At an international population conference in Mexico City in 1984, the Reagan Administration announced that the United States would no longer contribute to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) "which perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations." This policy became known as the Mexico City Policy. The policy was upheld in court as constitutional. It remained in place until overturned by President Clinton on January 22, 1993.

On January 22, 2001, President George W. Bush issued an executive memorandum directing the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to reinstate the Mexico City Policy in full.

According to the USAID rule, abortion as a method of family planning excluded abortions to save the mother's life or in cases of rape or incest. It also excluded the treatment of injuries or illnesses caused by legal or illegal abortions. Promoting abortion included abortion counseling, lobbying a foreign government to change its laws, and conducting public information campaigns.

On August 29, 2003, President Bush extended the Mexico City Policy to all population planning funds, whether furnished by USAID or by other components of the State Department.

On January 23, 2009, President Obama rescinded the Mexico City Policy, again placing the rights of poor persons around the world at risk, especially with increased amount of federal funds being appropriated for international family planning.

On January 23, 2017, President Trump restored the Mexico City Policy.