Bodily autonomy: Let’s aim for faster progress
The Supreme Court of India has done well to place a woman’s will and agency at the centre of abortion access. The basic right to decide for oneself, though, remains a wider battle to be won
A woman’s right to decide what she wants to do with her body is hers alone. In an ideal world, this should be beyond challenge. But in the name of religion, custom and honour, that right is often diluted. The US backslide on abortion rights is just one example of the paltry worth of women in societies that take patriarchal ideas to extremes. Some American states now justify denying access to abortion even to teenage survivors of rape and incest. In India, the state’s record on legal access to abortion is far from the nightmare it is in the US. Indeed, last week, a landmark judgement of our Supreme Court (SC) struck down provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 2021, that barred unmarried women from terminating their pregnancy in the 20-24 week period. “This artificial distinction between married and single women is not constitutionally sustainable," held the court. In doing so, it followed the lead of Parliament, which amended the MTP Act last year to liberalize abortion access. It gave all women, irrespective of marital status, the right to claim abortion access till 20 weeks.