Italy's pharmaceutical watchdog in the next few months may approve sales of a pill to end a pregnancy after five to seven weeks, the Corriere della Sera reported Monday.
The French laboratory Exelgyn is seeking authorisation to sell RU 486, an emergency contraceptive with the brand name Mifegyn, in Italy, which could give a green light to the sales by February or March, the newspaper said.
"We have pledged to make it available (in Italy)," Health Minister Livia Turco told the paper. "It is not a political choice but an administrative act."
She said no member state of the European Union could bar the distribution of a drug that is already on sale elsewhere in the 27-nation bloc.
In 2005, experimental use of RU 486 in three Italian hospitals provoked an outcry from Catholic and conservative groups.
Corriere said Promed Galileo, a US scientific organisation grouping Catholic associations and medical practitioners, had urged Italy's Medicines Agency to bar sales of the drug here.
Abortion was legalised in Italy in 1978, but as a result of pressure from the Vatican, doctors can refuse to perform abortions as "conscientious objectors."