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Woman doesn't need husband's consent to undergo abortion, says Supreme Court

The top court upheld the women's right to undergo an abortion while dismissing a petition filed by a man to seek damages from his wife who aborted a baby without his consent. Read on to know more.

In yet another women-centric judgement, the Supreme Court dismissed a man's petition to seek damages from his estranged wife for undergoing abortion without his consent.

It also ruled that an adult woman had an unimpeachable right to give birth or terminate pregnancy.

The man had also demanded compensation from the woman's parents, brother and two other doctors who terminated his wife's pregnancy, as he felt that it was 'illegal' for them to abort the baby without the father's permission.

SC upholds women's decision

The top court upheld the woman's decision to abort their child as the couple shared a strained relationship.

" Keeping in view the strained relations between the husband and wife, the wife's decision to terminate the unwanted foetus was right. The termination of pregnancy had not soured the relations between the two... So, keeping in view the legal position, it is held that no express or implied consent of the husband is required for getting pregnancy terminated under the (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) Act," the SC said.

What had happened

The petitioner and the woma got married in 1994 and had a son in 1995.

Their relationship strained later and the woman and their son had been living with her parents in Chandigarh since 1999.

Later the Lok Adalat in Chandigarh intervened and persuaded the couple to live together in the husband's house in Panipat.

They started living together since November 2002 and in January 2003, the woman found out that she was pregnant with their second baby. However differences and discord cropped up between the couple again and the woman decided to go for an abortion.

The petitioner was against the abortion and even refused to sign the hospital papers for medical termination of pregnancy.

However, the woman underwent an abortion in a Chandigarh hospital, following which he filed a civil suit against his wife, her family and the doctors. He demanded a compensation of Rs 30 lakh to pay for the mental pain, agony and harassment.

The petitioner argued that the abortion was done despite the pregnancy posing any danger to his wife's health. The foetus was also healthy. Yet, the man alleged, the pregnancy was terminated without his consent, which is illegal under the MTP Act.

High court supports woman's decision

When the matter reached before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, it stood by the woman's decision to abort the foetus.

"If the wife has consented to matrimonial sex... it does not mean that she has consented to conceive a child. It is the free will of the wife to give birth to a child or not. The husband cannot compel her to conceive and give birth to his child," the HC was quoted as saying by the Times of India.

"The woman is not a machine in which raw material is put and a finished product comes out. She should be mentally prepared... to give birth to a child. Unwanted pregnancy would... affect the mental health of the... woman," it added.

The top court has now stood by the HC's decision.

"She is a mother and an adult who says she did not want the pregnancy. How can she or others be made liable for it? Even a mentally challenged woman has a right to terminate her pregnancy. How can parents and doctors be made liable?" the SC said.

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