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Project Prevention gives $300 to drug addicts in exchange for their fertility

11:19 PM, Feb 12, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Barbara Harris has been called a lot of things.

A racist, a eugenicist, a thief.

But as long as she can stop drug addicts from having children, she doesn't care.

"The money is motivating them, bribing them. I don't care what word is attached to it, it's working. It's their choice to use drugs, but the babies don't have a choice," she said.

Since 1997, the non-profit Project Prevention has paid drug addicts, men and women, to be sterilized.

In 15 years, 4,269 people have taken money in exchange for their fertility.

The program requires the participants to prove their drug addiction and then prove they had tubal ligation, long-term birth control, or a vasectomy.

She then hands them $300 cash, no questions asked. 

"People will say, 'well you know they're going to use this money for drugs,' well, that's their choice. My babies didn't have a choice," she said.

She started the program after adopting her own child in California.

Her daughter was born addicted to PCP, crack, and heroin.

And in the three years following, she adopted three more children from the same woman, all of them born addicted to drugs.

Watching her newborn children struggle to overcome addiction, she tried to get legislation passed in California.

The bill would have forced women who give birth to babies addicted to drugs to be sterilized.

While the legislation failed, her drive to make a change didn't, so Project Prevention was born.

"If you can't trust them to make a decision, how can you trust them with a child? To me it's all common sense," she said.

But it hasn't been common sense for many people

The program was practically run out of the UK when she tried to introduce it overseas, and a documentary featuring mothers who have overcome addiction begs women to reconsider.

Just this summer, she and her adoptive children took a bus tour through Florida.

Nine women in Jacksonville took her up on her offer, and she said that should be welcome news on the First Coast.  

"The nine women that we paid in Jacksonville had 23 abortions before coming to us, because many of these women use abortion for birth control," she said.

She was only in Florida for a couple weeks, but she said her trip will ultimately save Florida millions.

The cost of care for children born addicted to drugs can be astronomical.

And if the birth mother can't care for her baby, taxpayers are on the hook for care.

She said she sees the effects everyday, just recently on a little boy her friend took in to foster care.

"The cost to keep him alive for three years was $4 million dollars. And he died at age three, so for those who say those should be spending your money on drug treatment, we say we basically are," she said.

Project Prevention doesn't cost taxpayers anything.

Harris takes in private donations to pay for the procedures and said they're growing every year.

Her largest donation was for $100,000, and her biggest donor is from Florida.

Though her cause is controversial, she said it's one people who support Project Prevention believe in.

"I guess it's just about where your heart is at. Is it all about the woman and her right to procreate, or is it about the child. Does the child have any rights?," she asked.

First Coast News

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