India’s progressive abortion laws illuminate the West’s failings

South Carolina allows any woman to medically terminate pregnancies, including single women and minors
India’s Supreme Court has upheld the right to abortion for all women, whether married or not, in a landmark move that contrasts the progressive stance of India’s leading jurists with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling USA. .
The Supreme Court was considering whether the exclusion of a single woman, whose pregnancy arises from a consensual relationship, from rule 3B of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) was valid.

In its landmark decision, the SC ruled that all women, married or single, have the right to safe and legal access to abortion. The court said the exclusion of a single woman in a domestic relationship from the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules was unconstitutional. This means that even single women can choose to terminate the pregnancy in the period of 20 to 24 weeks.

What makes this statement progressive?

This ruling effectively demonstrates that the high court recognizes that women can be sexually active outside of a marital relationship. This in itself is a progressive perspective considering that large parts of the world eschew such behavior, particularly among women. India’s leading legal minds, at least, know and support the right of women to exercise their agency in matters of personal choice.

Arguably, all discussions of women’s rights center on choice. It is the ability to identify and pursue goals or a way of life without being subject to religious or social prejudices or dogmas. Many nations, despite professing freedom in their constitution, have not met the standard they have set for themselves when it comes to the ‘election’ of women.

In the United States, religion interfered with women’s rights over their own bodies when the country’s Supreme Court, in June this year, took away their access to legal abortion. Although individual states may formulate their own laws regarding the medical procedure, many women from economically weaker backgrounds will be limited by the cost of travel and other factors in ensuring safe medical care at a time when they are most vulnerable.
In Iran, at least 41 people have been killed according to media reports in protests that began in early September after morality police detained a woman for “not wearing her hijab properly.” She later died after police brutalized her, her family alleged.

In the two examples above, a woman’s choice has little value and the state had to step in to ensure that the status quo that has repressed women for centuries remains entrenched. That’s not to say that a bare head or aborted pregnancies give women more power, but the ability to make such simple decisions without pressure (where one behavior is rewarded over another in a million subtle ways ‘forcing’ a ‘choice ‘) if it does. make a more progressive society.

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Justice Chandrachud said: “If Rule 3B(c) is understood to be for married women only, it would perpetuate the stereotype that only married women engage in sexual activity. This is not constitutionally sustainable. The artificial distinction between married and single women cannot be sustained. Women must have autonomy to freely exercise these rights.” He was reading excerpts from the judgment of the tribunal composed of himself and Judges AS Bopanna and JB Pardiwala.

“The right to reproductive autonomy is related to bodily autonomy. The fetus depends on the woman’s body for support. Therefore, the decision to extinguish is firmly rooted in her right to bodily autonomy. If women are prevented from doing this, the state would be depriving them of the long-term path they take. This would be an affront to his dignity,” Judge Chandrachud said.

The bench also recognized that sexual and gender violence in all its forms has been part of families. Chandrachud said that “married women can also be survivors of sexual assault or rape”; this is significant in a country where marital rape it is not considered a crime (yet).
She also said that the MTP Act was written in 1971 with married women in mind, but as society changes, so should their laws. She also pointed out that the updated laws should also include non-traditional families – an issue that is being raised by the LGBTQIA community in India.

Indeed, the verdict has sparked many more debates that will surely, over time, also reach their logical conclusion in court.

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In 2021, the government raised the ceiling for medical termination of pregnancy and also added several categories of women who can access abortion, including victims of assault, those undergoing a change in marital status as well as minors and the disabled. , etc.

Lawmakers and justice advocates may be on the same page when it comes to women’s rights, but the “rule of law” will prosper when the law enforcement machinery also reforms its attitude toward women’s concerns because revolution occurs from the bottom up.