ROME — Women in central Italy will face greater health risks and higher mortality rates due to easier access to a controversial abortion-causing drug, according to a statement from the Diocese of Rome.

The drug mifepristone, also known as Ru486, is being distributed to family planning clinics in Italy’s Lazio region, where Rome is located, for an 18-month trial.

The drug is not to be confused with the so-called “morning after pill,” which is an extra-large dose of a common birth control pill taken within three days of intercourse.

Mifepristone would normally be taken after a woman realizes she is pregnant, which usually happens at the earliest during the fifth week of pregnancy.

Currently, abortions can only be performed in hospitals in Italy, and the use of the “abortion pill” legalized in Italy in 2009 usually requires a three-day hospital stay, although in Lazio it has been available on an outpatient basis.

Aside from the death of the child in the womb, pro-life groups have alleged the drug is dangerous for the woman who takes it, and that this fact is often downplayed by its supporters.

Although often portrayed in the media as a simple method of getting an abortion, the use of mifepristone is complex, and requires at least three separate visits to a doctor, during which another drug, misoprostol, is also used. The use of these drugs causes heavy bleeding, which can lead to complications.

Since multiple visits are required, many women end up missing one or more of their follow-up appointments.

According to the website of National Right to Life, 2% of those participating in U.S. trials of mifepristone hemorrhaged, 1% had to be hospitalized, and several women required surgery to stop the bleeding and some bled so much that they had to have transfusions.

Italy does not have specialized abortion clinics, and the Rome diocese’s statement said the family planning clinics now being allowed to distribute the drug are not properly qualified.

“The clinics are currently almost devoid of staff, and many of them are in a state of neglect,” the diocesan statement reads, adding they will “struggle” to be able to support, inform, and care for any woman facing such a “dramatic decision.”

Competent staff is necessary, since the use of mifepristone should not be used by women suffering from a variety of ailments, such as asthma, anemia, high blood pressure, and other common conditions.

In 2014, a woman in Turin died of cardiac arrest after taking her second round of treatment with the drug, and over 20 deaths have been linked to its use around the world since the 1990s.

The diocesan statement says the “ethically irresponsible” decision to allow family planning clinics to dispense such a complex drug is an “ideological” choice by the regional health authorities, to distract from real priorities, such as “overcapacity emergency rooms, waiting lists for procedures, and the failure to care for the aged and disabled.”

It also says abortion “always represents a failure for everyone,” adding that when “it is sold as being easy and safe, it becomes even more devastating and painful.”

Abortion was legalized in Italy in 1978, although only for the first 90 days of a pregnancy. Seven in ten doctors in the country refuse to perform abortions, citing moral objections.