Abortion Groups Celebrate New Head of World Health Organization
NEW YORK, May 26 (C-Fam) Former Ethiopian health minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was elected Tuesday to a five-year term as head of the World Health Organization (WHO). African attendees at the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva celebrated in the streets, while abortion advocates announced their satisfaction and support on social media.
Julia Bunting, head of the Population Council, called the new Director-General “champion of gender equality and sexual and reproductive health,” phrases used to refer to abortion, as well as homosexuality as a component of “sexual rights.” Dr. Tedros is known as an abortion advocate, credited by abortion advocates with liberalizing Ethiopia’s abortion laws. Earlier this year, he attended the Dutch “She Decides” conference, organized in opposition to President Trump’s expanded Mexico City Policy blocking U.S. funds to international abortion groups.
Dr. Tedros was elected after three rounds of voting, defeating Dr. Sania Nishtar of Pakistan and Dr. David Nabarro of the United Kingdom. Despite his well-publicized position on “sexual and reproductive health,” Dr. Tedros enjoyed the full support of the African countries, many of which have strong pro-life laws and oppose “sexual rights.” Many delegates from Africa expressed the opinion that it was their region’s turn to lead WHO, which has never had an African Director-General. He also had supporters outside Africa, and engaged the services of a U.S.-based public relations firm to help in his campaign. Neither Nabarro nor Nishtar hired a PR company.
While it remains to be seen how Dr. Tedros uses his leadership position, abortion-promoting groups telegraphed support before and after his election. Women Deliver president emerita Jill Sheffield wrote a letter to the Lancet citing his abortion position as evidence of his support for gender equality. Shannon Kowalski, former director of the Global Health Financing Initiative of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and current foreign policy advocate for the International Women’s Health Coalition, published an editorial on Devex immediately after the election result was announced. Her first request for Dr. Tedros’ priorities for women and girls: “support countries to expand access to safe, legal abortion.”
Apart from “sexual and reproductive health,” Dr. Tedros’ candidacy elicited controversy, both on social media and from Ethiopian protestors outside the World Health Assembly meetings in Geneva. His opponents have accused him of complicity in human rights abuses during his tenure in the Ethiopian government. Other allegations include covering up cholera outbreaks in his country in order to avoid damaging Ethiopia’s reputation on health, as well as its tourism industry and the export of food.
The outgoing two-term WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan of China, reputedly exerted a moderating influence on abortion activism within the agency, despite the publication of several problematic guidances on so-called “safe abortion.” Based on his record in Ethiopia, and his public willingness to embrace SRHR, all signs point toward Dr. Tedros taking a more activist position—with support, encouragement, and funding from abortion activists from around the world.