**TRIGGER WARNING**: Drug abuse is mentioned in this article.
Barbara Harris has traveled the country paying drug users and alcoholics $300 if they submit to sterilization or long-term birth control. The North Carolina native, who founded Project Prevention in 1997, believes the controversial initiative, which has paid more than 7,000 people to take part in the program, is effective.
Harris founded her organization after she and her husband adopted four children born to a drug-addicted mother. The birth control options the organization offers include intrauterine devices (IUDs), implants and tubal ligations. In order to be paid, participants must show evidence they have been arrested on a drug-related charge or provide a doctor's certificate stating they consume drugs.
The organization, which keeps survey forms, reports that nearly 60% of its participants are white; 20% are African American; 12% are Hispanic; and 8% are other. Harris defends Project Prevention saying, “We’re not dragging people off the street and sterilizing them. It’s totally their choice.”
Although Project Prevention’s objective is seemingly noble, the organization has been criticized for its slogans, which have included "Don’t let pregnancy get in the way of your crack habit" and "She has her Daddy’s eyes and her Mommy’s heroin addiction." Harris defends these messages saying, "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."
In California, Harris attempted to get legislation passed that mandated long-term birth control for mothers who had given birth to babies exposed to cocaine during pregnancy yet was unsuccessful. In 2010, Project Prevention expanded its operations to the UK. Soon after, a woman, who is not an addict, was leaving a clinic in Glasgow in a known drug area with her nine-year-old son when she was approached by three women from the organization who offered her £200 if she submitted to sterilization.
Addaction, a UK addiction charity criticized the organization, saying its practices are "morally reprehensible and irrelevant," and Martin Barnes, CEO of DrugScope, said their activities were manipulative, ethically dubious, and morally questionable. Project Prevention has also expressed an interest in expanding their activities to Ireland.
In response Fiona Weldon, clinical director of Dublin addictions treatment facility, the Rutland Centre, stated at the time that the organization was "absolutely horrendous," while Tony Geoghegan, CEO of drug addiction and homeless charity Merchants Quay Ireland, said it was inappropriate to sterilize drug addicts.