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India's top court legalises abortion regardless of marital status
India's top court legalises abortion regardless of marital status

NEW DELHI, Sept 29 (Reuters) - India's top court on Thursday upheld the right of a woman to an abortion up to 24 weeks into pregnancy regardless of marital status, a decision widely hailed by women's rights activists.

The right to abortion has proved contentious globally after the US Supreme Court overturned in June its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v Wade that had legalised the procedure across the United States.  "Even an unmarried woman can undergo abortion up to 24 weeks on par with married women," said Justice DY Chandrachud of India's Supreme Court, holding that a woman's marital status could not decide her right to abort.

A law dating from 1971, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, limited the procedure to married women, divorcees, widows, minors, "disabled and mentally ill women", and survivors of sexual assault or rape.  "The decision to have or not to have an abortion is borne out of complicated life circumstances, which only the woman can choose on her own terms without external interference or influence," the court ruling said.  It added that every woman should have the "reproductive autonomy" to seek an abortion without consulting a third party.  Thursday's decision came in response to a petition by a woman who said her pregnancy resulted from a consensual relationship, but she had sought abortion when the relationship failed.


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