After Roe leak, WHO’s Tedros says safe abortions ‘save lives’

WHO chief did not directly reference leaked US Supreme Court draft opinion indicating Roe v Wade may soon be overturned.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned against restricting access to abortion in wake of leaked US Supreme Court draft opinion [File: Johanna Geron/The Associated Press]

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that restricting access to abortions “drives women and girls towards unsafe ones”.

Tedros tweeted the comment on Wednesday, shortly after a leaked draft US Supreme Court opinion indicated that Roe v Wade, a landmark ruling that legalised abortion nationwide, could soon be overturned.

Tedros did not specifically reference the leak or Roe v Wade in the tweet.

He wrote that “restricting access to abortion does not reduce the number of procedures.”

“Access to safe abortion saves lives,” he added.

A decision to overturn Roe v Wade, which would likely officially be announced by the Supreme Court in June or July, could see large swathes of the US ban abortions as laws related to abortion would revert back to the states.

At least 13 states have passed so-called trigger laws that would ban abortions in almost all cases in the event Roe v Wade were to be overturned. Those laws are designed to go into effect either immediately or shortly after such a decision.

Several other states have passed laws to ban abortions conducted after the earliest weeks of pregnancy, including after six weeks, a period when most women do not know they are pregnant.

While the Supreme Court has confirmed the authenticity of the leaked draft majority opinion, which was authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito and supported by four other conservative justices on the nine-member bench, the ruling is still subject to change.

The unprecedented leak came amid a period of judicial deliberation that usually sees the justices refine their rulings. In some cases, justices have changed their votes on issues prior to a final ruling.

In the leaked draft opinion Alito called Roe v Wade “egregiously wrong from the start”, and argued that the justices who made the 1973 Roe v Wade decision did not adequately establish that the right to an abortion was protected by the US Constitution.

According to the WHO, about 25 million unsafe abortions are conducted around the world annually, with some 39,000 women and girls dying as a result each year, and millions more hospitalised due to complications.

Most of the deaths happen in lower-income countries, with Africa accounting for a full 60 percent and Asia for 30 percent, the data shows.

“Women should always have the right to choose when it comes to their bodies and their health,” Tedros wrote.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies