In a policy welcomed by anti-abortion campaigners but dismissed by critics as propaganda, women in northern Italy who cannot afford to have their babies are to be offered €4,500 not to have an abortion.

Roberto Formigoni, the centre-right governor of the Lombardy region, said that the offer was to fulfil his pledge in regional elections in March that no woman should have to have an abortion because of economic difficulties.

During the regional poll the ruling centre-right coalition, led by Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, made a pitch for the Catholic vote by supporting Vatican policies on issues such as abortion and birth control.

Mr Formigoni said that, despite cuts in the budget, $5 million had been set aside to allow women in economic difficulty to be given €250 a month for 18 months.

If a woman told doctors she wanted an abortion for economic reasons she would be referred to a new centre for helping life for evaluation.

The option of accepting the check will be presented to women in abortion clinics during the consultations they have prior to having an abortion, the site said. The region’s health department said economic reasons were the predominant reason that woman have abortions.

Critics attacked the measure as “a short-term solution to a long-term problem,” according to Italian media.

The fund is called “Nasko,” a play on the Italian word “nasco,” which roughly translates to “I’m being born.”