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Inventor of the RU486 abortion drug, French Professor Emile-Etienne Beaulieu, holds the pills in this 1995 file photo. The pills, which have been available in France for 25 years, have been approved for use in Canada, The Huffington Post Canada reports.REMY DE LA MAUVINIERE/The Associated Press

After a series of delays, Health Canada has approved the use of the medical-abortion drug mifepristone.

The approval brings Canada into line with nearly 60 countries where the drug, also known as RU-486, has long been legal, including the United States, Australia and most of Europe.

It will be sold under the brand name Mifegymiso.

Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), said in an interview late Wednesday that the approval means women in Canada will now have access to what is considered the gold-standard of medical abortion care.

The NAF, which represents about 80 per cent of Canada's abortion providers, has long heard from women seeking access to the drug.

"Some have even crossed the border to obtain a medical abortion in the United States," Ms. Saporta said. "There was absolutely no reason, given the outstanding safety record of mifepristone throughout the world, that it was not available in Canada."

Mifepristone, when combined with misoprostol, is generally used to terminate a pregnancy at between seven and nine weeks. NAF and other organizations that support bringing the medical abortion drug to Canada say it will make ending a pregnancy more discreet and widely available, especially in areas where services are scarce.

Ms. Saporta is hopeful the drug will be available by the first quarter of 2016.

Health Canada, which had been reviewing the decision since December, 2012, did not make anyone available for an interview late Wednesday. In a statement, the department said the drug's manufacturer, Linepharma International Limited, was notified of the approval on Wednesday afternoon.

There are about 100,000 abortions in Canada every year, most of them performed surgically in clinics or hospitals.

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