The Supreme Court of India expanded the killing of unborn babies in abortions again Thursday by allowing all women to have elective abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The AP reports the high court struck down a provision regarding the marital status of women that prohibited unmarried women from having abortions after 20 weeks but allowed married women to have abortions up to 24 weeks. The justices said the measure violated women’s constitutional right to equality.
“The artificial distinction between married and unmarried women cannot be sustained. Women must have autonomy to have free exercise of these rights,” Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud said in the ruling.
Since 1971, abortions have been legal for basically any reason up to 20 weeks in India. Last year, the Asian country expanded the limit to 24 weeks.
Reuters reports the ruling Thursday came about in response to an unmarried woman who challenged the law after she had consensual sex and wanted an elective, late-term abortion after 20 weeks. The court granted her request earlier this month.
In the ruling, the justices said society has a different view of marriage and sex now, and the law should reflect that change, according to India Today.
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“The marital status of a woman can’t be grounds for depriving her right to abort an unwanted pregnancy. Single and unmarried women have the right to abort under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and rules till 24 weeks of pregnancy,” the justices wrote.
They continued: “Law in modern times is shedding the notion that marriage is a precondition for the rights of persons. The MTP Act must consider the realities of today and must not be restricted by old norms. The law must not remain static and must keep in mind changing social realities.”
The court also recognized that rape can occur in marriage in its ruling, writing, “For purposes of abortion, rape will include marital rape.”
By 24 weeks of pregnancy, unborn babies are nearly fully formed and can feel pain. Premature babies have survived as early as 21 weeks of pregnancy.
A late-term abortion typically involves injecting a poisonous potassium chloride solution through the woman’s stomach into the baby’s heart, causing excruciating pain as the poison stops his/her heart. A few days later, labor is induced and the woman delivers her dead baby’s body.
Late-term abortions also can be dangerous for mothers, and some women have died along with their unborn babies. Abortions also can be traumatic and mentally damaging, with studies showing higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide among post-abortive mothers.
India has some of the highest abortion numbers in the world. Approximately 15.6 million unborn babies were aborted in the country in 2015, according to the Guttmacher Institute.