'Abortion Cannot Be Denied Because Woman Is Unmarried': Supreme Court

The Supreme Court allowed the woman to terminate her 24-week pregnancy provided it does not risk her life.

2 min read
Hindi Female

The Supreme Court on Thursday, 21 July, passed an interim order allowing an unmarried woman to abort her 24-week pregnancy. The Court, however, added that the woman can undergo abortion subject to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi concluding that termination will not risk her life.

An apex court bench, led by Justice DY Chandrachud, observed that the Delhi High Court passed an "unduly restrictive" view of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act when the court denied her permission to terminate.

"We are of the view that allowing the petitioner to suffer an unwanted pregnancy will go against the parliamentary intent and the benefits under the Act cannot be denied to her only on the basis of her being unmarried. The distinction between a married and an unmarried woman has no nexus to the object sought to be achieved by the Parliament," the bench said, reported Live Law.


The court noted that the 2021 amendment to the MTP uses the word 'partner' in place of 'husband' – indicating the legislative intent that law covers unmarried and single women.

"The parliamentary intent is not to confine beneficial provision of the Act only to a matrimonial relationship. In fact any woman or her partner would indicate that broad meaning has been escribed by the parliament by keeping in mind broad bodily autonomy of a woman in consonance with Article 21," the Court observed, reported Bar and Bench.

What Next?

The Supreme Court has directed the director of AIIMS to form a medical board, complying to the provisions Section 3 of the MTP Act. The Court has asked for the board to be formed 'preferably by tomorrow.'

If the panel concludes that foetus can be aborted without danger to life of petitioner, the termination will be carried out by AIIMS, the Court said in the order.

What Did Delhi HC Say?

A bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma, while dealing with the petition by the woman to undergo the procedure, however, suggested that the petitioner be kept “somewhere safe” until she delivers the child who can subsequently be given up for adoption.

“We will ensure that the girl is kept somewhere safe and she can deliver and go. There is a big queue for adoption,” observed the bench, also comprising Justice Subramonium Prasad.

Counsel for the petitioner said the woman, being unmarried, is not "physically, mentally and financially fit" to raise the child, reported Live Law. He also added that the bar in law on medical termination of pregnancy in relation to unmarried women was discriminatory.

“We will not permit you to kill that child. (We are) very sorry. This virtually amounts to killing (the fetus),” said the court as it noted that almost 24 out of 36 weeks of gestation were over.

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Topics:  Abortion 

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