Is a nonprofit that actively seeks to sterilize or provide long-term birth control for female substance abusers going too far?
Drug and alcohol addiction are serious problems in the US and around the world, and the problem of babies being born addicted is particularly tragic. No innocent life should begin by suffering withdrawal symptoms, but the reality is that birth control can easily fall through the cracks for women in the grips of substance abuse.
Project Prevention is trying to help end this problem, but some question their methods. According to Salon.com, the nonprofit posts signs with slogans like, “Don’t let a pregnancy ruin your drug habit” or “She has her daddy’s eyes…and her mommy’s heroin addiction.” It’s a stark message. Even more disconcerting are the flyers that promise, “Get birth control, get ca$h.”
The idea of paying drug users not to procreate may sound too bizarre to be true, but the posters are popping up in homeless shelters, methadone clinics, AA or NA meeting rooms and near needle exchange programs. In a decidedly controversial move, Project Prevention pays drug addicts $300 to undergo sterilization or use a form of long-term, “no responsibility needed” birth control.
In 2010, the organization answered critics via Time magazine. “What makes a woman’s right to procreate more important than the right of a child to have a normal life?” founder Barbara Harris asked. In fact, it’s her self-professed mission to zero out the number of births to parents who abuse illegal drugs, particularly crack cocaine.
Some opponents have a problem with Project Prevention giving cash to individuals with known drug problems, assuming the money will be used to purchase illegal drugs. Others take issue with encouraging desperate women to make permanent health decisions like sterilization when their addiction may make them not responsible enough to give informed consent.
Project Prevention has paid a total of 4,077 people (including 65 men), 987 of whom have been African-Americans, to get a tubal ligation (tube-tying) or an IUD, implanon, Depo-Provera, or for men, a vasectomy, according to Harris.
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