World Health Organization’s New Leader Could Affect Intl Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 7, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

World Health Organization’s New Leader Could Affect Intl Abortion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 7
, 2006

Geneva, Switzerland ( — Leaders of nations from across the globe are gathering in Geneva this week to select the next director of the World Health Organization. The decision could have enormous consequences as some countries are upset the Bush administration has successfully lobbied the WHO on abortion and abstinence.

Some critics have said the WHO has been dominated by the United States, the organizations, largest donor.

The Bush administration has insisted that abstinence be promoted in African nations where the AIDS virus is rampaging the population.

The president also lobbied the WHO to remove abortion drugs from a list of pharmaceuticals that should be considered indispensable for people in need of medicines.

The WHO had been headed by Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, who died in May, and some critics want a new leader who will stand up to the US.

"The U.S. government has a direct role in every significant decision made in Geneva, and even close to a veto role," Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, a British medical journal, told the Associated Press.

In April 2005, a WHO committee wanted to place the mifepristone abortion drug on a list of essential medicines that make up the schedule of health care the UN advises countries to have available. The drug has been responsible for the death of twelve women in the US, Canada, England, France and Sweden.

Committee members claimed the drugs are needed in countries where surgical abortions are the only available abortion method. In many cases, such countries don’t have adequate surgical facilities.

However, President Bush instructed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to lobby against including the abortion drugs in the UN guide.

Though the UN committee unanimously approved adding the abortion pills to the list, the Bush administration hoped the WHO director would overturn the decision. The list has still not been finalized.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, a Japanese who leads WHO efforts in the western Pacific, and WHO insider Dr. Margaret Chan from China are considered the front-runners after the first round of votes on Monday.

The WHO is expected to announce the results of the voting, which involves 193 member nations, on Wednesday.