Global Health Legislative & Policy Requirements

Restrictions on Support for Abortions

There are several legislative and policy restrictions relating to abortions. USAID takes these restrictions very seriously and works with Missions and partners to ensure compliance in their programs. Additional information about these restrictions, including the link to a publicly available online training course, can be found in the Resources section of this page.

Policy Restrictions

Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance

(Formerly known as the Mexico City Policy)

On January 23, 2017, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum reinstating the 2001 Presidential Memorandum on the Mexico City Policy for USAID family planning assistance and directing the Secretary of State to implement a plan to extend the requirements of the Mexico City Policy to “global health assistance furnished by all Departments or Agencies.” 

On May 9, 2017, Secretary Tillerson approved a plan, called “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” under which U.S. Government Departments and Agencies will apply the provisions of the Mexico City Policy to grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts with foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive global health assistance. For grants and cooperative agreements, on May 15, 2017, USAID issued a new standard provision entitled, “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance (May 2017).” The provision will be included in:

  • all new grants and cooperative agreements that provide global health assistance, and
  • all existing grants and cooperative agreements that provide global health assistance when such agreements are amended to add new funding.

The policy requires foreign NGOs to agree, as a condition of receiving global health assistance, that they will not perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.  Under this expanded policy, “global health assistance,” as it applies to USAID, encompasses all global health programs, including HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, infectious diseases including malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases, global health security, and family planning and reproductive health.  The policy does not apply to humanitarian assistance.  Pursuant to the plan, the policy also does not apply to national or sub-national governments, public international organizations, and other multilateral entities in which sovereign nations participate.

Legislative Restrictions

Since the enactment of legislation in 1973, there have been restrictions on using U.S. foreign assistance funds for abortion-related activities.

The Helms Amendment

No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.

Spanish [PDF, 19KB], French [PDF, 19KB]

Under the Helms Amendment, post-abortion care is permitted. USAID post-abortion care programs include emergency treatment for complications of induced or spontaneous abortion, counseling on and provision of family planning options, and community mobilization.

Sources: Section 104(f) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended; Annual Foreign Operations Appropriations Acts.

The Leahy Amendment

The term "motivate," as it relates to family planning assistance, shall not be construed to prohibit the provision, consistent with local law, of information or counseling about all pregnancy options.

Source: Annual Foreign Operations Appropriations Acts.

The Siljander Amendment

No foreign assistance funds may be used to lobby for or against abortion.

Source: Annual Foreign Operations Appropriations Acts.

The Biden Amendment

No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for any biomedical research which relates, in whole or in part, to methods of, or the performance of, abortions or involuntary sterilization as a means of family planning.

Sources: Section 104(f) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended; Annual Foreign Operations Appropriations Acts.

Additional Resources

For Assistance Awards (Cooperative Agreements and Grants):

For Contracts:

Other resources:

Last updated: September 13, 2018

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