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(Updated) What You Need to Know About Restrictions on U.S. Global Health Assistance: The Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy


This unofficial guide, with updates to reflect the May 2019 “financial support” interpretation and pending expansion to contracts, will help you understand the rules of the U.S. government’s “Protecting Human Life in Global Health Assistance” policy (also known as the Global Gag Rule). The restrictions prohibit U.S. global health assistance from being provided to non-U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that use funding from any other source to perform abortion in cases other than life endangerment, rape or incest; to provide counseling and referral for abortion; or to lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their own country.

On January 23, 2017, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum reimposing the Mexico City Policy. During prior Republican administrations, this policy only restricted U.S. government assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs. The 2017 memorandum directed the secretary of state, in coordination with the secretary of health and human services, “to implement a plan to extend the [policy’s] requirements … to global health assistance furnished by all departments and agencies.” The new, broader Mexico City Policy restrictions were renamed as the “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” policy.

Effective May 15, 2017, all non-U.S. NGOs must agree to comply with the policy as a condition of receiving virtually any U.S. global health assistance. However, these NGOs can engage in certain types of abortion-related activities and still remain eligible for U.S. government funding. This guide seeks to clarify the specific “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” restrictions in order to protect and preserve critical lifesaving health care from an unnecessarily broad interpretation of what the policy does and does not require.

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