October 7, 2002
Contact: Shayna Samuels,
Ryn Gluckman, 413-559-5506
Controversial "cash-for-sterilization" California group comes to New York
Critics Say "C.R.A.C.K." perpetuates misinformation and prejudice
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
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
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
For more information on the New York City C.R.A.C.K. protest or national
organizing against C.R.A.C.K. please contact Ryn Gluckman at 413/559-5506.