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It’s not perfect, but this landmark abortion decision from India’s Supreme Court is a good step in the right direction. (Credit: Subhashish Panigrahi, Wikimedia Commons)

The struggle for abortion access continues in the U.S. – but signs of hope for progress are coming from half a world away.

In India, the nation’s Supreme Court recently decided that all women, regardless of their marital or relationship status, could have an abortion if needed or desired up to 24 weeks into their pregnancies. 

It’s a significant improvement from the previous laws that were in place in the southeast Asian nation. Before the ruling, handed down at the end of last month, only married women could seek out abortions up to the 24-week mark. Single women, meanwhile, were restricted from getting the procedure after 20 weeks.

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“The artificial distinction between married and unmarried women cannot be sustained,” Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud concluded, according to PBS. “Women must have autonomy to have free exercise of these rights.”

Abortion has been technically legal in India in 1971. But stringent guidelines surrounding who could and couldn’t access an abortion, and when, made them difficult to have all the same. Over the years, allowances have been made for certain groups of unmarried individuals – rape survivors and minors, for example.

But when an unmarried woman in a consensual relationship sought one out last year, and was denied, she ended up taking her case to the highest court in the land. She argued that the laws that were previously in place “violated her constitutional rights,” calling them “arbitrary and discriminatory,” the BBC reported.

That woman won the day, and progressive activists throughout the country – and, indeed, across the globe – are celebrating. That said, Amit Mishra, the lawyer who argued the case before the court, says there is still more work to be done.

“There is a gray area still left,” he told The Fuller Project in a new interview. For example, “if there is a woman who is married and her pregnancy falls between 20 to 24 weeks, and the pregnancy was consensual, once again there is a discrimination.”

But the ruling is still “remarkable,” and these steps forward set a “wonderful precedent set for the whole world,” Mishra added.

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