The Italian Pharmaceuticals Agency (AIFA) has approved mifepristone, also known as RU-486, for use through the seventh week of pregnancy. Last week’s ruling stipulates that the drug can be administered by doctors in a hospital but can not be sold in pharmacies, according to the BBC.
As the host country of the Vatican, Italy has long faced an especially contentious abortion debate. The Roman Catholic Church denounced AIFA’s decision. Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life, announced, “There will be excommunication for the doctor, the woman, and anyone who encourages [mifepristone’s] use,” reports Reuters. Accessibility of mifepristone remains unclear because about 70 percent of Italian doctors are “conscientious objectors” who will not provide abortion services, according to the health ministry.
AIFA acknowledged the debate surrounding abortion in its report, noting that “the task of protecting the well-being of citizens…must take precedence over personal convictions,” reports the AP. Mifepristone has been available on a limited, experimental basis in Italy since 2006, according to the Associated Press. Surgical abortion through the end of the first trimester, and in limited cases through 24 weeks of pregnancy, has been legal in Italy since 1978.