Grant Opportunity: Innovations that put women in control of where, when, and how they terminate their pregnancy

10 February, 2020


“Women’s rights are human rights. This includes sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions.”
Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy  Unsafe abortion is one of the top causes of global maternal mortality, and it is entirely preventable. Every year, there are more than 25 million unsafe abortions, resulting in approximately 7 million women and girls being admitted to health facilities for complications and 22,800 to 31,000 deaths. Virtually all (97%) of these unsafe abortions occur in developing countries, where the greatest burden of death and disability is borne by those who are most marginalized and disadvantaged.

Access to safe abortion is fundamental to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The right to choose if and when to have a child affects women’s and girls’ abilities to pursue education, build livelihoods, participate in society, and thrive. Limiting these abilities has a myriad of implications for the wellbeing of women, girls, their families and entire communities. And yet, even where abortion is legal and technically available, access to services is often limited due to a wide range of barriers, and there is often limited choice in terms of the method of abortion. For example, abortion services often entail exorbitant costs and require prohibitively long-distance travel for multiple visits to a facility. Women and girls who choose to terminate a pregnancy often face significant stigma stemming from social norms and cultural beliefs, which is exacerbated by a lack of user-friendly and youth-friendly services, if they are able to access services at all. These barriers not only delay women’s access to safe abortion services, they also collectively contribute to the staggering number of deaths and disabilities seen annually as a result of unsafe abortion.

Innovation is needed to overcome these persistent barriers. That is why the Options for Pregnancy Termination Innovation (OPTions) Initiative is supporting innovative and transformative approaches that put women and girls in control of where, when and how they terminate their pregnancy.

OPTions is currently accepting applications for $250,000 grants to support the development and testing of: 1) new approaches to increasing early access to existing abortion products and services, and 2) next generation methods of pregnancy termination.

For the first area of focus, improving access to safe abortion in low- and middle-income countries, OPTions is seeking novel ways of: increasing the number of trained providers and available safe services; improving access to information; combatting stigma by reframing and normalizing abortion; decentralizing and de-medicalizing abortion care; reducing economic barriers; reclassifying existing abortion methods to fit within relevant regulatory frameworks; or any other pathway of achieving improved access. Innovators based in low- or middle-income countries are eligible for this stream of funding.

The second area of focus, next generation methods of abortion, is open to innovators worldwide, including in high-income countries. OPTions is seeking ideas for a novel method of pregnancy termination that could provide one or more improvements over existing methods, such as: the ability to be effectively administered at later stages in gestation; ability for women and girls to self-administer with greater autonomy and privacy; improved ease of compliance; reduced side effects and pain; improved stability profile; improve cost-effectiveness; or improved accessibility within existing regulatory frameworks.

One of OPTions’ goals for this round is to support new entrants to the safe abortion space. OPTions is aiming to source ideas from innovators who have fresh perspectives and novel ways of addressing the need for safe abortion, so innovators from all fields are encouraged to apply. Since these are seed grants, OPTions is open to blue-sky ideas that are at any stage of development, including very early stage. OPTions is particularly interested in ideas for next generation methods of pregnancy termination and would like to increase the diversity and number of these ideas that they support within this focus area.

Through these investments, OPTions hopes to move the needle on access to existing and novel safe abortion care around the world. OPTions is actively supporting 19 innovators across five continents, and aims to award approximately 20 more grants this round. Successful proposals will be awarded $250,000 over 18 to 24 months to develop and test the proposed innovation. You can find further details in the Request for Proposals. Submit your application by April 14, 2020, at 3:00 pm ET!