In June this year, the Supreme Court allowed an unmarried pregnant woman to get an abortion after being examined by the medical board of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The court wanted the woman, who was in the 24th week of her pregnancy, examined to determine whether the pregnancy could be safely terminated without endangering her life. The bench, headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, observed that letting an unmarried woman suffer an unwanted pregnancy would be contrary to the spirit of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. The Apex Court observed that in the new MTP Act, amended in 2021, the word ‘husband’ has been replaced by ‘partner’, indicating the legislative intent to cover unmarried women.
The woman had challenged Rule 3B of the MTP Rules, 2003, which allows only some categories of women to seek termination of pregnancy between 20 to 24 weeks. Stating that it would be a restrictive interpretation of the MTP Act and Rules to limit the right of abortion exceeding 20 weeks to only married women, the bench observed that the petitioner should not be denied the benefit merely on the grounds that she is unmarried. The 25-year-old Manipuri woman had told the court that the pregnancy was a result of a consensual relationship. She could not give birth to the child as her partner had refused to marry her.