GENEVA (AP) — The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday criticised the United States Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, saying the decision to no longer recognise a constitutional right to abortion was “a setback” that would ultimately cost lives.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing that decades of scientific data prove that access to safe and legal abortion saves lives.
“The evidence is irrefutable,” Tedros said.
“Restricting (abortion) drives women and girls toward unsafe abortions resulting in complications, even death.”
He said safe abortion should be understood as health care and warned that limiting its access would disproportionately hit women from the poorest and most marginalised communities.
“We hadn’t really expected this from the US,” Tedros said, adding that he was concerned the Supreme Court’s decision was a move “backwards.”
In recent years, the US has supported numerous maternal health care programs in developing countries, including access to reproductive health care.
“We had really hoped the US would lead on this issue,” Tedros said.
The WHO’s chief scientist, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, said the UN 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 said.
She said denying a woman access to abortion was “like denying someone a life-saving drug.”