World Health Organization (W.H.O.) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday turned on the U.S. Supreme Court over the decision to reverse Roe v. Wade, calling the move “a setback” that would cost lives.
He spoke out during a media briefing at the W.H.O. headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and alleged decades of scientific data prove access to safe and legal abortion saves lives, AP reports.
“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 marginalized communities.
“We hadn’t really expected this from the U.S.,” Tedros said, adding that he was concerned the Supreme Court’s decision was a move “backwards.”
“We had really hoped the U.S. would lead on this issue,” Tedros said.
W.H.O.’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, agreed with her boss, the AP report set out.
She 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 said. She said denying a woman access to abortion was “like denying someone a life-saving drug.”
Tedros feared many other countries might not understand the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and could use it as a template to restrict abortions.
“The global impact is also a concern,” he said. “This is about the life of mother … 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.”