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Supreme Court Affirms Women's Right to Reproductive Choices as Central to Human Dignity [Read Order]

By LAWSTREET NEWS NETWORK      24 August, 2023 02:51 PM      0 Comments
Supreme Court Affirms Women's Right to Reproductive Choices as Central to Human Dignity

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has once again recognised the right of every woman to make reproductive choices without undue interference, saying this is is central to the idea of human dignity. 

A bench of Justices B V Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan on August 21 allowed a plea by a 25-year-old rape survivor against the Gujarat High Court's order rejecting her writ petition to terminate over 27-week pregnancy. 

Releasing its written order, the court said in the context of abortion, the right of dignity entails recognising the competence and authority of every woman to take reproductive decisions, including the decision to terminate the pregnancy.

"Although human dignity inheres in every individual, it is susceptible to violation by external conditions and treatment imposed by the State. The right of every woman to make reproductive choices without undue interference from the state is central to the idea of human dignity. Deprivation of access to reproductive healthcare or emotional and physical well-being also injures the dignity of women," the bench said.

Acting upon the woman's plea, the bench said the HC's order was "ex facie contradictory" and "highly improper".

The HC did not consider a report by the medical board that the termination of pregnancy would not adversely affect child bearing capacity and general health of the survivor in future, it said.

"In Indian society, general pregnancy within the institution of marriage, is a reason for joy and celebration and of great expectation, not only for the couple but also for their families and friends," the bench said.

"By contrast, pregnancy outside marriage, in most cases, is injurious, particularly, after a sexual assault/abuse and is a cause for stress and trauma affecting both the physical and mental health of the pregnant woman the victim. Sexual assault or abuse of a woman is itself distressing and sexual abuse resulting in pregnancy compounds the injury. This is because such a pregnancy is not a voluntary or mindful pregnancy," the bench added.

The court relied upon a SC judgement which held Article 21 of the Constitution recognises and protects the right of a woman to undergo termination of pregnancy if her mental or physical health is at stake. Importantly, it is the woman alone who has the right over her body and is the ultimate decision-maker on the question of whether she wants to undergo an abortion, the bench quoted the earlier decision in the case of 'X vs The Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of NCT of Delhi and Ors' (2022).

 

[Read Order]  



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