Profile on the Right: Human Life International (HLI)

Human Life International (HLI) is a Catholic organization with a long history of vicious and hyperbolic attacks on LGBTQ and reproductive rights. It opposes contraception, in-vitro fertilization, comprehensive sex education, and abortion in all circumstances, insisting that “human life begins at the instant of conception” and that “the willful taking of innocent human life by any means constitutes homicide.” HLI’s director of education and research, Brian Clowes, has suggested that condoms are ineffective in preventing HIV/AIDS.

Founded in 1981, Virginia-based HLI claims to operate in more than 80 countries, and it has established a global network for distributing books, films, audio, photographs, and other materials to expose the “dangers” of contraception and abortion. A New York Times exposé about HLI’s distribution of graphic images featured HLI’s Father Matthew Habiger “proudly displaying a laminated poster of a bloodied fetal head pinched by forceps.”

HLI has reserved special scorn for LGBTQ people in recent years. In 2006, its public relations director alleged that “homosexuals reproduce sexually by molesting children. This creates a cycle of violence and disordered behavior that creates future generations of abusers and predators.” He also said that “homosexuality is every bit a part of the culture of death as is abortion and contraception.”

After years of being rejected, HLI was granted consultative status at the United Nations in 2014, joining the ranks of other prominent antichoice Christian Right groups at the UN such as the Center Family and Human Rights (C-Fam).

In Kenya, HLI collaborated with the East African Center for Law and Justice in 2010 on a campaign to persuade Kenyans to reject the country’s new constitution, which legalized abortion if the woman needed emergency care or her life was in danger. Voters resisted their efforts and approved the constitution. In Tanzania, HLI’s regional director of English-speaking Africa, Emil Hagamu, campaigned against a 2014 constitutional referendum that would have marginally expanded abortion access in a country where medical abortions are only permissible to save the life of the mother. In 2017, Hagamu also campaigned against the East African Community Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill, along with EACLJ and other right-wing anti-abortion groups, successfully blocking its passage.

Joseph Meaney, HLI’s director of international coordination, said that “perhaps the greatest insult is that this attack is happening under the banner of ‘improving women’s health.’ The only ones who believe that killing an unborn child is good for a woman’s health are those who will profit from the slaughter.”