NAPW Leads Opposition to Project Prevention Propaganda

July 18, 2006

NAPW's Wyndi Anderson and Lynn Paltrow continue to ensure that Project Prevention's (founded as C.R.A.CK. --Children Require A Caring Kommunity) misinformation about pregnant women and drug users does not go unchallenged.

Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
July 12, 2006
Section: Local News

The toughest easy money an addict ever earned

GABRIELLE GLASER

SUMMARY: Crusader | Barbara Harris comes to Portland to offer drug users $300 each not to have children

Barbara Harris drove her RV gingerly through Old Town and staked her territory beneath the Burnside Bridge, one of the first stops on her cross-country mission as head of Project Prevention, a foundation that offers $300 to drug users willing to be sterilized or use long-term birth control.

She directed her four teenage children to grab their fliers and head across the street to a group of homeless street kids.

"Let's go!" she hollered.

Harris founded her program in 1998. Originally called C.R.A.C.K. --Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity --it immediately attracted attention and criticism. Supporters call Harris a hero. Detractors label her tactics as modern-day eugenics.

Harris dismisses it all. "I don't care what anyone says. It's just not OK to take drugs and have a baby," she said. "If I got drunk and drove my car and killed someone, I'd get put in jail, and nobody would argue.

"Well, drug addicts who have babies have victims, too. They're called children."

Harris stepped into a small circle of youths, introducing herself with the easy friendliness of the IHOP waitress she once was. "Hi," she said, with a broad smile.

One pregnant girl, half-asleep and dressed in multiple sweat shirts on a hot day, barely opened her eyes. "Are you homeless? Are you using?" Harris asked gently. "Don't use while you're pregnant, and make sure you get prenatal care. Then, call me." She thrust a card into her boyfriend's hand.

Harris, of Harrisburg, N.C., began her quest after adopting four siblings, one by one, at birth. Their mother, Harris said, was addicted to crack, PCP and heroin. Harris has six biological sons, now grown, and has been a foster mother to many more.

"My critics say I'm a racist," said Harris, who is white. "Well, my husband's black, my six boys are biracial and I'm 'Mom' to four African American kids. I'm the only white face in my household," she said.

Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the New York-based National Advocates for Pregnant Women, calls the program dehumanizing.

In a recent article in the Journal of Law in Society, Paltrow wrote: "Under the guise of openness, 'voluntary' choice, and personal empowerment, C.R.A.C.K. not only promotes a vicious image of the 'eternal drug addict,' it has won significant support for a program and an ideology that is at the core of civil rights violations and eugenic population control efforts."

Project Prevention (www.projectprevention.org) is a nonprofit organization financed by private investors, the largest of whom insists on anonymity, Harris said. She said 2,000 women have received payment so far.

Drug users usually hear about the program in shelters and by word of mouth. If they choose to participate, they must call an 800 number to register. The majority of callers are women, Harris said, and are insured under Medicaid. Only 24 men have undergone vasectomies, she added.

In Oregon, Medicaid covers Project Prevention's specified birth-control procedures, such as Norplant, IUDs and tubal ligation, said Allison Knight, acting manager for program and policy in the state Office of Medical Assistance Programs.

Once the participants supply proof of having had the procedure, Harris said, her organization mails a check. "A lot of the time, they're back on the street and using, and I never find them," she said.

While many might question the ethics of Harris' mission, others see it differently.

"This is a private person offering money to private individuals, so there is ample choice on both sides," said Arthur LaFrance, a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School. "The essence of ethics is choice. If Medicaid is already paying for these procedures, how can anyone criticize it?"

Wyndi Anderson, a national educator for National Advocates for Pregnant Women, counters that view. "There is a big difference between the government offering a service and a private person offering a bribe," she said.

Harris called her critics "educated idiots."

"They say I take away a woman's choice," she said. "They say that drug addicts aren't in the right frame of mind to decide what they should do.

"If that's the kind of sense a bunch of degrees will bring you, I'm glad I dropped out of high school."

Through the years, Harris said, she has become involved in some of the lives of the women who entered her program. "They start using, and it spirals downward," she said. "If they get pregnant and the state takes their baby, they feel guilty and ashamed, and they don't know how to stop the cycle."

She used to feel bitter toward addicts, she said, but such sentiment has softened over the years.

"More often than not, they never have anybody who believes in them. Well, how can you get control over your life if you don't have control over having babies? I get letters from women who thank me. One said, 'Thank you for helping me do the first responsible thing I ever did in my addiction.' "

Gabrielle Glaser: 503-221-8271; gabrielleglaser@news.oregonian.com