Over the objections of the Vatican, Italy recently approved the use of RU486, commonly known as the abortion pill.The pill, which can only be taken up to the seventh week of pregnancy, will not be sold in Italian pharmacies — only doctors will be allowed to administer it. The Vatican has made its opposition clear, promising that any doctor who does administer it will be excommunicated (along with the women who take it). According to the Italian health ministry, 70 percent of Italian doctors refuse to carry out abortions in the predominately Catholic country.
Unlike the morning after pill (Plan B), which prevents a pregnancy that hasn't happened yet, RU-486 causes the termination of an existing pregnancy. Italian law permits surgical abortion "on demand" within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and until the 24th week if the fetus has genetic defects or if the mother's health is in danger. Now women will have legal access to a chemically induced abortion as an alternative to the surgical procedure.