envisaged under Article 21 of the Indian constitution but was also violating Article 14.

Exceptional view by High Courts

Although the upper time limit for medically terminating pregnancy has been set at 24 weeks from previously 20 weeks, recently, various High Courts took an exceptional view for the same:

Kerala High Court (Minor rape victim was found 25 weeks pregnant): A medical board established the age of the fetus as 26-27 weeks, allowing termination since the medical board approved.

Delhi High Court (The fetus suffered from anencephaly, a birth defect pertaining to the brain): Termination at 28 weeks of pregnancy was allowed after the medical board approved the same.

Chhattisgarh High Court (Minor rape victim was found 27 weeks pregnant): Termination was permitted on the ground that she had been a rape victim.

Kerala High Court (Minor rape victim was 30 weeks pregnant): Termination was allowed on the grounds of anguish caused by such pregnancy and mental suffering.

Such exceptional views have only been taken considering that pregnancy is a result of not just physical act & bodily preparedness but also requires a mental alignment with various other factors and conditions.

An individual unable to bear a child due to physical, mental, and financial circumstances should have a right to make a choice, which has been held to be a facet of Article 21 of the Constitution.

By setting up a broad perspective through these judicial pronouncements, medical termination of pregnancy, whether by choice or circumstances, has been given a new outlook. In the coming years, India would lead by example since there are umpteen nations that do not even allow termination in medical cases, rape cases, etc.

Conclusion

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy is progressive legislation that has given various rights to women pertaining to pregnancy. Both High Courts and Supreme Court have played a major role as and when required to protect the life of women and also provided them to make their own choices. India is a country where constant efforts have been taken to retain and develop the law covering the medical termination of pregnancy and protect the rights of women to all its possible extent.


References

[1] (2009) 9 SCC 1

[2] (2017) 10 SCC 1

[3] (2010) 5 SCC 600


Updated On 2022-09-05T17:50:03+05:30

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