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WHO Director General Calls on Countries to Protect Women’s Right to Abortion

WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has reaffirmed the organization’s support for abortion rights, stating that “women should always have the right to choose when it comes to their bodies and their health”.

This statement comes amidst controversy over a Texas judge’s decision to ban the abortion pill, mifepristone. The US Supreme Court is set to decide whether to suspend the judge’s ruling and maintain full access to the drug.

Dr Tedros also called on Afghanistan’s Taliban regime to reconsider their ban on Afghan women working with UN agencies to deliver vital health services.

This ban follows a decision in December 2022 banning women from working in NGOs across Afghanistan.

UN officials have initiated a period of operational review in Afghanistan until May 5, 2023, and have warned that the organization may choose to halt all operations in the country if the ban is not rescinded.

In commenting on the US abortion controversy, Dr Tedros protested attempts by politicians and courts to curtail women’s right to access safe abortions.

He stated that “restricting access to abortion does not reduce the number of procedures and only drives women and girls towards unsafe ones and also death.

Ultimately, access to safe abortion is healthcare that saves lives”. This is a longstanding WHO position on abortion rights, which is articulated on its Health Topics page.

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WHO’s statement comes in response to a ruling by Texas judge Thomas Rice on April 7, which questioned the legal status of the abortion pill and the longstanding authority of the FDA to determine what drugs are safe and authorized for use nationwide.

A partial stay was granted on April 12, allowing mifepristone to be available to women pregnant for seven weeks or less, but only with a doctor’s prescription delivered in person.

The Supreme Court has issued a temporary hold on the original decision until April 19, as they prepare to reconsider the Texas court’s ruling at the request of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

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