By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In spite of its deadly history, the Italian government has authorized the use of the abortion drug, RU-486. The Church responded by threatening to excommunicate doctors who prescribe the pill, women who take it, and those who encourage its use.
According to various news reports, the Italian Pharmaceuticals Agency (AIFA) announced its decision to authorize the pill July 30 after a long meeting during which it was lobbied intensely by the Church and Catholic politicians, Reuters reported.
“There will be excommunication for the doctor, the woman and anyone who encourages its use,” said Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, emeritus president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the pope’s top expert on bioethical issues.
“First abortion was legalised to stop it being clandestine, but now doctors are washing their hands of it and transferring the burden of conscience to women,” he told reporters.
Although Italian law states that all abortions must take place in a hospital and AIFA’s stipulation that RU-486 can only be given in hospital, critics of the new move said some women were bound to abort at home without medical assistance, the report added.
“It intrinsically means women will have abortions at home, because the moment of expulsion is not predictable,” Reuters quoted senior health ministry official Eugenia Roccella saying.
Ms. Roccella said authorization of the RU-486 pill had been “heavily sponsored by politicians” and questioned its safety record.
Italy legalized abortion on demand through the end of the third month of pregnancy in 1978. Abortion after three months is only allowed when the pregnancy is deemed a grave danger to the woman’s mental or physical health.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who heads the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, issued a strong condemnation of abortion and the RU-486 pill in a front page article in Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on July 31. He said the Church cannot passively sit back, and insisted the ethical implications of the pill could not be overlooked.
“An embryo is not a bunch of cells,” Fisichella wrote. “It’s real and full human life. Suppressing it is a responsibility nobody can take without fully knowing the consequences.
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