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HC rejects unmarried woman's plea to terminate 28-week pregnancy

Published: 9th Feb, 2024


The Delhi High Court refused to allow a 20-year-old unmarried woman to terminate her 28-week pregnancy.

The woman sought permission from the high court to undergo medical termination under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.

 What does the Book say?

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 2021allows all women in India (married and unmarried) to abort a foetus up to 20 weeks of pregnancy and 24 weeks for women under special conditions.
  • The MTP Act allows for abortion after 24 weeks only if there is a threat to the woman’s life or if there is a foetal anomaly. Rule 3B” of Rules annexed to the MTP Act, which was amended in 2021, specifies seven categories of women who are eligible for termination between 20-24 weeks.
  1. survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest
  2. minors
  3. those who have a change of marital status during the ongoing pregnancy (widowhood and divorce)
  4. women with physical disabilities
  5. mentally ill women
  6. women carrying a malformed foetus that has a substantial risk of being incompatible with life
  7. and women with pregnancy in humanitarian settings or disasters or emergencies as may be declared by the government
  • But several high courts and the Supreme Court in the past have used their discretionary powers and have given orders to terminate late-term pregnancies.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 and its Rules of 2003 prohibit unmarried women who are between 20 weeks to 24 weeks pregnant to abort with the help of registered medical practitioners.

What are women’s reproductive rights?

Based on the multiple definitions of reproductive rights, it can be said that they include some or all of the following rights:

  • Right to safe and legal abortion.
  • Right to control one’s reproductive functions.
  • Right to access in order to make reproductive choices free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
  • Right to access education about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases and freedom from coerced sterilization and contraception.
  • Right to protection from gender-based practices such as female genital cutting and male genital mutilation.

Arguments in favour of Abortion

Arguments Against abortion

  • Abortion is deemed acceptable as the foetus is not a person.
  • The mother has a right to life and it supersedes the rights of the foetus to choose whether or not it remains connected to her body.
  • It may be ethical for a mother to have an abortion to defend herself from the danger to her mental or physical health than continuing with the pregnancy would cause.
  • Abortion deprives the foetus of a potential 'future like ours'.
  • It deprives one of all the experiences, enjoyments, opportunities that would make up their future personal life.
  • Killing an innocent human being is a moral wrong.

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