WHO chief: U.S. abortion ruling ‘a setback,’ will cost lives

GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday criticized the U.S. Supreme Court choice to overturn Roe v. Wade. calling the choice to not acknowledge a constitutional proper to abortion “a setback” that may in the end cost lives.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus mentioned throughout a media briefing that many years of scientific knowledge show that entry to secure and authorized abortion saves lives.

“The evidence is irrefutable,” Tedros mentioned. “Restricting (abortion) drives women and girls toward unsafe abortions resulting in complications, even death.” He mentioned secure abortion must be understood as well being care and warned that limiting its entry would disproportionately hit ladies from the poorest and most marginalized communities.

“We hadn’t really expected this from the U.S.,” Tedros mentioned, including that he was involved the Supreme Court’s choice was a transfer “backwards.” In recent years, the U.S. has supported numerous maternal health care programs in developing countries, including access to reproductive health care.

“We had really hoped the U.S. would lead on this issue,” Tedros mentioned.

WHO’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, said the U.N. health agency’s position on abortion was based on decades of data from numerous countries.

“I know from own experience, working in India, that having access to safe abortion is a life-saving measure,” Swaminathan mentioned. She mentioned denying a lady entry to abortion was “like denying someone a life-saving drug.”

She said bans on abortion would do little to reduce the number of procedures while people who undergo unsafe abortions are at risk of developing fatal blood infections.

“What these bans do…is it drives women into the hands of people who are there to exploit the situation, performing unsafe abortion and very often resulting in a huge amount of damage to their health and sometimes death,” Swaminathan said.

In recent years, the trend among countries has been to increase access to abortion, including regions where there was staunch opposition, like Latin America, she said.

“It’s unfortunate to see some countries going backward,” Swaminathan mentioned, citing the U.S. choice.

WHO chief Tedros said he feared many other countries might not understand the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and could take similar measures to restrict abortions.

“The global impact is also a concern,” he said. “This is about the life of mother,” he said. “If safe abortion is illegal, then women will definitely resort to unsafe ways of doing it. And that means it could cost them their lives.”


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