LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has been requested to strike down the law criminalising abortion to the extent of rape victims.

“The pro-choice is a reality, which is why it is important that women should have access to medical services without any preconceived notions and biases,” says a public interest petition filed by Advocate Aasya Ismail.

The lawyer pleads that pro-choice, the freedom to choose abortion, is a fundamental right.

The lawyer argues that the law in the country criminalises the abortion under sections 338 and 338-B of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) describing it as intentionally “causing miscarriage” except in cases where abortion is carried out to save the life of the woman.

The petitioner pleads that the punishment of incarceration is merely flawed to exercise a woman’s right to pro-choice, therefore, the law needs to be revisited.

The lawyer says the right to pro-choice, irrespective of their marital status, is not provided in cases of rape, fetus impairment, economical and social pressure, therefore, the protection of women is not available in the law.

The lawyer argues that the healthcare providers need to understand that freedom to abortion is neither against the law nor against religion and all those seeking the right should be treated with respect.

She says the Constitution failed to provide any fundamental right to pro-choice.

She contends that the impugned sections of the PPC, which addresses the subject of abortion, are vague and silent on the pro-choice. However, she points out that the countries like UK, US, Scotland, Northern Ireland and India enshrined pro-choice and evolved their criminal law.

The lawyer argues that a state cannot set a policy to control women’s bodies, terming it anti-democratic and a violation of fundamental rights.

The petitioner asks the court to decriminalise the abortion under the existing law to grant freedom to abortion as a fundamental right to the women of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2024

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