A health ministry panel on Friday approved the country’s first abortion pill, which would provide an alternative to a surgical procedure amid calls for progress in women’s reproductive rights and gender equality.

The ministry announced the move after a secondary panel reviewed 12,000 public comments collected online. Final approval from the health minister is expected to follow, but the timing remains unclear.

For around 30 years, abortion pills have been used overseas, with over 80 nations having them available. Japan has been criticized for lagging behind other nations.