All women, married or unmarried, entitled to safe and legal abortion: SC

All women are entitled to a safe and legal abortion process and making any distinction between a married and an unmarried woman in this regard is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled today.

The ground-breaking judgment by the bench of Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice JB Pardiwala also saw the court recognise marital rape, though purely within the ambit of abortion.

The court ruled that under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the definition of rape must include marital rape. This observation may pave the way for later judgments on marital rape, a subject of intense debate in the country.

The marital status of a woman cannot be a ground to deprive her of the right of abortion, the court said, while ruling that even unmarried women would be entitled to terminate an unwanted pregnancy within 24 weeks. The court said depriving single or unmarried women of the right to abort an unwanted pregnancy is a violation of fundamental rights.