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WHO says Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe bucks 40-year global trend

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, spoke during a media conference at an EU Africa summit in Brussels on Feb. 18, 2022. He criticized the decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling that guaranteed women a constitutional right to abortion, calling it “a setback” that would ultimately cost women's lives.JOHANNA GERON/Associated Press

The Director-General of the World Health Organization blasted the US Supreme Court’s decision that wiped out the constitutional right to an abortion as a “set-back” for the 40-year global trend toward increased access to safe abortion.

“It is more important than ever to come together to protect women’s right to safe abortion — everywhere,” Tedros Ghebreyesus said in a media briefing Wednesday.

Ghebreyesus, who has served as director general since 2017, said access to safe abortion saves lives while restricting it hurts the poorest communities hardest. “I want to reaffirm WHO’s position,” said Ghebreyesus. “All women should have the right to choose when it comes to their bodies and health. Full stop.”

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This isn’t the first time the public health arm of the United Nations has been caught up in political issues. In April 2020, the Trump administration announced it would halt funding for the organization over what it claimed was an overreliance on China at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. A month later, then-President Donald Trump said the US would leave the organization. In January 2021 upon taking office, President Biden said the US would re-engage with the WHO.