The goal of the Options for Pregnancy Termination Innovation Initiative (“OPTions Initiative”) is to support Bold Ideas with Big Impact.® We seek innovative and transformative approaches that put women, girls and people with diverse sexual and gender identities in control of where, when, and how they terminate their pregnancy, in countries where there are one or more legal grounds to support it. Our focus is to support the testing and development of:
1. New or improved approaches to increasing early access to existing abortion products and services in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and
2. Next-generation methods of pregnancy termination, menses induction or conception interruption
The impact of unsafe abortion on women, girls and people with diverse sexual and gender identities is profound. There are more than 25 million unsafe abortions performed annually, the vast majority of which – about 97% – occur in the low- and middle-income countries. As a result, approximately 7 million women and girls are admitted to health facilities with complications. Another 22,800 to 31,000 women and girls die annually from unsafe abortions, making it one of the leading global causes of maternal mortality.
Access to comprehensive abortion services and post abortion care using current approaches is often limited due to a wide range of barriers, such as cost, availability, accessibility, stigma, inefficient supply chains and poor information systems among others. Furthermore, there is limited choice in terms of the method of abortion. There are presently only three methods of pregnancy termination: dilation and curettage (D&C), vacuum aspiration, and medical abortion (pill form). While effective, these current approaches do not represent choice or variety to meet the range of needs of women at different phases of life, sexual activity or needs for privacy. Lack of choice and access to safe abortion information, products and services collectively contribute to the staggering number of deaths and disabilities seen annually as a result of unsafe abortion.
The Role of Innovation
Innovation allows for the development and testing of new approaches to a persistent and unsolved challenge. Innovation in next generation methods of pregnancy termination in particular has been a once-in-a-century occurrence (see table). Investing in new and bold innovations that increase not only access but the range of available products is fundamental for advancing gender equality, equitable health and social outcomes for women, girls and people with diverse sexual and gender identities.
Additionally, the impact of integrating scientific/technological, social, and business innovation – known as Integrated Innovation – can transform the accessibility and effectiveness of safe abortion products and services.
Feminist Investment Approach
The OPTions Initiative is in direct alignment with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy. OPTions invests in discovery science for women’s health and choice in pregnancy termination, a neglected and underfunded, yet critical component of health equity. It applies a feminist investment approach that places an explicit focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in order to drive progress toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal Five: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.