UCA News

Indian Church opposes top court’s ruling on abortion

Catholic bishops say allowing abortions is likely to disturb the equilibrium of society
An Indian activist holds a model of a fetus during a protest against illegal abortions in New Delhi on Nov. 26, 2014

An Indian activist holds a model of a fetus during a protest against illegal abortions in New Delhi on Nov. 26, 2014. (Photo: AFP)

Published: October 01, 2022 05:00 AM GMT
Updated: October 01, 2022 05:03 AM GMT

Unmarried women in a consensual relationship are entitled to safe and legal abortions, according to a ruling by India’s Supreme Court that was swiftly opposed by the Church.

The court on Sept. 29 also emphasized a women’s right to bodily autonomy without the need for authorization from a third party to get an abortion.

The Church in India opposed the top court’s elaborate 75-page order ruling that the exclusion of unmarried women who conceive out of a live-in relationship from the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Rules 2003 was unconstitutional.

The bench comprising Justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, A. S. Bopanna and J. B. Pardiwala said that reproductive autonomy “requires that every pregnant woman has the intrinsic right to choose to undergo or not to undergo an abortion without any consent or authorization from a third party.”

The top court’s order followed a petition seeking the inclusion of unmarried women within the ambit of Rule 3B of the MTP Rules amended in October 2021 for abortion between 20 and 24 weeks of gestation.

The amended rules specified seven different categories of women who are entitled to abortion access within the gestation period of 20-24 weeks including survivors of sexual assault or rape or incest, minors and women with a change in marital status during an ongoing pregnancy.

“The Supreme Court has upheld the individual bodily right of a woman to make decisions on her life and also of the unborn baby. It is likely to have adverse consequences in regards to the life of a fetus and its right to live,” said Father Babu Joseph, former spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.

The Divine Word priest told UCA News on Sept. 30 that the Church has always upheld the right to live and promoted life as a sign of God’s continued love for human beings.

“The decision of the Supreme Court can also affect the moral compass of society wherein a potential life can be terminated with ease, which is detrimental to the promotion of life,” he argued.

The priest exhorted society and the government to support a pregnant unwed woman to sustain her pregnancy rather than taking the easy course of termination of a pregnancy.

“This kind of termination of life could lead to an adverse demographic situation in India. Society should be vigilant in dealing with each pregnancy as life is a precious gift from God,” Father Joseph said.

Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) also disagreed with the judgment saying “it is a matter of great concern.”

“Every fetus is a human life since the beginning and therefore, it should be protected,” the KCBC said in a statement.

Simultaneously, the bishops also urged society to oppose all forms of atrocities against women and protect them.

Catholic bishops in the southern state said allowing abortions is likely to disturb the social equilibrium and cautioned everyone against any move to go for easy terminations of pregnancies by taking advantage of the court ruling.

“It is the duty of the government and the laws of the country to protect the fetus for the dignity of a woman, the stability of the family and also of the nation as a whole.”

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