Italian conservatives and church angry at abortion pill test

Rome, Italy - Italian conservatives and religious leaders have reacted vociferously to the first test of the abortion pill in the country that began earlier in the week, seeing it as a prelude to wider termination of pregnancies.

Sant Anna hospital in the northwestern city of Turin began Tuesday to offer RU 486 as an alternative to surgical abortion to 400 women over a period of two years, following approval from the authorities.

While abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978, the country has yet to authorize the use of RU 486, also known as Mifegyne, which induces a termination of pregnancy.

"Killing with a chemical substance -- I don't see any progress, either social or moral," Turin's Roman Catholic Cardinal Severino Poletto has been quoted as saying in the media.

Agostino Ghiglia, a regional leader of the conservative National Alliance, said that "women should be aware when they choose to abort that they are on the point of committing a serious act. And really, a pill doesn't seem to take into account that dimension."

The "morning-after" pill, which prevents implantation of a fertilized egg, has been available on the Italian market since 2000.