ROME, Italy, September 28, 2005, ( – On September 21st, amid severe criticism, Italy’s health minister Francesco Storace halted experiments surrounding the abortion pill RU-486 citing health and legal reasons.

Doctors and pro-choice advocates criticized the move stating that the decision was politically and religiously motivated. Margherita Boniver, a top Foreign Ministry official in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition and a pro-choice supporter, was quoted in the Corriere della Sera newspaper saying “In the end, (the abortion law) is the target … The current government doesn’t have enough time to change the law but they are going to keep putting it to the test with restrictions.”

Other critics argued that the decision was proof of Roman Catholic influence on Italian politics.

Storace explained that his decision came after he was informed that one of the 20 women who had taken the pill ended up having a “partial expulsion” at home followed by bleeding. This indicated to him that the procedure was illegal since under Italian law abortions had to be carried out at hospitals. He also sited health risks.

RU-486 has been cited in the death of five women in the United States since the pill was introduced five years ago, resulting in Congress halting sales of RU-486.

Minister halts Italy’s first abortion pill trial