Supreme Court issues notice to Centre on plea seeking to decriminalise abortion

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Jul 15, 2019, 04:50 PM IST

File photo of Supreme Court of India. Photograph:(Reuters)

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The top court agreed to hear the plea of women challenging the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Centre on a petition filed by three women seeking a direction to decriminalise abortion.

A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was hearing a plea by three women -- Swati Agarwal, Garima Sekseria, and Prachi Vats. 

The top court agreed to hear the plea of women challenging the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.

The trio, in their petition, stated that the act allows abortion only to save the life of the mother. 

It submitted that the restrictions and exceptions in the act violate women's rights. 

The issue of safe abortion and restriction on the reproductive choice of women and other incidental issues require consideration and urgent resolution by this Court since it severely, drastically and irreversibly affects all women of the country and is not a regional issue pertaining to any particular state, stated the plea.

The plea also asserted that section 3(2) (b) of the act is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.

Section 3(2) (b) restricts the right to seek an abortion on the ground of risk to the life of pregnant woman, grave injury to her physical or mental health and substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities. 

The Indian Penal Code was enacted including sections 312-316 which criminalized abortion unless it was for the purpose of saving the life of the woman, submitted the plea.

"The impugned provisions and the lack of access to safe abortions affects the fundamental right to health, reproductive choice and right to privacy of women of the country," it added.

The MTPA provision amounts to hostile discrimination against single women without any nexus to the object which is to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, said the plea.

"The object of MTPA is to enable a woman to terminate an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy since a pregnancy entails several physical, mental and socio-economic consequences. 

Keeping the object in view there is no rationale for not affording the same protection to an unmarried woman," it said while adding that it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.