SC Explores to Interpret MTP Rules to Recognize Unmarried Woman’s Right to Abortion; Reserves Judgment

Khushi Bajpai

Published on: 24 August, 2022 at 20:03 IST

The Additional Solicitor General, Ms. Aishwarya Bhati, pleaded with the Supreme Court on Tuesday to intervene in the medical termination of pregnancy rules rather than the act as it was considering how to make unmarried women eligible for the benefits of section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (the Act), so they could also seek termination of pregnancies that were longer than 20 weeks but not 24 weeks. As the distinction between married and unmarried women is formed in the regulations and not the conduct, she thought it could be more effective to interpret the rules.

The ASG informed the bench that the lawmakers’ choice to set the specified upper limit was supported by medical literature. After that, Ms. Bhati walked the bench through the other statues, interpreting them broadly enough to cover married women as well as the definition of an aggravated woman and domestic relationships in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, which addresses a female Hindu’s capacity for adoption. In support of her claim that Rule 3B of the MTP guidelines should be interpreted, she also cited case law.

The court reserved judgment in the case after the hearing.

The court was deliberating a plea brought by a 25-year-old unmarried woman who was seeking to have her 24-week pregnancy, which was the result of a consensual relationship, terminated. She was complaining that the Delhi high courts had denied her the requested relief.

The petitioner received the following relief from the apex court in a detailed order on July 21, 2022:

1. In accordance with Section 3(2)(d) of the MTP Act, the director of AIIMS Delhi shall establish a medical board in the month of July.

2. The AIIMS will perform the abortion on the petitioner’s behalf if the medical board determines that doing so will not endanger the petitioner’s life. Following completion of the report, the court will get it.

The apex court had already requested Ms. Bhati’s aid in interpreting the pertinent MTP Act provision.

The petitioner had requested authorization from the high court to have an abortion, but it had been denied. It was noted that none of the provisions under the 2003 medical termination of pregnancy guidelines directly apply to unmarried women whose pregnancy results from a consensual relationship.

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