All women, including women prisoners should have right to terminate pregnancy irrespective of reason

Bombay High Court:  In a significant order that endorses a woman’s “sole right over her own body” and her consequent right to “choose or not to choose motherhood”, a Division Bench of V.K. Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar, JJ has held that the scope of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 should extend to the mental health of a woman and she should be allowed to opt out of an unwanted pregnancy irrespective of the reason.

In this case, the Court had taken suo motu cognizance of a news article about pregnant women prisoners who were not taken to hospitals, despite informing the jail authorities of their wish to terminate their pregnancy. The Court passed certain directions to make it easier for women prisoners to access health facilities, including the right to medical termination of pregnancy and observed that not allowing a woman to terminate her pregnancy amounts to grave injury to her mental health.

The Court further observed that pregnancy takes place within the body of a woman and has a profound impact on her health, mental well-being and life. Thus, how a woman wants to deal with this pregnancy must be a decision she, and she alone, can make.

The Court said that it is important not to lose sight of the basic right of women: the right to decide what to do with their bodies, including whether to get pregnant and stay pregnant. This right emerges from her right to live with dignity as a human being in society and protected as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Court stated. [High Court on its own Motion v. State of Maharashtra, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 8426, decided on 19-09-2016]

 

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