Coercive Sterilization Program Tries to Expand to South Africa

By Rachel Walden — April 19, 2011

Project Prevention, a program formerly known as C.R.A.C.K. that seeks to bribe/coerce women with drug addictions into be sterilized or accepting long-term birth control (that may not be medically appropriate) through financial incentives, started out in the United States by advertising quick cash for addicted women who surrendered their reproductive options and control. The program often targeted communities of color.

Needless to say, the program is vile and racist — founder Barbara Harris has been widely quoted comparing women to dogs and their children to unwanted animals, 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.”

The program has been widely criticized in the United States. Lynn Paltrow and National Advocates for Pregnant Women have been outspoken in their concerns, noting:

NAPW’s examination of the program makes clear that, far from providing a useful response to problems associated with drug use and pregnancy, C.R.A.C.K. instead acts as a dangerous vector for medical misinformation and political propaganda that has significant implications for the rights of all Americans. Under the guise of openness, voluntary choice, and personal empowerment, C.R.A.C.K. not only promotes a vicious image of all drug users, it has won significant support for a program and an ideology that is at the core of civil rights violations and eugenic population control efforts.

The program had recently expanded to the United Kingdom, where it also has been criticized by organizations and bloggers.

Now Harris has apparently set her sights on South Africa, where she had plans to target women living with HIV. Project Prevention has apparently already set up in Kenya.

The Open Society Blog has some coverage of these developments, noting that “Project Prevention seems to have no knowledge of antiretroviral medications (ARVs) or PMTCT [preventing mother-to-child transmission], since they claim that getting HIV-positive women on long term birth control is ‘the only way’ to ensure there are fewer babies born with HIV.”

The head of the National Health Department in South Africa has reportedly said that the group will not be allowed to operate in the country, stating:

It’s a no, no, no! We have a Constitution in this country that causes us to respect human rights — including the right to choice. So there is no way that we are going to accept or to allow anyone coming from anywhere in the world to come in and force sterilization on any women in this country — because that will be against the Constitution. So it’s not acceptable and it’s a big ‘no’.

If only we so strongly prohibited these actions in this country.

One response to “Coercive Sterilization Program Tries to Expand to South Africa”

  1. As an RN, this organization goes against everything I value. While I am concerned about the wellbeing of infants, taking away the rights of women to reproduce is not the answer. This is a civil and women’s rights issue, as mentioned above, not just a public health issue.

    Drug addiction is a multifactorial problem, but violating human rights is definitely not the solution.

    I was made aware recently that pregnant women are often not able to go to drug treatment programs. Treatment and prevention are key, along with changing socioeconomic circumstances that contribute to these issues.

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