Should drug addicts be paid to get sterilised?

By Amnesia · Feb 8, 2010 · Updated Feb 9, 2010 · ·
  1. Amnesia
    Paying drug addicts to be sterilised is exploitative and wrong, say critics of just such a scheme that runs in the US. Jane Beresford talks to the woman behind Project Prevention.

    If you call Project Prevention's helpline it's likely that Barbara Harris, the founder of this US based organisation, will answer the phone. A warm and vivacious grandmother, her aim is to give $300 to as many drug and alcohol addicted women as possible.

    The deal? That they receive long term contraception or sterilisation to prevent them having children she believes they are unable or unwilling to care for. Funded through private donations, her organisation is non-profit making.

    Project Prevention, started in 1997, says it has paid money out to 3,242 addicts, or clients as it prefers to call them. Most of them were women and 1,226 were permanently sterilised. Thirty-five men have had vasectomies.

    To get the money people have to show evidence that they have been arrested on narcotic offences, or provide a doctor's letter confirming they use drugs. Fresh documents are then required to show the medical procedure has actually taken place.

    Ms Harris is driven by her own experience. She fostered, and then adopted, four children born to the same crack-addicted woman in Los Angeles. Taylor was the second she took in.

    "He couldn't keep food down and his eyes looked like they were going to bulge out of his head," she says. "Noise bothered him, light bothered him, he just couldn't sleep.

    "My husband and I had to take shifts with him. He would sleep 10 minutes, wake up screaming. I was just angry at his mom, I thought how could somebody do this to a baby?"

    Her stand has drawn fierce opposition. Critics, such as US group National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), accuse Ms Harris of spreading "dangerous propaganda".

    They say what she does is social engineering, defining one category of people - addicts - as unsuitable to have children. The scheme has been compared to eugenic sterilisation in the US during the 1930s and the Nazis' programme of eugenics, which led to the extermination of Jews and the murder of many gypsies, the mentally ill, and homosexuals.

    Such comparisons are rejected by Ms Harris, who says the criticisms do not concern her.

    "It doesn't matter," she says. "I'll do anything I have to do to prevent babies from suffering. My heart is with the children. I don't believe that anybody has the right to force their addiction on another human being."

    Chance after chance
    She has also been accused of being racist, targeting poor black communities with her promotional campaigns. Ms Harris says this is ironic as she is married to a black man.

    "I have a large family and I'm the only white face in my family. We have 10 kids and they are all black, some are bi-racial. It's not about race to me."

    And according to their own figures, which haven't been independently verified, over half Project Prevention's clients are white.

    Offering money to addicts is clearly not a solution to the problem, say critics. Ms Harris herself admits the money she pays out is probably spent on drugs. So why not use her resources to lobby for measures to help stop women turning to drugs in the first place - or better treatment programmes when they do?

    "I do a survey on every one that comes into the programme," she says. "Most of them started using drugs when they were 11, 12, 13 years old. And all of them have been in and out of drug treatment programmes, in and out, in and out.

    "So people tell me that I should be focusing on drug treatment not birth control but drug treatment is just a gamble you know. Women go in there, they get off drugs, they go back on drugs but that doesn't keep them from getting pregnant.

    "If they feel so strongly about it then they need to start an organisation that does what they are telling me to do. I am concentrating on women who are addicted to drugs who are getting pregnant over and over again. That is really my focus."

    Organisations like NAPW don't deny the problems of mothers and fathers who are addicted, but argue that many do get clean and become loving parents of healthy children.

    Also, having a family is one of the most valued parts of many people's lives. By removing that, or the possibility of it, does she not remove a powerful incentive for an addicted person to get clean: the hope of that better life?

    "These women have a chance every time they give birth to a child," says Ms Harris. "They are told if they go into drug treatment they can get their child back. They are given chance after chance after chance.

    "And drugs are more important, but at the very least we can stop them from giving birth to children whose lives may end up the same as theirs."

    She takes an extremely hard line, but says she does feel sympathy for the mothers living in poverty.

    "If anybody believes that these women having multiple babies that are taken away is a good thing for these women, they are wrong," she says.

    She talks of one woman who had 13 children taken into care before she finally got off drugs. When she was clean she was unable to contact any of them.

    "She was heartbroken. She didn't know where they were, they were gone".

    8 February, 2010
    BBC News

    MOD EDIT- removed 2nd image as it was obscuring text

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  1. EyesOfTheWorld
    If male addicts could get paid to have a vasectomy, and it was a LOT of money, after SWIM has one child he would happily do it. He doesn't want more than one kid anyway, unless he ends up with a woman that has kids from a previous relationship.
    Theres a lot of moral issues at play here, yes, but if SWIM could manage to get paid for a procedure he plans to do anyway, hell yeah!
  2. coolhandluke
    swim thinks this is sick. of course drug addicts will have themselves sterilized for money, so they can buy more dope. this woman is helping to feed their addictions, and taking advantage of addicts' desperation for more drugs. how many overdoses do you think this would cause if it were nation wide? swim does understand where she is coming from, he thinks its sad that people have kids who they cant financially and emotional support, because they themselves are not financially and emotionally stable. sterilization is to extreme swim thinks. what if one of these women recovers, and starts to lead a normal life? then they will be unable to have kids, just because when they were younger, they had a bad habit, got in over their heads, and were desperate for money to buy dope. very sad swim thinks.
  3. Donttellanyone
    SWIM disagrees. If someone is so addicted that they agree to sterilization for 300 bucks they are in no way capable of taking care of a child anywhere in the near future.

    Of course, some of the sterilized women will recover, and those who do are likely to regret it for the rest of their lives. But SWIM think statistics will back SWIM up when SWIM say that very few people that desperate ever will be able to provide a child with the proper stability.

    And there should be a system that makes it impossible to impulsively do this, that SWIM agrees is wrong.
  4. pinksox
    SWIM hopes she has a damn good liability lawyer. She hopes the doctor/s she likely referring these patients to has damn good malpractice insurance paid up-to-date as well.

    Most of people know that, in the depth of a hard-core addiction--and often with some other psychological issues coming into play as well--the person using is NOT in the right frame of mind to be making decisions and choices that WILL have life-long consequences.

    SWIM knows most docs won't sterilize a female, short of serious medical issues like ovarian/cervical cancer, ect until she's had more than one child or is over a certain age. She's heard of men with two kids already being turned away as well if they're in their 20's.

    However, SWIM imagines that it wouldn't be impossible to find a few hardcore right-wing, pro-life surgeon to agree to having a few extra patients shuttled their way. Especially if the financial incentive is right.

    Unfortunately, given that most of these addicts are likely in the below-poverty incomes levels, SWIM is guessing that few, if any, would have the means to challenge her in court in the event they did get clean and sober and straighten their lives around.

    Kinda surprised the ACLU or SPLC hasn't been all over her like white-on-rice. HIPAA also wasn't in effect in 1997.

    She'd be much wiser to stick with long-term birth control, implants or depo-provera shots, and then pay out after each years treatment without pregnancy.
  5. coolhandluke
    swim also agrees that people who haven't the means to support a child, shouldn't have one. does that mean someone should go around sterilizing anyone who isn't seen as breeding worthy, and desperate for money. swim just thinks sterilizing drug addicts is too extreme, they're are other long term pregnancy prevention techniques such as a yearly shot, or a intrauterine device (IUD) which swim knows can last at least 5 years. swim thinks less drastic and permanent options should be implemented for all these women, instead of completely ruining someones ability to have offspring for the rest of their life.
  6. mickey_bee
    This is so exploitative I can hardly believe it's true.

    There are times in swim's addiction, when the desperation is so great, he knows he would strongly consider this's preying on the most vulnerable. God it makes swim feel sick.

    If she was offering some other non-monetary reward, i.e. one that couldn't be spent on drugs, then this would be completely different.

    But if you're in bad withdrawal, and not a penny to your name, $300 is alot of money,..........this is just disgusting. Knowingly preying on the weak.

    EDIT: This whole concept also does nothing but underline the completely false idea that drug addicts are somehow different from the rest of the human race. Addicts can and do recover, schemes like this imply that a drug addict is not only non-human, (and subsequently should be denied the very essence of humanity-to reproduce), but also that they are simply write-offs.
    Addiction causes so many problems and drives people, individuals, human-beings, to such desperation for a reason. It's not something you can just choose to stop doing the majority of the time.
    This is all without even touching on the fact that the majority of addicts were vulnerable individuals before drugs even became a part of their lives. Happy, content people, with a decent upbringing, don't go out to the ghetto and shoot up heroin, or give up their chance of fulfilling their purpose as a human for $300.
    Sick. Just sick.
  7. Coconut
    This is the very definiton of exploitation: the vast majority of severe addicts living in poverty would accept this money, and the woman is well aware of this fact. She is a fanatical looney and the money she is offering could easily go towards rehabilitation instead of eugeni... er... I mean... voluntary sterilisation.
  8. Terrapinzflyer
    First- the turtle would like to say he can see both sides of the arguement here and has not formed a firm position.

    But- he would urge folks to read the whole article Fewer then half the women (about a third) have chosen the sterilization, most have opted for long term contraceptives. They are given the choice.

    Also- she openly states her focus has zero to do with helping drug addicts. Her focus is solely on preventing children being born with a crack addiction.
  9. coolhandluke
    swim read the whole article, the sterilized figure was 1226 for women, and 35 for men, and 2016 women were given other, more conventional contraceptives. he still thinks that sterilization should not be an option for desperate drug addicts who are hard up for money. he fully understands her concern for children, but thinks this is taking it to the extreme.
  10. no.username
    there are a lot of pros and cons to sterilization.... the fact that people change is a con, and the fact that people dont change is definitely a pro.... a friend of mine is fucking up her unborn child with meth and heroin. pisses me off!!
  11. pinksox
    Well, then. In the US, DCYF takes anonymous phone reports. If she's past the third trimester, the fetus is viable and, since she obviously intends to carry the child to birth, DCYF would, at this point, react as if she were abusing any child. They can and will get a ex parte court order to drug test this person in the event she declines a voluntary test.

    From there the judge can do anything from mandating she report for weekly screenings to placing her into protective custody to prevent the abuse from continuing.

    SWIM is 100% pro-choice; however, when one has made the decision to bring a child into the world that they have an obligation to NOT bring it into the world already addicted to a substance and, possibly, damaged due to nothing more than exposure to drugs and alcohol while in utero.

    Again, the fact this happens with such frequency is just another testimony to the poor condition of the American healthcare system when compared to those of other leading industrialized countries:/
  12. nate81
    It's hard to picture a world where one can be paid to be permanently sterilized simply because someone thinks it should be that way. I have no doubt the methods would be effective at preventing drug-abuse babies, but the cost is simply too high for my taste. These people are very likely not in a psychological condition to choose an elective surgery such as permanent sterility. I'd bet 9:1 that these people would not be given these procedures in the doctor's offices I'm familiar with. They'd most likely be informed that they aren't in a sound state of mind to make such a permanent change to their bodies.

    Saving babies is a great idea, but if we start allowing people of authority to manipulate us at will simply because they think it's for the greater good, then there are larger issues at stake than babies. It won't do anybody good to save children and then raise them in a land where their hopes and dreams can be snatched because they are "undesireable". Today, it's elective, tomorrow an addict can get a fix or two, next year it will be mandatory and "under observation".
  13. Terrapinzflyer
    ok- reading through the comments want to add some perspective. Turtle has been aware of this group for a long time thru a friend, ex- crack addict turned drug worker. She was originally vehemently opposed to this group when they first started operating in her city- but has since mellowed her opinion...

    They have operated throughout the states for around 12-13 years. During that time they have provided long term contraception to ~280 women a year. About 100 sterilizations and 180 other forms of long term contraception per year. So under one per day for all forms throughout the entire US.

    In the case of sterilizations it takes several weeks from the time of the agreement to actual procedure- so to say this is a result of desperation from withdrawls is disingenuous. Likewise- the women are given the choice of contraception/sterilization. This is not economically forcing women to be sterilized.

    And to quote from the message of the right to choice (anti-abortion) groups- "if you can't trust me with a choice how can you trust me with a child"

    The turtles friend says every woman they have referred has asked for such an option. She has never seen a case of an addict doing this who has not given birth (or miscarried) several crack addicted babies. They have not wanted to go through this again, and saw no other option. She says they are also heavily screened, as she said, the numbers speak for themselves- if any addict could get $300 for taking a long term contraceptive the numbers would be many, many times higher.

    turtle will say she told him some things about the founder and several of their main people that are repugnant to put it mildly. But she feels ultimately its been a benefit. She and the turtle both agree they have reservations on many levels.

    To an extent the turtle is playing devils advocate. He has not made a decision on this, and its been something he's paid attention to for years... right and wrong is so easy to decide from a distance,

    And personally- one of the things that bothers him most- it takes two to make a child, and less then three men a year have had the balls to step to the plate and say I am unfit to father a child at this point.

    Finally - should be pointed out that vasectomies are, as a general rule, reversible, and tubal litigation is in many, but by no means all cases, is also reversible (depends largely on how the original surgery was done). Also, even those who have undergone tubal litigation are still candidates for In-Vitro Fertilization,
  14. [tanarilla.]
    My bunny neither agrees or disagrees; but that's just down to the fact that she is genuinely against pointless breeding [ as she is also a result of that ] because a child that is unwanted never leads to any good for the child or the parents...if you don't want a baby, but you get pregnant and you decide to keep it, for whatever reason, well, maybe you should reconsider. Too many of these kids end up neglected, getting foster parents, getting put into care...a waste of money and a waste of skin. My bunny things you shouldn't bring a kid into this world unless you have you're mind set on it; otherwise you're ruining your own and your baby's life. My bunny thinks people shouldn't have too many kids either, because most parents can't possibly care for 12 children neither emotionally neither financially. Less is more, definitely. Sorry if this offends anyone.

    On the other hand, offering money to get sterilized, when these people well know where the money is going to go, is just plain crazy. A free service set up may be slightly better; at least there is no reward for disabling you from bunny thinks this is a behaviour that shouldn't be reinforced on people. Why can't they just stick to handing out condoms? Anyway why is it so fckn hard to put a condom on?

    Anyway my bunny is hoping to get her tubes tied, but not for money. And as far as it seems it looks she's going to have to £££. It's actually quite unbeliavable to think that teenage pregnancy is a massive problem in this country, but GPs will do anyhting to talk you out of getting sterilized, saying things like you should at least one child first, etc. Like there is a need for more kids at the moment, eh.
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