This is how a girl’s appeal changed the abortion law in India with the Supreme verdict

All women regardless of their marital status entitled to safe and legal abortion: Supreme Court’s massive order on abortion law and marital rape

Just weeks after when the United States Supreme Court passed a controversial order to ban or severely restrict the ability of pregnant women to get abortions, a case slightly similar to this made huge headlines in India.

The Supreme Court bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice JB Pardiwala in its ground-breaking judgment recognised marital rape, though purely within the ambit of abortion.

“There cannot be any discrimination between married and unmarried women in the matter of abortion in India and will have the right to a safe and legal abortion,” said the Supreme Court clearly in its judgment.

The top court held that the meaning of rape must be held to include “marital rape” for the purpose of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and Rules.

In a big relief for unmarried women in India, the Supreme Court in its historic judgment this week also allowed women regardless of their marriage status whose pregnancies are between 20 and 24 weeks to go for legal abortion. The decision was widely hailed by women’s rights activists.

These categories however include minors, women if their marital status changes during an ongoing pregnancy, survivors of sexual assault, and those with physical and mental disabilities.


The landmark verdict came in response to a petition by a 25-year-old woman unmarried woman who had appealed against a Delhi High Court order that ruled that she was not entitled to abortion under the Act as she was unmarried, resulting from a consensual relationship. The woman was 23 weeks into her pregnancy.

The woman considered abortion because her partner denied any responsibility and refused to marry her at the last moment. The fact of having a child out of wedlock would bring shame and harassment was also her concern.

She also said that since it was all unplanned, she could not afford to bring up a child as she did not have a job and wasn’t from an affluent family. She also said she wasn’t mentally prepared to raise a child.

The woman went to knock on the top court’s doors after the Delhi High Court rejected her plea for an abortion.


Abortions have been legal in the country since 1971 and the system allowed for legal abortions under specific conditions. Over the years, authorities have made strict regulations for who can terminate a pregnancy because of the abortions of millions of female foetuses, leading to a terribly skewed gender ratio in the country. In India, there was a time when it became a tradition when Indians showed a preference for male children instead of daughters.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, abortion was legal in India under this act if it is processed in the span of 20 weeks (which would be approximately 5 months), and should have the blessing of a doctor. Also, it should be performed by a medical professional at a recognised medical institution.


The ruling was hailed especially by the women’s rights activists across India and famous women personalities took to Twitter how they felt about it as it was for the rights of Indian women.

Parliamentarian Mahua Moitra said on Twitter, “A huge step forward,”.

“It is the first step, it is a progressive step,” said the founder of PARI (People Against Rapes in India) Yogita Bhayana.

Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy called the ruling a landmark judgment.

“I think in this context, the US is moving backwards and failing to recognise women’s right to their own bodies,” Nundy added.

This judgment will have a far-reaching impact on how we think about women’s rights under the Indian constitution, says Aparna Chandra, an academic from the National Law School.


Indian laws are said to be more progressive when compared to other countries. The report published by the United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA) revealed that 67% of abortions in India are deemed unsafe.

The report also states that about 8 women die due to abortion-related complications every day, which makes it the third leading cause of maternal mortality. With an alerting rise in unintended pregnancies, the United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA) has called it a ‘global failure to uphold a basic human right.’

Read More- Texas Abortion Law: Deviously Banning Abortion Without Criminalising it


The report released a few months back was titled ‘Seeing the Unseen: the case for action in the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy, which also found that 121 million unintended pregnancies occur globally every year, with a shocking data average of 331,000 a day.

In India, one in seven unintended pregnancies takes place. It has been found that unintended pregnancies, or subsequent abortions, are intimately related to the overall development of the country. When education and income levels increase, it will result in lower unintended pregnancies, according to the report. In India, studies have indicated unintended pregnancies are also related to lower maternal healthcare utilisation and poorer infant and maternal health outcomes.

The findings also revealed that an estimated 257 million women globally, who want to avoid pregnancy are not even using safe, modern methods of contraception. Also, out of them, 172 million women are using no method at all.

Abortion-related complication kills women between the ages of 15–19 due to the high-risk factor, as per the report.

The latest findings also revealed that one in three women in need of abortion will consider doing something on their own to end the pregnancy if they are unable to get an abortion at a clinic, according to a survey conducted of over 700 people seeking abortions in 3 states across the United States of America – California, New Mexico and Illinois.

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