Conservative Spotlight: Human Life International

Having spent more than four years as president of Human Life International, the Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer has witnessed firsthand the threat of abortion on cultures in Latin America and Africa that still cling to pro-life values. He and his associates at HLI refer to their foes as “contraceptive and abortion imperialists” who want to spread their beliefs–as well as contraceptives and abortion-on-demand–to areas of the developing world that have thus far resisted their agenda.

“We try to create opposition to that imperialism, which is exporting the culture of death to other countries in the world that still have pro-life cultures and laws,” Euteneuer told HUMAN EVENTS. “Overwhelming firepower of the culture of death is being trained on these regions. These regions of the world are under a phenomenal attack in every sector–culturally, spiritually and legally.”

The challenge is an awesome one for Euteneuer, whose organization operates 59 satellite offices in 51 countries and has contacts in about 10 others. But despite the tests he faces as HLI’s leader, Euteneuer said he has faith and hope that the pro-life movement will make strides to counter the “culture of death.” The greatest threats, he said, are posed in existing pro-life regions of the world, such as Latin America and Africa, which abortion-rights advocates have increasingly targeted with contraceptives.

Euteneuer and HLI operate on the premise that contraception is the root cause of abortion. Simply changing laws won’t bring a halt to abortion, he said, because the feeder system is still in place. Euteneuer said contraceptives increase both promiscuity and selfishness, making abortion tantamount to back-up birth control. He holds similar views on sex-education programs, which are also being peddled by abortion-rights activists.

That’s why Latin America is today a key locale for HLI and has been for 20 years. Euteneuer said the International Planned Parenthood Federation, along with other lesser-known groups, are aggressively pushing the morning-after pill to women, using the argument that it would prevent unwanted pregnancies. But Euteneuer sees it differently. He said because abortion is illegal in many Latin America countries, the abortion-rights movement has tried a different tact: using the morning-after pill to get a foot in the door and then using its power to campaign for legalized abortion.

“The developed world has already lost the battle, and now the revolutionaries are emerging and heading to the Third World,” Euteneuer told HUMAN EVENTS. He said HLI employees have made nearly a dozen trips to the Caribbean to train pro-life leaders who otherwise do not have the resources or organizations to support them. Euteneuer cited HLI’s efforts in Latin America as one of his group’s most important ventures.

Recently, HLI has claimed victory in other parts of the globe. Last year, Euteneuer said, the group’s three offices in the Philippines helped derail legislation that would have legalized abortion. He said HLI played a role in halting legalized abortion in the South American nation of Uruguay as well.

In all the countries where HLI does its work, the group’s core mission centers on the teachings the Roman Catholic Church. That doesn’t preclude HLI from working with people of other faiths, and Euteneuer said the group has worked closely with Hindus in India, Muslims in Indonesia and Seventh-day Adventists in Trinidad.

Euteneuer’s own background is in the Catholic faith. He entered the seminary in 1988 after a stint with the Marine Corps. He served as a priest in five parishes in Palm Beach, Fla., and was a secretary to the bishop and director of the diocesan Respect Life office prior to becoming HLI’s president in December 2000. He began actively working in the pro-life movement during the early years of his priesthood when he held prayer vigils and pickets at abortionists’ offices. Prayer is an important part of HLI’s existence today. Euteneuer routinely holds prayer campaigns to pray for conversion of abortionists and to stop “culture of death.”

Although HLI is located in Front Royal, Va., just 60 miles from the Nation’s Capital, Euteneuer said the organization prefers to keep a global perspective on abortion and contraception rather than get bogged down in Washington politics. Still, Euteneuer said many improvements in U.S. foreign aid could be made to stem abortions in other countries–even with a pro-life President occupying the White House. He cites government funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development as one example.

“You can’t impose one template on how to fight this,” Euteneuer said. “The way we fight it in America is different from the ways we’ll fight it in places where they don’t have abortion legalized. Different strategies, the same battle.”