Project Prevention has long paid poor, addicted women not to procreate. Now the far right is helping it go global
BY JED BICKMAN, THE FIX
“Don’t let a pregnancy ruin your drug habit,” the slogan on the fliers reads. Another says, “She has her daddy’s eyes…and her mommy’s heroin addiction.” Then: “Get birth control, get ca$h.”
These are posters that show up nationwide in homeless shelters and methadone clinics, in AA and NA meeting rooms and near needle exchange programs, distributed by volunteers for Project Prevention. Formerly called Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity (CRACK), the controversial nonprofit pays drug addicts $300 to either undergo sterilization or use a form of long-term, “no responsibility needed” birth control.
“What makes a woman’s right to procreate more important than the right of a child to have a normal life?” Project Prevention founder Barbara Harris told Time magazine in 2010.
There's almost nothing in the Salon article, however, about Barbara Harris, whom I interviewed a decade ago for a UPI article, and who turned out to be quite a lady:
Q&A with Barbara Harris:
Paying Cash to Crack Addicts for Contraception
by Steve Sailer
UPI, May 9, 2002
When you meet Barbara Harris, it's hard to figure out how old she is. Her youthful looks don't seem to match her eventful life story.
After a couple of decades of being a waitress at International House of Pancakes while raising her three sons, she spent seven years as a stay-at-home mom for her four new adopted children, all siblings whose mother was a drug addict. Then, in 1997, she founded one of America's most innovative and controversial charities, C.R.A.C.K. (Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity), which pays addicts $200 to use long-term contraception or get sterilized.
According to her Web site CashForBirthControl.com, 584 women (and eight men) have taken Harris up on her offer. Her clients have 1,102 of their children in the foster-care system. Another 231 of their babies have been stillborn or died shortly afterward. The women had also had 993 abortions.
Long-term birth control was the choice of 57 percent of the women, while the others picked tubal ligation. About half her clients have been white and another one third were black.
Harris is a large, cheerful woman of impressive energy. Her long, dark blonde hair and almost line-free face suggest she's in her 30s. But then she tells you that she has three grandchildren by her oldest son, who is 30. And her second son, a senior at Stanford, just got married. It turns out she is 48. Perhaps her secret is that she doesn't spend a lot of time fretting over her worries. Instead, she responds with direct, vigorous action.
Harris, who is often denounced as a "racist," is a white woman who lives with her African-American husband Smitty, a surgical technician, in a non-descript but pleasant section of Orange County, Calif., called Stanton. Mixed-race families are not a particularly big deal in this suburb near where Tiger Woods grew up.
I met with Harris at C.R.A.C.K.'s three-room suite in a low concrete office building in nearby Garden Grove. While most articles about Harris have concentrated on the ideological arguments that have pitted her organization against representatives of the ACLU and the NAACP, I was more interested in what motivated her.
You can read my interview with her here.