Need to fine-tune MTP rules to recognise unmarried woman’s right to abortion: SC

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New Delhi, Aug 23 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would interpret the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and the rules to eliminate the discrimination between married and unmarried women for allowing abortion till 24 weeks of pregnancy.

A bench, headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, said the court is reserving the judgment on the MTP Act interpretation and it would include “unmarried woman” or “single woman”, which would allow them abortion up to 24 weeks. The bench noted that the provisions in the MTP rules need to be fine-tuned, and in the seven categories of women eligible to seek abortion till 24 weeks of pregnancy, it would add a category of women who suffer desertion, irrespective of marital status.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, contended that there is no discrimination under the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021, and categorisation has been provided in the relevant rules under the Act. She submitted that according to experts, categorisation has been to curb the misuse of laws including the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act due to sex determination of the foetus.

The bench said that its judgment will be shaped in such a way that the provisions of PC-PNDT Act are not diluted.

The Centre had told the apex court that it could intervene in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Rules, 2003.

The bench, also comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and J.B. Pardiwala, said the court can interpret Rule 3B(c) in such a manner that the change of marital status should be a broad category which would include a married woman who has been abandoned and also an unmarried, who suffered abandonment.

It noted that women who got unwanted pregnancy, due to medical device failure, should be allowed to terminate the pregnancy up to 24 weeks.

Earlier this month, the apex court had said it would interpret the MTP Act and connected rules to see if unmarried women could be allowed to terminate the pregnancy up to 24 weeks on medical advice.

On July 21, the top court had allowed a 25-year-old to abort her 24-week pregnancy arising out of a consensual relationship.

–IANS

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