Grand Challenges Canada

Access to safe abortion is fundamental to advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. More than 25 million unsafe abortions occur annually, 97 percent of which occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The right to choose when, and if, to have a child affects women’s and girls’ ability to pursue education, build livelihoods, participate in society, and thrive. Limiting these abilities has a multitude of implications for the wellbeing of women, girls, their families, and their communities. 

The development of new safe abortion methods has the potential to have a profound impact on women worldwide. However, safe abortion largely remains an untapped field of discovery. 

There are currently only two methods of safe abortion: 1. surgical abortion (manual vacuum aspiration) 2. medical abortion (abortion pills).

The introduction of medical abortion (mifepristone and misoprostol) revolutionized abortion care. This method provides women with greater autonomy and ease of abortion administration. However, the drug mifepristone is inaccessible in most countries, specifically low- and middle-income countries, and where it is accessible, it is expensive.

Limited choice of pregnancy termination methods contributes to the staggering number of complications and deaths seen annually as a result of unsafe abortions.

To date, there has been limited research and development of new abortion methods. This lack of investment is especially evident when compared to other sexual and reproductive health areas, such as contraception.  

Innovation is crucial to driving the development of new abortion methods, increasing choice, improving access, and putting women and girls in control of where, when, and how they terminate their pregnancy. 

In efforts to address the abortion research and development gap, Options for Pregnancy Termination Innovation (OPTions) Initiative has launched the OPTions Hackathon. In partnership with BLEE Hackathons, the free three-day virtual event (June 15-17) seeks to ideate and develop new ideas for methods of pregnancy termination.

The initiative will award CAD 250,000 grants for bold, forward-thinking, and transformational ideas that save and improve women’s and girls’ lives through expanded and improved choices for pregnancy termination methods. 

Ideas at all stages are welcome – including very early stage – and innovators from all fields are encouraged to participate. 

Participants without ideas, but who are interested in developing and taking forward an idea, are also welcomed and encouraged to partake. Hackathon participants will receive support and mentorship to develop and fine-tune their idea, enhancing their chances of receiving grant funding to test their idea for 18 – 24 months.

The OPTions Initiative supports an array of safe abortion projects. Here are two examples of next-generation innovations:


Medical Plants with Abortifacient Activity from Ayurvedic Medicine





Development of New Abortion Medications by Using Existing Medications in New Ways


United States 


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