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May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

Meet the Woman Who Pays Drug Addicts to Get Sterilized

4 Substance

Project Prevention founder Barbara Harris. Photo via

Project Prevention founder Barbara Harris. Photo via

Barbara Harris is the founder of Project Prevention—initially named C.R.A.C.K. (Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity)—an organization that pays drug addicts $300 to get on long-term birth control. Since starting in 1989, they’ve paid for over 4,000 people in the US and the UK to be sterilized with tubal ligations, contraceptive implants or vasectomies.

In an interview with Vice, Harris discusses the moral complexities of the work she does, and responds to the many opponents who have accused her of bribery and called her a “eugenicist” and “Nazi.” She says she’s undeterred by backlash, because her motives are to help people. ”People come to us by choice. We don’t force anybody to do anything,” she says, “What we’re doing is preventing suffering and damage to innocent children, so it’s nothing compared to any of that.”

But if the procedures are a choice, why the cash incentives? “Money get’s everybody’s attention,” Harris says. “The money gets their attention and keeps them focused long enough to follow through and do what they know they need to do anyway. So it’s basically keeping them focused long enough to do the responsible thing.”

The organization has been accused of bribery, which Harris says is justifiable given the cause. “The bottom line is that we’re going to get people who are using drugs and alcohol on a daily basis to not conceive a child that’s going to end up most likely in foster care, damaged,” she says. ”If we bribed known people with DWIs to not get behind the wheel of their cars while intoxicated no one would have a problem with it. These women have innocent victims as well… I can only hope that you don’t use a word to take the importance away from what we do.”

Harris’ own adopted children were born addicted to crack, heroin and PCP. Her brother, who has lived on LA’s Skid Row for 20 years, is also addicted to crack (she thinks). According to Project Prevention’s website, the organization supports drug treatment—but since it’s not always accessible for everyone, they believe that going on birth control is “a positive step for all addicts/alcoholics.”

Sterilizing addicts is “a simple solution to a complicated problem,” Vice points out. But Harris says it’s better than doing nothing: “I agree that we aren’t solving every problem, but we are however solving our one piece of this problem. I think the reason our donors feel good donating to us is because we actually stop a problem unlike most non-profits that fund ongoing problems.” Check out an early PSA for C.R.A.C.K.: