Have you been eagerly awaiting your opportunity to dust off your old Lady Hating Eugenicist Who Doesn't Think They're Racist Bingo card? Well, today's your lucky day. Meet Barbara Harris, the brainpower behind Project Prevention, a program that offers to pay female drug addicts to get sterilized.
In a sort of stomach-churning profile for The Fix, Jed Bickman explains Harris' philosophy and outlines the history of Project Prevention, a group that used to go by CRACK (Children Requesting a Caring Kommunity. Yes, Kommunity is spelled with a K, like Kardashian). The group aims to limit the number of children born to drug addicts by incentivizing tubal ligations, vasectomies, and long term birth control.
In theory, promoting maternal health and giving women who don't want to be mothers access to the means to prevent motherhood is a good idea. But in practice, Harris and her organization come across as gross, and sort of woman-hating.
For starters, the group advertises its services in homeless shelters and methadone clinics with fliers reading "She has her daddy's eyes... and her mommy's heroin addiction" and "Don't let a pregnancy ruin your drug habit." Because many female addicts Harris targets are already on government assistance, they're able to receive their treatment for free. But post-procedure, they provide Project Prevention with paperwork that "proves" they're addicts (arrest records, for example), and then Harris cuts them a check, sight unseen. And that's it.
It doesn't take much thinking to see how this program is its own brand of cruel — by preying on female addicts' desperation, Project Prevention gives women money, presumably to feed their drug habit, while taking away the option to reproduce permanently off the table. It also assumes that women can never recover from addiction, can never learn to be good parents.
Harris claims her group's mission is to stop the birth of "crack babies," and supports her mission with a lot of sweeping generalizations. Like the one where she assumes that most American babies born to addicts are born to women on crack (they're not; according to some experts, babies born to addicts are more likely to be addicted to prescription pills nowadays). Or that preventing the birth of "crack babies" will cleanse the welfare system of chemically dependent children (far fewer women use tobacco or alcohol when pregnant than use crack cocaine, and lasting effects of alcohol can be more profound than lingering "crack baby" problems). And then there's all the shit she says about women not having a "right to procreate." And the time she said that drug addicted women are popping out babies annually —
I became more angry at the system that allows [these drug-addicted women] to drop babies off yearly at the hospital with no consequences. If there's a scale, and it's between her never having any more babies and her having five more babies who may be damaged, then what's more important? For me it's the children. And if she can't have any more children, then that's just the consequence of her actions, like getting AIDS or something.
Harris expresses particular disdain for women she claims are having "litters" of babies, like dogs that haven't been spayed.
We don't allow dogs to breed. We spay them. We neuter them. We try to keep them from having unwanted puppies, and yet these women are literally having litters of children.
(Feel free to pause here and go to the kitchen for a snack, or to go outside and scream angrily at the top of your lungs.)
Harris routinely targets poor neighborhoods with large black and Hispanic areas, which she refers to as "drug neighborhoods." She's not racist, though! Harris can't possibly be racist, because she has a black — wait for it — husband. And she's got four black children, each of whom was put up for adoption after their crack-addicted mothers couldn't care for them. Being married to A Black AND having four black kids gives Harris 50,000 Race Bux, which are imaginary points that you can spend saying and doing racist things without consequences or judgment. For example, running a whole big program that seeks to sterilize drug users apparently only costs 40,000 or so Race Bux.
Project Prevention attempted to expand into Europe, but was barred on the grounds that the European Convention on Human Rights considers Harris' program to be too Hitleresque to be legal.
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