Controversial "cash-for-sterilization" California group comes to New York
NAPW Press Release, PRESS RELEASE, October 7, 2002
New York City, NY - CRACK (Children Require A Caring Kommunity) is a Southern California-based organization that "offers" $200 in cash to any woman or man who uses drugs or alcohol in exchange for their willingness to undergo sterilization or take long-term birth control. Today Barbara Harris, the head of this controversial group, held a press conference in New York, and was greeted by protesters urging her to use the organization's resources to advocate for desperately needed treatment of drug, alcohol and tobacco addictions. C.R.A.C.K., the protestors claim, is a program that feeds into long held prejudices and misinformation about drug users, African-Americans and poor people.
"We support contraception and birth control services. But we also believe that targeting any one group of people for those services is simply un-American," said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women based in New York. Furthermore, Paltrow pointed out, "The greatest threat to children in America today is not drugs and it is not their parents who may or may not use drugs. It is that millions of hardworking families who don’t have access to health care, housing, and drug treatment"
Other groups present voiced concern that this program perpetuates misinformation specifically about cocaine. CRACK focuses on crack cocaine and not on other harmful substances, such as tobacco, for which there is extensive evidence of harm and which is used by a significantly greater number of people. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, "Smoking during pregnancy creates a more serious risk of spontaneous abortion and a greater threat to the survival and health of newborns and children than using cocaine during pregnancy."
Social justice organizations argue that CRACK’s policies harm women and children rather than helping them. "CRACK may stop a few women with addiction problems from having children," said Theryn Kigvamasud-Vashti of Communities Against Rape and Abuse in Seattle. "Meanwhile, they are doing a tremendous disservice to those seeking real solutions, such as addressing issues of poverty and violence that often give rise to drug addiction, and providing access to treatment."
Ashanti Alston, from the new York chapter of Critical Resistance, points out that CRACK has a history of targeting communities of color and poor people, as evidenced in their past placement of ads and billboards in poor neighborhoods and in their Seattle program's advice to target people who go to soup kitchens. CRACK's has also announced that they are contacting probation/parole departments and jails where a high percentage of inmates are people of color. Alston commented that, "Linking CRACK 's cash-for-sterilization program to public officials who have the power to decide whether or not someone goes back to jail creates a level of government involvement in reproductive choice that is both immoral and illegal under the US Constitution."
While CRACK provides for long-term birth control or sterilization, it does nothing to protect women against HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. Ryn Gluckman of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program points out that with slogans like "Don’t let a pregnancy ruin your drug habit" CRACK’s commitment to the health and well-being of the women it serves is highly questionable.
"CRACK isn’t the solution to women who are substance abusers having babies. We need greater collaboration between those in the drug treatment and public health communities to come up with meaningful solutions to address the lack of available drug treatment and reproductive health services." said Toni Bond, President and CEO of African American Women Evolving.
Other opponents to C.R.A.C.K. who attended today's press conference include: the Committee on Women, Population, and the Environment, SisterOutsider, the Drug Policy Alliance, NYU's Law Student Drug Policy Forum, the Harm Reduction Coalition, and Physicians for Reproductive Health and Choice