Paying Drug-Addicted Women To Get Sterilized: Choice or Coercion?

Barbara Harris is in the news once again.

The founder of a controversial program that pays drug-addicted women to get sterilized or use a long-term method of birth control, is the subject of a recent New York Post article, with the TV talk-show title, “Why I took $300 to be sterilized.”

Her organization, Project Prevention (formerly called C.R.A.C.K. – Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity) has been extensively covered in the media, analyzed, and discounted by maternal health policy experts and groups including Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) and the Committee on Women, Population and the Environment (CWPE). 

However, as the New York Post reports this weekend, Harris continues her quest to ensure that women who are addicted to drugs become permanently unable to procreate, with plans to extend her program to Africa to pay HIV positive women in Kenya $40 to have an IUD implanted.

Many wonder, lacking appropriate and accessible public health remedies, is this the best we can do?

First some background from my personal experience. In 2003, C.R.A.C.K. began “advertising” via photocopied flyers stapled to telephone poles in the area of Seattle where I worked, at the time. As an employee of a women’s health center, located next to a methadone clinic, C.R.A.C.K. clearly honed in on a location they knew low-income, drug-addicted women congregated.

Their sheets of paper, printed with graying ink, sometimes wet from the ongoing light rain that falls during our Seattle winters, told women they’d be eligible to receive $300 for agreeing to be sterilized or a bit less money for accepting a longer term form of contraception such as Depo-Provera (at the time). A web site for the project (no longer live), noted in the “Do’s and Don’t of Pamphleteering” section, that AA and NA meeting places were appropriate sites for hanging pamphlets. C.R.A.C.K. (aka Project Prevention) obviously also targeted recovering addicts for their “project.” When I first noticed the flyers, I brought the issue to my employer since some of our abortion clients were known to also be clients of the methadone clinic next door. The challenge, of course, was that some of these women were certain to visit us for Depo-Provera, after accepting the cash from C.R.A.C.K. or Project Prevention. What were we to do?

Ultimately, after an in-depth discussion, many meetings with fellow race-based organizations and a  report written about the group, by an employee of a group called CARA (Communities Against Rape and Abuse), we decided that our options, in this scenario, were to simply continue to offer these clients support or referrals for other assistance if they wanted to get help for their addiction or wanted more information about their health care and, as is the case with any woman’s decision to access safe and legal health care including contraception, offer access as well.

The larger issue, of course, is what sort of “help” paying low-income, drug-addicted women to get sterilized truly constitutes. And, Paltrow and others argue, Project Prevention may be more than just ineffectual on a larger scale, it’s harmful as well.

Project Prevention was founded back in 1997, notes Judith Scully in “Cracking Open C.R.A.C.K.: Unethical Sterilization Movement Gains Momentum,” writing for the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College, when it used billboards (“Don’t Let a Pregnancy Ruin Your Drug Habit” and “If You Are Addicted to Drugs – Get Birth Control – Get $200 Cash”) to reel women in. But the group advertised (and still advertises) in low-income neighborhoods, bringing in proportionally many more African-American women than Caucasian women. Though the New York Post article (and the organization’s own web site) attempts to counter critics’ claim that the group is racist, with statistics – since its inception, 1,822 Caucasians and 944 African-Americans have “used Project Prevention’s services” – considering the fact that African Americans make up only 13.5% of the total U.S. population, this hardly seems like a color-blind program.

The article paints Harris as a concerned, compassionate woman who says she adopted four children all from the same, drug-addicted mother, years ago. It’s hard to argue that Harris is not concerned or passionate about her cause – and motherhood, especially when it comes to the children she’s raised. As well, given the realities of a public health system where drug and alcohol abusers find it to difficult to access help when they need it; a national foster care system in need of greater attention; and child abuse costs rising to over $100 billion/year, some argue that Harris is making a positive impact, for very little investment.

However, as Paltrow argues, this program which has garnered immense media attention over the years has also been deemed “a violation of informed consent, exploitative, coercive, racist and a form of eugenic population control.”

In a New York Times article about the group, in 1999, Steve Trombley, the CEO of Chicago Planned Parenthood said, “It’s simply a bribe for sterilization…” It’s hardly a leap to consider, Paltrow notes, “dangling” $200 or $300 in front of a drug-addicted, poor woman to get sterilized, coercive.

While the article quotes a couple of women who desperately express gratitude to Harris and her program for keeping them from having any more children, while addicted to drugs, the women don’t seem certain about much else. In fact, one woman in the story – Kelly – credits the program with ensuring that she doesn’t give birth while drug-addicted ever again. She says, “Babies and drugs don’t mix. My kids are the ones who pay for my partying, and I didn’t want to do that to another one. I love them, they are everything to me – I don’t want to smoke their lives away,” Kelly has been reuinted with her two year old daughter and cannot say for certain whether she’ll end up staying off for drugs. Harris’ program does not address her needs – or her daughters’, in this regard, at all.

Paltrow’s examination and analysis of the program including her questions about the lack of the group’s ability to address drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies, child welfare and public health – should throw the overall impact of Harris’ organization into question. As Paltrow notes, “This examination makes clear that “far from providing a useful response to problems associated with drug use and pregnancy, C.R.A.C.K. instead acts as a dangerous vector for medical misinformation and political propaganda that has significant implications for the rights of all Americans.”

The New York Post article quotes an obstetrician who works with drug-addicted, pregnant women in North Carolina who calls the cash incentives “bribery” and urges people to consider that drug-addicted women need treatment – not money for sterilization. As well, he says, this type of a program focuses on control over empowerment, despite the propaganda pushed by the organization.

When Harris first envisioned “helping” drug-addicted women and their future babies, she attempted to take a legislative route. She reached out to an Assemblyman in California (where she lives), Phil Hawkins, who agreed to sponsor legislation making it a crime to give birth to a drug-addicted baby. Titled the “Prenatal Neglect Act,” the bill proposed creating a crime of “prenatal child neglect.” Ultimately, Harris and her organization “revised” the history to note that, after adopting four of her children from one drug-addicted mother, she attempted to get a bill passed “that would have made it mandatory that after giving birth to a drug addicted baby the birth mother use long-term birth control.”

Harris told RH Reality Check that she was contacted by a male student in Kenya who “begged her” to come to the country to offer HIV positive women long-term birth control. If Project Prevention expands its reach to target HIV positive women, in Kenya, innumerable questions arise, once again. While there is a risk of transmission of HIV between an infected mother and her fetus, the risk is nearly diminished completely when anti-retroviral treament (ART) is used in pregnancy and labor and the woman does not breastfeed. When there are so many millions infected with HIV, globally, including pregnant women, the focus should be on ensuring that those who need treatment, receive treatment;  and that those who are at greatest risk of being infected, before pregnancy occurs, are able to protect themselves. To pay an HIV positive woman, in Kenya, $40 to be implanted with an IUD is short-sighted at best and retains the focus on the woman as a “broken” vessel rather than on a broken system in need of fixing.

This is not about the woman – in any of these scenarios. This is about the lower-income woman’s body as a vessel. Ignoring a woman’s struggle with drug-addiction; targeting low-income women who use “street” drugs (the organization started out with the name C.R.A.C.K.!) for the impact said drugs may have on a newborn, when in fact the consequences of abusing alcohol while pregnant are much greater in terms of the impact on newborn health; and focusing on preventing HIV positive women in Africa from having children instead of on what we can do, globally, to prevent HIV transmission and infection, do little to actually help mend a system which penalizes women and their children. And lest one think Project Prevention is simply a voluntary, reproductive health service program along the lines of Planned Parenthood, for instance – using an “empowerment” and “free will” model – the coercive and dehumanizing tactics, says Paltrow, do not bear those ideas out. Harris has compared the women she serves to animals saying “They’re having litters. They are literally having litters.”  Paltrow writes,

“Unlike privately funded family planning organizations, C.R.A.C.K. does not focus on the numerous barriers to reproductive health that exist in the U.S., but rather on the harm that women allegedly do to their children and the cost to society of their supposed irresponsibility. It emphasizes the value of controlling their reproduction as a solution to complex public health and economic problems. Instead of providing support for much-needed reproductive health services, outreach, or education, it uses its funds to reward or motivate certain women to be sterilized or use particular forms of birth control, at public expense. As Judith M. Scully argues, “[d]espite its benevolent name, C.R.A.C.K.’s primary goal is to promote population control…”

Indeed, statements by C.R.A.C.K.’s founder and Director Barbara Harris not only provide clear examples of negative stereotyping, they also make clear that control, not empowerment, is in fact C.R.A.C.K.’s primary purpose. As one commentary quoting Ms. Harris observed, “[a]ddict, recovering addict, dirty, clean . . .whatever. The distinction hardly matters to C.R.A.C.K. (Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity), the group that gave [the client] the money. ‘As long as they stay on birth control,’ says founder Barbara Harris, ‘[t]hat’s all we care about.’”

Finally, and by no means of least importance, Paltrow reminds us that targeting “narrowly defined segments of the population” for sterilization or long term birth control is frighteningly “reminiscent of several tragic chapters of recent history.”

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  • prochoiceferret

    Hmm. Anti-choicers like to harp on how eeeeebil Margaret Sanger was for doing some eugenically-focused stuff, even though eugenics was in vogue at the time and the major problems with it were not yet known and her focus on women being in control of their reproduction endures as a lasting contribution to the human condition.


    So to them, Barbara Harris must be, like, the reincarnation of Hitler. I thus await their furious, rabid-dog-in-heat attack on her and her organization. The Radiance Foundation should take a particular interest in this, given how they go on and on about people racist-ly targeting African-American reproduction.

  • invalid-0

    Yes, there are certainly some scary eugenics-y implications here, if you subscribe to a slippery slope mentality. Personally, I don’t. While I would rather see these women in treatment, that doesn’t change that keeping them from having children is a VERY positive social benefit. And they should offer this to alcoholics too. Kids stuck in the system rarely succeed in life. They had NO choice. These moms have the choice to use drugs and to have children. They also have the choice to use drugs and NOT have children, especially when someone is offering to give them a solution. Could it be implemented better? Undoubtedly, but it’s better than nothing. Let’s stop slippery slope arguments and focus on improving programs like this rather than suggest that it’s a gateway to the next Nazi holocaust.

  • colleen

    Let’s stop slippery slope arguments and focus on improving programs like this rather than suggest that it’s a gateway to the next Nazi holocaust.

    How would you go about improving the program? Offering more money?

    Why would anyone wish to work with a woman so tacky and right wing she spells ‘community’ with a ‘K’ and talks about low income women as if they were dogs?


  • arekushieru

    Money IS a form of coercion when it is used to elicit a certain response, that the privileged classes expect, from a certain underprivileged class.  So, the argument leads in favour of coercion, not choice, I guess….

  • amie-newman

    I think this program is clearly a personal mission – Harris is obviously a loving mother who cares deeply for her children – the children she had biologically and those she adopted from one woman, who was addicted to drugs. But the implications here are immense and can’t be easily condensed in this comment. I would encourage everyone to read both Paltrow’s and Scully’s reports, linked to in the post, for an explanation of why this program is coercive, exploitative and, ultimately, does not help women and children. To say to a woman who is on drugs – here’s a few hundred dollars, go get yourself sterilized and I can wipe my hands clean, says to her – we could care less about you, we only care about your breeding capacity. We don’t care if you get HIV, STIs, are addicted to drugs – only that you don’t reproduce. While the NY Post article says some men have accepted money to get vasectomies, this is clearly aimed at women while essentially ignoring the men who get them pregnant. Why not hand out condoms? Why not ensure all women have access to birth control without paying them to do so?

    I find this program deeply disturbing and unsettling in very base ways, and dehumanizes women – even women addicted to drugs – in a way that serves no one.

    If we want to ensure that all chlidren are born wanted, are cared for/nurtured/loved in a safe home, and are born healthy we know how to do our best to ensure these things: contraceptive access, investment in prenatal health care, investment in preventative health services, and rebuidling our foster care and adoption systems.

  • forlife

    Well, ProChoiceFerrett, I obviously cannot speak for every single pro-lifer, but I have always been completely opposed to this program and every pro-lifer I know has been as well. If anything, the existence of this organization just proves our point that many think of poor or minority women as animals, whose children are sub-human and simply a drain on society.

    Offering cash to drug-addicted women, who are probably desperate for money, is so evil I cannot even think straight. Plus, not every drug addict stays addicted to drugs. What if the woman gets clean and decides she wants a baby?

    This is not a so-called slippery-slope to eugenics. This IS eugenics.

  • londonpro-choice

    Surely a better way to implement it would be to offer people contraceptives and sterilisation for free rather than offering them cash?  The programme would be far cheaper to run so you could reach more people, and it removes the question of coersion.  I also don’t think the service should be exclusive to addicts; as we well know there are plenty of people who would like to delay/prevent/space pregnancies and who face barriers in doing so.


    Maybe it draws less attention if there’s no big money bonus, but if people are actually doing this because they want to control their fertility and not because they’re after the cash, they’ll take the service when it’s made freely available.  If they won’t, then I suppose you have your answer on whether the money is coercive or not.

  • prochoiceferret

    I have always been completely opposed to this program and every pro-lifer I know has been as well.


    Great! I’m sure that a campaign at least as prominent as will be arranged by the “pro-lifers” disgusted by this organization. After all, even the pro-choicers agree with you on this, so it should be a slam dunk!


    Who knows, we might even see Barbara Harris get harassed and received threatening phone calls and e-mails, along with persistent street protests at her offices, and “sidewalk counselors” at the clinics where the sterilizations are performed. There’s no shortage of things the “pro-life” movement can do to show that they’re serious about this!

  • melody

    Project prevention is an outrage for all the reasons stated in this article and in the comments to it. 

    The evidence of damage to children born to addicted parents is not at all consistent and many of the supposed problems may well be as much to do with poverty and life styles… this of cause is not the case with our legal harmful drugs alcohol and nicotine, where the immediate and long term damage to developing babies is better proven.

    However there are ‘concerns’ to be addressed for children who are born to and live within drug using families…. but these can be addressed by access to treatment, a focus on recovery, implementing recommendations in ‘hidden harm’ and reducing the stigma for drug users so that pregnant women can access support or treatment services without fear.

    But another aspect of this horrendous idea of PP is that all the forms of contraception that they are paying for… are not safe sex… and therefore does nothing to prevent the transmission of STDs.

  • kasey

    Coersion is forcing children into life knowing they will be torn from parents who cannot care for them, forcing them to live with strangers, forcing them to be shunted from home to home because they are not wanted, forcing them to feel rejected, forcing them to have little chance of a future.  Coersion is forcing tax payers to pay for children who must be taken from homes because they are neglected or beaten and/or sexually abused.  Coersion is forcing society to deal with a problem that it really isn’t set up to deal with – because no matter how good foster parents may be, they are not a child’s ‘real’ parents.  Coersion is NOT – offering money to women (or men) so they will no longer have children that they can abuse and neglect.

  • crowepps

    However there are ‘concerns’ to be addressed for children who are born to and live within drug using families…. but these can be addressed by access to treatment, a focus on recovery, implementing recommendations in ‘hidden harm’ and reducing the stigma for drug users so that pregnant women can access support or treatment services without fear.

    Really?  Is the treatment for the children?  Is it the children whose recovery is worried about?  I don’t see anything in your suggested list that actually addresses the concerns of the CHILDREN at all. 


    My family history is rife with addictions of one type or another, and the pain caused by parents who put alcohol and drug abuse ahead of their children.  What the children need is to have had different parents in the first place.  In my personal experience, people with addictions are lousy parents, and the damage they cause their children is permanent and irreversible.  And I’ll include “religious addiction” in that.

    But another aspect of this horrendous idea of PP is that all the forms of contraception that they are paying for… are not safe sex… and therefore does nothing to prevent the transmission of STDs.

    This is NOT a Planned Parenthood progam.


    It absolutely BOGGLES me that your big worry with a population of DRUG ADDICTS who are committing suicide one hit at time is whether or not they’ll get an STD.  Do you know anything at all about drug addiction?

  • forlife

    By no means do all pro-choicers agree. Look at some of the above comments.

    The anti-abortion movement is a movement against, well, abortion. So it would not really make sense for an anti-abortion organization to protest against this organization, considering our campaigns tend to be centered around…abortion.

    Personally, I think TooManyAborted is silly. As long as you are pregnant and have a credit card, Planned Parenthood does not care what race you are.  But I have heard many things from pro-choicers like “abortion should be legal because some people should not be having kids” or “I like abortion because there are less black kids on welfare.”

    Abortion touches on and intertwines with many issues…racism, sexism (female fetuses are often targeted for abortion around the world), handicapped rights (our society whacks a large majority of fetuses with Down-syndrome), etc. Anti-abortion organizations tend to only deal with these issues in terms of abortion, but many pro-lifers are also members of organizations that do deal with these issues outside of abortion, like the Special Olympics, for example (founded by a pro-lifer as well).

    Just because I am a part of an organization, for example, that helps women with eating disorders and does not deal with, say, domestic violence, that does not mean I cannot or do not care about domestic violence victims as well.

  • melody

    even if you dont care about the individual drug user who gets an STD, you maybe should be concerned that this can be transmitted else where. STDs are not just inconvenient little itches!! there are some killer diseases out there.

    Hmmm and yes… i do know a bit about drug addiction.

    And how can concern for a drug using addict in terms of them getting treatment, recovery and less stigma possible be construed as lack of concern for a child. If a mother is ‘recovered’ clearly she is better able to care for her child. If a mother has access to treatment, she will be better placed to find recovery.

  • forced-birth-rape

    “abortion should be legal because some people should not be having kids” ~ My mother is someone who should not have had children because she did not, and would not protect us. And having us ruined her life, put her in deep povert, and made it very, very easy for my father to abuse her. But you do not give a damn about my mother, me, or my sister.~

    “I like abortion because there are less black kids on welfare.” ~ I have never heard a pro choicer say this! I am from the deep south, my grandfather was a southren baptist precher, I know for a fact that republicans, pro lifer, christians, and FOX news watchers are in the KKK, because my mother has two in her vile family.~

  • melody
  • crowepps

    I absolutely agree with you that treatment and recovery are important.  However, treatment has an abysmal success rate, recovery tends to be punctuated with repeated ‘lapses’, and in most cases the damage to the children has ALREADY BEEN DONE.


    I haven’t seen any treatment programs that spend any time correcting that damage by counseling the children and helping THEM recover.  Most of them don’t even explain to the child that the addiction was not the child’s fault and that their home life was dysfunctional and their parent is ‘sick’.  Instead, they tend to ignore the child or use the child as a reward to motivate the parent — “get a clean U.A. and we’ll let you spend time with your child!  Finish the program and your child can live with you again!”  Even if the child has to be dragged into the room kicking and screaming and cowers in the corner literally biting chunks out of his arms.


    I’ve been transcribing court tapes for 30 years.  I feel for those who suffer addictions, I really do, and have the utmost compassion for the fact that addiction has ruined their lives.  I understand something about addictive personality and the biochemistry underlying addiction.


    But I totally reject the treatment philosophy that women should have to ‘support recovery’ by letting substance abusers move back in with them because they’re clean right NOW, and I don’t think children should have to ‘support recovery’ by being forced to have visitation with or live with someone who’s previously made their life a nightmare and who is LIKELY to make their life a nightmare again.


    Is addiction understandable and forgiveable?  Absolutely!  But there isn’t one second when the people around the addict dare to forget the damage that the addict caused in the past or may cause again in the future.  Not one second.

  • arekushieru

    Just because something elicits a response that YOU agree with does NOT mean that it isn’t coercive.  Because, of course, even forcing taxpayers to pay for ‘someone else’s’ problem isn’t eliciting a response from the actual target, now is it?

  • melody

    I dont think we are so far apart in our thinking crowepps, i agree entirely that children should have support and counseling and it does exist.. not as much as it should i agree. (i know it does cos ive done it… and worked with children in exactly the way that you suggest, ensurring them its not their fault etc) you may also be interested in a wonderful little web site i have recently come across called coap, and this is children supporting children. I am particularly interested in this one as i ran a support group for children for many years and witnessed the value of it.

    Now dont get me wrong… i realize entirely that this kinda work is a sticking plaster on the damage already done! and i do agree with sensible contraceptive advice, better education (i know many women who got pregnant when using, mistakenly believing that because they had no periods they couldn’t get pregnant) I believe that that a decrease in stigma and judgements is vital, because thats the way to get people into treatment. and i believe that recovery is not just about reducing or stopping a persons drug use, it is about helping them to develop enough ‘social capital’ for them to sustain that recovery.

    i agree that addiction ‘can’ be a relapsing condition, but for many of us, we are working to create conditions that reduce that risk. there are people in recovery that are the finest examples of recovery and rehabilitation, but a problem again is that because drug use is so stigmatized it is difficult for these people to be the champions and the examples that they could be… therefore recovery is often not seen… but let me assure you it exists. another web site to see is wiredin.. this is full of people in recovery. 

    The examples and the stories that you use to illustrate you point are very powerful and i am not insensitive to them. But there are stories of fabulous reconciliation, enduring recovery and children happily back home too.

  • crowepps

    I agree that there are fabulous examples of enduring recovery out there.  I personally know some of those people, and give them major credit for having the courage to stick it out.  And of course some of them were able to resume parenting, or to have children later in life and be good parents.


    But that is SOME.  Do you have any statistical information about how many addicts have such a complete recovery?  From what I’ve seen, it’s less than half IF YOU INCLUDE ALCOHOL.


    My work doesn’t give me much exposure to those who make a PERSONAL decision to turn their lives around and VOLUNTARILY enter recovery before everything has crashed into ruins.  I’m far more likely to see those who have been arrested, are in the middle of divorce, or are fighting for child custody or trying to prevent termination of parental rights, and I will agree that those are the worst cases.


    I have a real problem with the idea that adults are ENTITLED to have children no matter how dysfunctional they are or how few skills they can bring to the table as parents, as though children were an accessory necessary to meet the needs of the adult or a human pet which everyone capable of conception has the right to possess.  In my opinion, the present law gives children little protection, and knowing that, many dysfunctional people insist on having children because they want to own someone who will be wholly in their power.

  • nycprochoicemd

    Ugh.  How about making treatment for substance abuse easy to access, offering FREE (not coercive) contraception to everyone, and help for former addicts to find jobs so they can earn way more than just $200?

  • nycprochoicemd

    I have a real problem with the idea that adults are ENTITLED to have children no matter how dysfunctional they are or how few skills they can bring to the table as parents

    The issue isn’t about an entitlement to have children, it’s about entitlement to control one’s body and not to be coerced into permanently altering its function.  Offer free sterilizations, or better free IUDs (since these can be removed if/when she wants to have children).

  • crowepps

    Oh, I understand it’s about ‘control’ of one’s body and not being coerced and that it’s dangerous when the ‘good’ decide things for the ‘bad’ because they know better.  However I would include children in those who should have such rights.


    Parents are entitled to control the bodies of children as well as their location, appearance, relationships, food, education and minds.  I would be much more sympathetic to the idea that adults have absolute ‘freedom’ to make their own decisions about everything if even some minimal version of those freedoms was available to minor children who have to put up with the bizarre behaviors of dysfunctional adults.

  • mayab

     Barbara Harris is amazing and has done more than the “pro-choice” armchair soldiers who whine from their sofas about supposed attacks people’s rights. She adopted 4 children born addicted to crack, that’s why her organization was originally called CRACK. (It ends with a “K” colleen, get it? ) When any of her detractors adopts even one, then they’ll have something worth saying. Amie Newman complains that CRACK doesn’t do enough because it doesn’t address all the problems that addicts face. “…the focus should be on ensuring that those who need treatment, receive treatment; and that those who are at greatest risk of being infected [with HIV], before pregnancy occurs, are able to protect themselves.” By that logic, Planned Parenthood is not an effective organization because their focus is on reproductive health. What about patients who are hungry? Depressed? Having a bad hair day? Shouldn’t they deal with all the problems their patients face under one roof? CRACK is one small group with a focused mission: to prevent drug-addicted children from being CONCEIVED. If that isn’t the ultimate method of prevention, nothing is. You can’t fault Barbara Harris for not taking on every issue in the world. She’s offering sterilization AND birth-control, so if someone gets their life together, they could still have a baby in the future. And offering free birth control wouldn’t work–the point is to appeal to addicts, whose only concern is drugs and money (to get more drugs). Addicts are not in their right minds, they have a disease, so you need an incentive to appeal to them. Just as you need an incentive to make anyone do anything that requires some effort. Yes we need more drug treatment options, but Project Prevention is working to prevent one of the many problems that stem from addiction. Barbara Harris deserves the support of the pro-choice community, and anyone with an ounce of common sense.

  • arekushieru

    If you hadn’t noticed, Maya, Amie associated two related causes.  You did not.  She associated addictions with addicts.  You associated PP with something totally unrelated.

    And there are many better ways to prevent these children from being conceived rather than using coercion.  If you had actually read the comments before replying, you would have seen that.  Offering free birth control ONLY if you turn your life around IS coercion.  It is MORE than just an ‘incentive’.  Offering someone higher pay directly related to their work, if they take on more responsibilities is an incentive.  Offering an already underserviced population sterilization or birth control options if a privileged segment of the population elicits the response from them that they ‘expect’, is NOT ‘incentive’, but coercion.  Was your usage of the word ‘make’ a slip of the tongue, btw? 

    How do you (OR Barbara) know that these addicts won’t turn around and go back to their drug-addictions once they’ve completed the program, esPECially since as you plainly stated “Yes we need more drug treatment options, but Project Prevention is working to prevent one (emphasis mine) of the many problems that stem from addiction.”? 

  • colleen

    Don’t get me wrong, Maya. I think it’s appropriate that she spells community with a ‘K’ .  And I certainly agree that adopting 4 children is a better use of one’s time than, say, parading outside of women’s clinics with signs that say things like “I regret my abortion” .

    Do you think that her adopted children might be bothered that their adoptive mother speaks of their biological mothers as if they were dogs? Or do you think she has trained them to be appropriately grateful…

    And why not offer male addicts the same bonus? Do alcoholic fathers make great Dads?

  • catseye71352

    …”many dysfunctional people insist on having children because they want to own someone who will be wholly in their power.”


    A perfect description of my Mommy Dearest. At 58, I’m still having problems dealing with the damage.

  • crowepps

    –the point is to appeal to addicts, whose only concern is drugs and money (to get more drugs). Addicts are not in their right minds, they have a disease, so you need an incentive to appeal to them.

    You know, if you string together “addicts are not in their right minds” and “whose only concern is drugs and money (to get more drugs)” then you outline clearly exactly why this program takes advantage of them, don’t you?  Why not just be upfront and offer them the crack if they’ll do what you want?

  • amie-newman

    this sentence, Maya:

    By that logic, Planned Parenthood is not an effective organization because their focus is on reproductive health.

    Huh? Planned Parenthood’s greatest contribution – in terms of public health impact, cost-effectiveness and where they spend the most time & money is on contraception/family planning/birth control. They also offer annual exams so women and men can get tested for STIs, they offer STI prevention information & condoms, they offer treatment. They are in the schools offering education as well.

    I’m not saying that Project Prevention can or should do those things. What I’m saying is that this is not at all an effective use of time or money – yes, it has clearly prevented children from being born. By last count, somewhere around 2000 women were sterilized or agreed to use a long term method of birth control. That’s obvious. Although, of course, if women who are addicted to drugs had access to free contraception OR sterilization (if they chose) the results would be the same. And does anyone care if these women contract STIs or HIV?! And who knows if the women stayed on the birth control. Are they parenting children already?

    As well, and I say this in the piece, if we are to say that we CARE about women and children, and truly build on a program that’s sustainable, just, and humane we’d look at the addiction, the causes, the best help we can give to children/babies, how to help women and children both.

    I’m not debating that Ms. Harris has adopted these four children and seems to have given them a loving home – I hugely admire her dedication. But I do NOT agree that paying women who are addicted to drugs to get sterilized is an answer as a public health program – I do not believe this is where people should donate their time or money because I believe it exploits women.

  • concerned-citizen

    As someone who has donated heavily to Project Prevention. I must time chime in.

    First of all, sterilization is only an option for those WHO ALREADY HAVE KIDS.  Stop trying to make PP look like some demon stealing the wombs of poor unfortunate women.  Nothing is further from the truth.

    Any race-based allegations are just laughable.  If a crack addict is prevented from having a child, that is a blessing.  It doesn’t matter WHAT color she is!

    Of course Planned Parenthood will be against this.  You know why? BECAUSE THEY PROFIT OFF OF ABORTIONS.  They hate the fact that Project Provention will reduce the number of abortions being performed.

    I don’t fathom how any sane, reasonable human being can possibly argue against putting drug addicts on birth control.  Are you aware that women often prostitute themselves to get drugs?  And that pregnancies often result from this?  By speaking out against Project Provention, you are unwittingly ensuring that drug-addicted prostitutes will keep producing children.  This is the bottom-line. 

    Not only that, but you are doing a great disservice to children.  Why would you want to encourage children born to drug-addicted parents?   Do you think these children have good lives? 

    Tell me this, what is wrong with putting an addict on long-term birth control until they can get treatment and get to a place where they can properly care for a child?  Who is getting hurt here?

  • squirrely-girl

    Having worked in rehab settings as well as with children and adolescents in state’s custody, I can appreciate what you’re saying. But I think a GENUINE and not completely unfounded fear of some in the RJ community is how this topic can be a very slippery slope. Today it’s drugs… but what about tomorrow? A couple out in Arizona let their infant starve and die while playing EverQuest… do we sterilize Internet or gaming addicts? Do we differentiate and discriminate based on substance of choice? Do we sterilize recreational marijuana users? Research suggests alcohol is more detrimental than many common street drugs… do we sterilize alcoholics? What about mental/psychological conditions akin to addiction (e.g., histrionic and borderline personality disorders, bipolar, schizophrenia and other delusional disorders). We only recently ceased sterilizing mentally challenged individuals.


    Where do we ultimately draw the line at determining somebody else’s reproductive worth and rights?


    These are very complicated issues and I won’t pretend to have the answers, but the questions should certainly be asked…

  • concerned-citizen

    In some cases, slippery-slope arguments can hold some merit.  In other cases, slippery-slope arguments amount to nothing but plain nonsensical fear-mongering.  I would place your concerns in the latter category.


    Firstly, the vast majority of Project Prevention addicts are put on birth-control.  Only a small amount WHO ALREADY HAVE CHILDREN are given the sterilization option.  So please stop trying to act like sterilization is the main agenda. 


    Let me emphasize again, no one is being forced to be sterilized, or to be put on birth control.  No one will EVER be forced to do this.  A drug-addict has every right in the world to say “No thank you, I don’t want your money” and they are free to do whatever they please. 


    As for internet addicts, alcoholics, recreational pot users.  Out of those three, only alcoholics have been shown to harm babies inside the womb.  Therefore I would most definitely be in favor of OFFERING and even ENCOURAGING birth-control to alcoholics.


    On the topic of the mentally ill, if their mental illnesses puts them in a place where they cannot safely raise children, then why not OFFER them birth-control, or even encourage them to go on birth control?   If they eventually want to have children down the line, then that option is always available.  


    You say you’ve worked in rehab settings.  Would you say the majority of people in rehab are ready to be responsible parents?  Do you think it is a good thing when a woman in drug rehab becomes pregnant?  Or maybe is it better if she goes under birth control during rehab, puts the pieces of her life back together, and then voluntarily decides to have a child later on. 


    Some are saying that offering addicts money to go under birth control is “coercion”.  I find this attitude to be repugnant and demeaning to addicts.  You are basically saying that addicts are not responsible enough to make good decisions.  But at the same time you want to ensure that they are able to produce children at all times.    Sorry, you can’t have it both ways. 


    Admit it, Project Prevention is a great idea and you’re just mad you didn’t think of it first ;).

  • crowepps

    Considering that your focus is supposed to be the bad outcomes when pregnancy happens at suboptimal times and when children are unwanted, and considering that (in my opinion) the great majority of Americans are not in any way competent to be responsible parents, why not just offer free long-term birth control and free sterilizations to everyone?

  • runningshoe