Project Prevention, also known as Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity (CRACK), has drawn controversy for years for its efforts to sterilize drug addicts in America. The organization offers women with drug problems $300 if they can offer proof they’ve been sterilized, and offers $200 for women who go on long-term birth control like an IUD or contraceptive implant.
The program attempted to expand into Britain in 2010, but was not well-received. While it still has a presence in the country, the British Medical Association will not allow it to pay women for sterilizations, only long-term contraception.
Now, Project Prevention has set its sights on developing nations. Specifically, Haiti and Kenya. But it’s not targeting these women because of a drug addiction. It’s targeting Haitian women for being poor, and Kenyan and South African women who are HIV positive.
In Haiti, women aren’t even being offered monetary compensation for accepting contraceptive shots. They’re being offered food cards. If $300 for giving up your fertility forever wasn’t insulting, being offered food in exchange for Depo-Provera shots (which can have long-term, debilitating side effects in some women) certainly is.
Even more controversial is Harris’s assertion that women with HIV should not have children – even though modern medicine has found ways to prevent the children of HIV+ mothers from being born with the disease. Kenyan women are offered the measly sum of $40 US if they agree to receive an IUD.
The organization has been decried by many as an attempt at eugenics. It’s hard to argue that point when founder Barbara Harris has been quoted as saying, “We don’t allow dogs to breed. We neuter them. We try to keep them from having unwanted puppies, and yet these women are literally having litters of children.” Yikes.
At best, Harris doesn’t believe drug addicts, poor women, or women with HIV are capable of exercising their right to chose. At worst, Project Prevention may be offering money which allows women to feed their drug habits while taking away any reproductive choice they might have in the future, even if they manage to kick their addiction in the meantime. And it may be coercing women living in poverty (and in the case of Haiti, a humanitarian crisis) to choose between their fertility and having food on the table.
While initiatives like Project Prevention may seem appealing on the surface, they’re really only a superficial fix for much deeper social and economic issues. Empowering women to make informed reproductive choices, providing better medical care for HIV+ women, putting systems in place to help women deal with drug addiction, and helping women out of poverty so they can afford to take care of their families are all better long-term solutions than paying individual women not to have children. Unless, of course, your goal isn’t actually to make life better for children worldwide, and is actually an attempt to keep “undesirable” people from reproducing.
I suspect that’s Project Prevention’s actual agenda – otherwise, there are so many more effective ways they could be spending their money. And Barbara Harris’s public statements about the women she’s “helping” don’t do much to dispel that impression. What do Care2 readers think? Is Project Prevention a great idea, or is it doing more harm than good?
Photo credit: CIAT via Flickr