Catholic Italy to trial abortion pills at family planning clinics for 1st time in its history

Catholic Italy to trial abortion pills at family planning clinics for 1st time in its history
Italian women will be able to terminate unwanted pregnancies without having to go to hospital, after health officials from the central Lazio region announced Wednesday that abortion pills will be made available at family planning clinics for the first time.

The announcement follows recommendations from the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) to make abortion more accessible in the country.

Though abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978, a reported 70 percent of doctors in the majority Roman Catholic country refuse to provide termination services to women because it is contrary to their religious beliefs, leading the UN panel to say it was concerned about “the difficulty of access to legal abortions.”

READ MORE: ‘Menstrual leave’ & abortions: Women’s rights debate rages in Italy

The drug Ru486 (mifepristone) will be trialed from this summer in family planning clinics in the Lazio region for a period of 18 months, La Repubblica reports health officials as saying.

"The aim is to make access to the Law 194 [which regulates abortion] less burdensome for women," general director of Lazio's Department for Health and Social Policy, Vincenzo Panella said.

Though the Ru486 pill was made legal in Italy in 2009, its use has been confined to hospitals.

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Out of Italy’s 20 regions, chemical abortion is only considered an outpatient procedure in five of them (including Lazio); in the other regions patients are hospitalized for three days while they take the pill.

As a result, Ru486 is rarely used as surgical abortion is usually a one-day procedure. There are no special abortion clinics in Italy.

Panella believes the move to family planning clinics will ease the burden on hospitals in the region while offering women more comprehensive care.

"In Lazio chemical abortion can already be performed in outpatients, but in many European countries, for example in France, it is now an outpatient practice. In our region now, 15 percent of the abortions are done with RU486, and the shift to clinics could ease pressure on hospitals, but also offer multidisciplinary assistance to women,” he said.