Many people believed that the approval of medication abortion in the United States in 2000 would revolutionize access to abortion. Medication abortion, which includes a range of products (e.g., mifepristone, misoprostol, methotrexate, letrozole), can theoretically be provided at a variety of care points (e.g., abortion clinics, primary care settings, pharmacies, and outside the health service infrastructure) and through a number of different modes of delivery (e.g., in clinic, telemedicine, pharmacy pick up, mail order, or community health worker). In short, medication abortion was thought to open up new avenues of access and to de-medicalize abortion while shifting power to the individual. These alternative means of delivery were also expected to enhance privacy and thereby to reduce the stigma of seeking and having an abortion.
This revolutionary potential has yet to be fulfilled in the U.S. Instead of widespread use outside the traditional abortion clinic setting, persistent barriers, including a complicated clinical provision model, the high cost of the service to patients, specific dispensing requirements, increasingly restrictive state-level abortion policies, and general social stigma toward abortion have stalled advances. And despite almost twenty years of availability, most people know very little about medication abortion.
In an effort to advance research on medication abortion, the Society of Family Planning Research Fund is inviting proposals under the Increasing Access to Medication Abortion in the US, Part II RFP.
Central to the RFP is an understanding that individuals do not have equal access to medication abortion. People’s social situation (e.g., race, ethnicity, religion, social class, gender, age, health, geography) are powerful determinants of abortion access. As such, the RFP calls for research focused on populations not currently benefiting from medication abortion.
In 2018, SFPRF issued a funding opportunity focused on resolving issues that impede access to medication abortion in the U.S. and funded fourteen grants related to medication abortion access. Although robust, the grants did not address all the known barriers to medication abortion. To understand the gaps, SFPRF convened the PIs of those grants and relevant community partners at an in-person meeting in April 2019. The conclusions from that meeting, built on a prior literature review and best practices for collaboration, resulted in the development of this funding opportunity.
Key conclusions from the meeting highlighted the need for research designed to ensure that all people have access to medication abortion; the testing of ideas through small and pilot grants; the need for partnerships between researchers and those working directly with affected communities; and a theory of change to demonstrate how research can contribute to the goal of safe abortion without social or legal repercussions, when and where desired.
Applicants should focus their proposals around the following question: What would it take to increase access to medication abortion in the U.S., specifically for populations not currently benefiting from its availability? Proposed research must be positioned to generate empirical evidence with a clear and strategic path to changes in clinical practice, public policy, health services delivery, or cultural understandings. Research that stimulates the disruptive potential of medication abortion will be prioritized.
SFPRF invites proposals in two different categories:
Pilot or analysis studies — Budgets of $25,000 or less; projects require no more than one year to complete. Projects aim to document proof of concept for further inquiry or to analyze previously collected data. Pilot studies requiring expensive biomedical research materials and equipment may request limited additional funds beyond the maximum request amount. Those pilot projects with results warranting further study may be eligible for additional funding.
Full research studies — No predetermined budget limit. Investigators should request the funds and time needed to accomplish the aims of the project. The size and scope of the budget should reflect the importance of the research question and the capacity of the findings to effect change. For large projects, the research team should have proven experience successfully completing projects (research or program) of a similar scale.
Grants will be made to organizations on behalf of a named PI. Grants are limited, without exception, to tax-exempt organizations. The PI does not need to work for a research institution and should be an individual with curiosity about the proposed question who will drive scientific inquiry, complemented by a team that can successfully execute the project.
The organization that receives the award may provide a subcontract for specific activities unable to be completed by the primary organization. Subcontracts to nonprofit organizations should be justified by the distribution of the proposed activities. Subcontracts to for-profit entities cannot exceed 20 percent of the budget. Grantees of the 2018 Medication Abortion RFP are discouraged from applying for this funding opportunity.
Proposals are due by February 14, 2020.
For the complete RFP, see the Society of Family Planning Research Fund website.