Unmarried Women In Live-In Relationships Have Right To Abortion: Supreme Court

A 24-week pregnant woman cannot be denied the right to abortion simply because she is not married. A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachur said this while passing an interim judgment in a case related to abortion on Thursday.

The applicant, a 25-year-old woman, told the court that she was unmarried. She became pregnant while living together. But because she is not married, she has to face difficulties during an abortion. She first approached the Delhi High Court regarding the whole issue.

But the court dismissed her plea on the grounds that she was in a consensual relationship. The Supreme Court also termed the Delhi High Court judgment as ‘unnecessary obstruction’. AIIMS doctors are tasked with deciding whether the woman can be safely aborted or not.

The Supreme Court said that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act was amended in 2021. There, in the case of paternal identity, the word ‘husband’ is replaced by ‘partner’. The SC said, “A woman’s right to reproductive choice is an inseparable part of her personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. She has a sacrosanct right to bodily integrity…There is no doubt that a woman’s right to make reproductive choices is also a dimension of ‘personal liberty.”

The Court said, “Forcing a woman to continue with her pregnancy would not only be a violation of her bodily integrity but also aggravate her mental trauma. The reason for this change was to allow unmarried women to have abortions according to their needs. Therefore, the petitioner cannot be deprived of this right merely because she is unmarried. Incidentally, divorced and widowed women now have the constitutional right to have an abortion between 20 and 24 weeks.”