The Supreme Court, while passing a judgement that allowed Sharmishta, pregnant with a foetus that was 24-week-old with grave cardiac abnormalities to abort it, made the following statement.
“A woman has a sacrosanct right to her bodily integrity and that’s her choice.”
The law currently allows abortion only up to 20 weeks into the gestation period. In this case, the court paid attention to the medical opinion that carrying the foetus to term might be fatal for the mother, and that she would suffer from ‘severe mental injury’. The child too, would be subjected to numerous surgeries to rectify the abnormalities, if it managed to survive. This move is of great significance, as it attempts to restore ownership of their bodies back to women. It recognises one of the most basic rights known to humans, that of taking decisions relating to their own well-being themselves, governed by the moral/value system chosen by themselves. The fact that it was not a recognised right might be because it is painfully obvious.
But the execution of this neglect of the most basic laws fits brilliantly in the overall scheme of patriarchy. Women are rid of these dead-weight decisions and any control over their bodies. They are the ones who bear the cross for humanity, for its obsession with the unborn child. The unborn child haunts us, scares the living daylights out of us. It is a very popular motif now, invoked as the final assault on an opponent who refuses to be defeated. Proclaim the opponent bad for the world as we know it, and summon the spectre of the generations to follow, and there you have it- the perfect formula to win any political battle. The tactic is an ignoble one, practically daring the common man to not care about his progeny.
Why must women submit to this political battle that is pursued though their womb? Why must they have no say, or even the right to act in accordance with their own moral values in such a scenario?
In March 2017, the Supreme Court denied a Maharashtrian woman the permission to abort her 26-week-old foetus with Down’s syndrome, stating that the mother’s health wasn’t threatened. It only observed orally that it was ‘very sad for a mother to bring up a mentally retarded child’.
This decision clearly exhibits that the judiciary intends to retain its fierce yet cold clutch on the body of a woman. And the disturbing truth is that this conquest is nowhere near complete, yet.
By Halak Pandya.
Halak is an undergraduate student pursuing literature. She aspires to be a writer. Halak also holds a Master Diploma in Bharatnatyam and a Black belt in Taekwondo. She describes herself as a luftmensch.