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October 17, 2010 10:16 PM   Subscribe

US Charity offers UK drug addicts £200 to be sterilised, according to a BBC report to be shown this evening, Project Prevention, which pays $300 in the US, "seeks to reduce the burden of this social problem on taxpayers, trim down social worker caseloads, and alleviate from our clients the burden of having children that will potentially be taken away."
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName (212 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
that is a scum charity.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:20 PM on October 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


"Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end." -Kant
posted by matkline at 10:25 PM on October 17, 2010 [22 favorites]


Eugenics.

Plain and simple.
posted by jet_manifesto at 10:25 PM on October 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


This is absolutely monstrous.

If this is a charity, their donor list needs to be heavily publicized.
posted by kafziel at 10:31 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is absolutely monstrous. If this is a charity, their donor list needs to be heavily publicized.

I think your readiness to invade privacy is monstrous. Name, address and social security number, please.
posted by thesmophoron at 10:35 PM on October 17, 2010 [19 favorites]


Aside from the fact that these charity people are clearly evil, it can be pretty hard to get sterilised here if you're under 30 and childless and doctors have to be satisfied you're making the decision clearly and with all the correct information. People can't just wander in off the street and emerge to collect their £200, so I can't see it catching on even though money is usually a great motivator for drug users.
posted by shinybaum at 10:35 PM on October 17, 2010


Their hearts are in the wrong place but it's interesting that a group of Americans would acknowledge that poverty is something one can be born into and not a moral failing or lack of personal responsibility.
posted by hamida2242 at 10:36 PM on October 17, 2010 [19 favorites]


Once again I'm astounded at the philosophical sophistication of the denizens of the sizeable Leftist faction of Metafilter. Just so we're clear, saying that something is "plain and simple" or "clearly" the case doesn't actually make it so.
posted by thesmophoron at 10:39 PM on October 17, 2010 [18 favorites]


I was expecting a Daily Mail link, and am shocked to find this is real. Blaming poor people for being stupid, lazy, sub-human, or all of the above: it just never goes out of fashion does it?
posted by smoke at 10:41 PM on October 17, 2010


I think your readiness to invade privacy is monstrous. Name, address and social security number, please.

Nonprofit donor lists are already public. That's why I said publicized. No secrecy by obscurity for these fucks.
posted by kafziel at 10:41 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


I think your readiness to invade privacy is monstrous. Name, address and social security number, please.

I've never seen a donor list with social security numbers on it. That's just me, I guess.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:41 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've always wondered about that, shinybaum.

Then again, the same logic flaw is behind the fear that a teenager might *gasp* have an abortion rather than bring a child into the world that she cannot possibly have the maturity or the resources to raise.
posted by Sara C. at 10:41 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not quite on board the outrage train here. If a man with an admitted serious drug issue can take it upon himself to get a free (reversible) vasectomy... you're saying that you'd rather him inadvertently father children he doesn't want and either have them aborted or left completely unsupported on his behalf? When someone is willing to grant him his own wish to preemptively prevent such an outcome?
John, a 38-year-old addict from Leicester, is the first person in the UK to accept money to have a vasectomy, after being involved in drugs since he was 12.

He said: "It was something that I'd been thinking about for a long time.

"I won't be able to support a kid; I can just about manage to support myself."
And do you disagree that, while extreme, such a measure wouldn't help "reduce the burden of this social problem on taxpayers, trim down social worker caseloads, and alleviate from our clients the burden of having children that will potentially be taken away"?

No one is forcing these people to sterilize themselves. And while you might argue that being heavily under the influence of drugs is in no state of mind to decide to become sterilized, it's even less fittingly a time to bring someone into being whom you have no ability or intent to support, but can't willfully prevent from occurring. (Assume that the sort of heavy drug users who this is targeted at don't frequently practice safe sex.)

I see a bit more of an issue on the female side, where I imagine the sterilization to be a form of an irreversible hysterectomy, the permanence of which is troubling. But my greater point stands.
posted by disillusioned at 10:43 PM on October 17, 2010 [80 favorites]


Once again I'm astounded at the philosophical sophistication of the denizens of the sizeable Leftist faction of Metafilter. Just so we're clear, saying that something is "plain and simple" or "clearly" the case doesn't actually make it so.

Well, let me explain then: what this charity is saying is that a drug addict can and will never recover to live a healthy life, so getting a permanent, difficult-to-reverse, or expensive-to-reverse sterilization is the only way to prevent children for having to grow up around that lifestyle. This, by the way, has nothing to do with being "leftist," and everything to do with being a reasonable, compassionate person who doesn't ostracize drug users as evildoing bad people.
posted by spiderskull at 10:44 PM on October 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


Please explain the positive aspects of this warm-hearted charitable project. I'm so tired of being simplistic.
posted by Steakfrites at 10:45 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's pretty clear to me. Involving money is unethical. Sterilisation is free here, and so are condoms, long term birth control and any amount of other ways not to get pregnant. The only things missing are marketing and money. Market all you like, but involving money is skeezy.

You shouldn't pay people money to make ethical decisions that affect them in the long term, while they're addicted to something that requires money. That isn't a real decision and it isn't a real choice.
posted by shinybaum at 10:46 PM on October 17, 2010 [61 favorites]


Because I cannot sleep I took a look at the board members. Professor McNutt has a great letter to the LA Times (second letter) about bigotry directed at Fundamentalists, and is also quoted in Black Belt magazine in '92. Not to steer this toward a loleugenics response ... I didn't feel the need to look up any other board members though.
posted by cgk at 10:46 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Barring evidence of intimidation or coercion, as much as this has echoes of eugenics-past, I'm going to have to fall on the side of "consenting adults" here.
posted by chimaera at 10:48 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


disillusioned: the linked articles say that in female cases they consider "long term birth control" such as Norplant

spiderskull: what this charity is saying is that a drug addict can and will never recover to live a healthy life
Oh okay, I missed that part. Can you link me to that statement? Also recovery statistics for mainline heroin addicts like some of the people in the bios on the website under discussion. Thanks.
posted by thesmophoron at 10:49 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


So enough sniping. Anyone want to give a go at explaining how it's not pretty straightforwardly a eugenics project? Heck, even if you think it is, play the devil's advocate.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:55 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone want to give a go at explaining how it's not pretty straightforwardly a eugenics project?

Um. Because it has nothing to do with genetics?
posted by thesmophoron at 10:56 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


I saw this on Reddit, and was rather surprised at the number of belligerent supporters of the notion, or the faux-uber-rational Randian surprise at someone responding to this emotionally. Maybe trolls are being redirected to these discussions?

I think the people with the greed and drive--and in some cases perhaps also ability in addition to luck--to make it rich often become kind of full of themselves. Those same personality traits that drive them to succeed--and value success above all else--also may have a totalizing need to see that success valued in absolute terms. My guess is the donors here aren't hard working lower middle class families scraping by, pitching in their last pennies in the sincere hope of helping people make decisions that reflect who they are and what they value--but motivated by a psychology that needs the world remade so they are society's total winners and society has total losers they can look down on as not having lives worth living as well.
posted by Schmucko at 10:59 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


The usual procedure for women is tubal ligation, disillusioned. Removing a major organ which helps regulate hormones is supposed to be a last resort unless serious health issues dictate otherwise.

Thank you for your thoughtful answer, too.
posted by annsunny at 10:59 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I see a bit more of an issue on the female side, where I imagine the sterilization to be a form of an irreversible hysterectomy.

Uhh, women are usually sterilized by tubal ligation—this is apparently frequently reversible—not hysterectomy (surely you've heard the phrase “tubes tied.”)
posted by !Jim at 10:59 PM on October 17, 2010


A friend of mine's mom adopted three lovely, very vulnerable Irish boys, born to a heroin addict prostitute mom, from three different fathers. The 2 older of them were abused in ways the family don't like to go into. This happens a lot, and the real suffering of the kids must outweigh any qualms someone has about "eugenics" in the abstract.

In any case, the true meaning of eugenics seems reasonable. What's so bad about wanting to ensure kids are healthy and born to good families? I'd also advise people from certain ethnic minorities that carry recessive genes not to have kids with one another, and there might be a case for creating cash incentives for them to outmarry, considering the medical costs society incurs.

A good part of the larger problem is surely the illegality of drugs and the social deprivation that leads to an underclass for whom drug use and prostitution's their only option for an income. Still, sterilization of addicts has an obvious and immediate benefit.
posted by 7-7 at 11:02 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Uhh, women are usually sterilized by tubal ligation—this is apparently frequently reversible—not hysterectomy (surely you've heard the phrase “tubes tied.”)

Duh, of course I have. No idea why I completely skipped over that approach mentally, but I had it in my head backwards. Thanks.
posted by disillusioned at 11:04 PM on October 17, 2010


Also recovery statistics for mainline heroin addicts like some of the people in the bios on the website under discussion. Thanks.

I can't speak for the UK, but in Australia (the right kind of) rehabilitation can be moderately successful, especially with young addicts, as young people are far more likely to be chronic drug users (of any type) than older people.

This is all by-the-by, however: That money could be spent on harm reduction like needle exchange programs etc and rehabilitation that have a proven track record of good outcomes for real people with problems that need support from the community, rather than writing off a whole class of fucking human beings because of a hypothetical child that may or may not come into existence.
posted by smoke at 11:07 PM on October 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


A good part of the larger problem is surely the illegality of drugs and the social deprivation that leads to an underclass for whom drug use and prostitution's their only option for an income. Still, sterilization of addicts has an obvious and immediate benefit.

These are human beings you are talking about. From your lips, as the saying goes, to God's ears.
posted by jokeefe at 11:10 PM on October 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


A quick perusal of the projectprevention website and the beeb article didn't show me what the average guy who decides, for any reason, to get a vasectomy has to pay in the US or the UK. If this charity were covering the costs of a freely-entered-into, elective medical procedure for those who wanted it but couldn't pay, I'd be perfectly OK with it. It's the inducement that smells bad to me; the tradeoff between a permament decision (the reversibility of any sterilization procedure isn't guaranteed) and a temporary gain of a small amount like $300 doesn't seem even close to fair to me.
posted by Fraxas at 11:13 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the thoughtful response, smoke. I disagree with you though that the intention or the reality of the situation is quite so callous as it strikes you. Society as a whole, as embodied by the government, often tells people they shouldn't have children - everything from recessive gene carriers to Deltas. That doesn't mean those people are written off. I think the fact that drug abuse tends to be a problem more of the lower socioeconomic classes, inner city demographics, and racial minorities makes us hypersensitive to anything that could be remotely construed as classist or racist. I think we ought to be just as aware of our bias toward hypersensitivity as we are of our first-order bias toward xenophobia (and less extreme consequences of the Hamiltonian function).
posted by thesmophoron at 11:13 PM on October 17, 2010


You shouldn't pay people money to make ethical decisions that affect them in the long term, while they're addicted to something that requires money. That isn't a real decision and it isn't a real choice.

This is the crux of the matter, really. It's not a choice when your disease is making decisions for you.

Once again, right-wing extremists resort to using money to bully people and take away their humanity.

To wit, the leader of Project Prevention, Barbara Harris, wanted California to punish pregnant women who were addicted to drugs. She wanted to be able to place said women under citizen's arrest and charge them with child endangerment.

Here is a quote from her about said women, taken from a Dateline NBC interview in 1998:

"I’m not saying these women are dogs, but they’re not acting any more responsible than a dog in heat."

More from Harris:

"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."

Harris' organization operates primarily in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods. Her operation does not target all women across all cultural and economic backgrounds.

It is reasonable, therefore, to describe this as a campaign of eugenics, one with strong similarities to what Nazi Germany pursued against Jews, gypsies, gays, lesbians, and other undesirables.

So when you support what Barbara Harris does, keep in mind she equates human beings — predominantly black women — with dogs. And she wants to spay those human beings.

No more excuses, no more rationalizations: Now you know.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:13 PM on October 17, 2010 [82 favorites]


spiderskull: Well, let me explain then: what this charity is saying is that a drug addict can and will never recover to live a healthy life, so getting a permanent, difficult-to-reverse, or expensive-to-reverse sterilization is the only way to prevent children for having to grow up around that lifestyle.

Actually, it doesn't necessarily argue that point. For them to support this policy, they must only think the good aspects outweigh the bad, not that there aren't any bad aspects at all; that the good of preventing some of these unwanted births outweighs the bad of harming some drug addicts who do eventually recover and want families.

Really, it's a starkly utilitarian policy, and like most starkly utilitarian policies, the first reaction of nearly everyone is shock and outrage. However, when you consider the nuances of the situation, it may be more difficult to simply discard it. Really, this thing is a philosophical hornet's nest with ethical issues all over the place. Is it even a good thing to prevent addicts from having children (who will otherwise not exist?) Is it acceptable to give money to a drug addict, knowing it will only further their addiction? Does the good of preventing unwanted births and potentially reducing future poverty outweigh the harm it might do to addicts who eventually recover? Also, would it reduce the likelihood of addicts recovering, knowing that the possibility of having a family and a 'normal life' is cut off? Would it prevent addicts from recovering who otherwise would be shocked into a recovery by having children who depend on them?

Really, I don't want to touch this mess, except for pointing out the complexity.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:14 PM on October 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


Why aren't they offering free contraceptives or clean needles instead? Seems like this isn't so much about public health as it is about something else.

seeks to reduce the burden of this social problem on taxpayers

Oh, right.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:16 PM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh that's cute, their hotline in America is 888-30-CRACK.
posted by drinkyclown at 11:16 PM on October 17, 2010


To wit, the leader of Project Prevention, Barbara Harris, wanted California to punish pregnant women who were addicted to drugs. She wanted to be able to place said women under citizen's arrest and charge them with child endangerment.

While the uncontrollable nature of addiction is certainly a mitigating factor, and while Barbara Harris proceeds to betray what she really is thinking about these women (paralleling drug addicts with many children with dogs in heat is particularly heinous), that doesn't change the fact that a pregnant woman with an active drug addiction really IS endangering her child, and condemning that child to a life where being born into poverty pales in comparison to being born with the physiological effects of gestating under the shadow of that addiction.
posted by chimaera at 11:20 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Gee, I wonder how these people feel about Planned Parenthood.

Well, no I don't, honestly.
posted by brennen at 11:23 PM on October 17, 2010


Nazi Germany equated certain groups of human beings with animals. To them, sterilizing their undesirables was as much a utilitarian choice as this one.

The only difference here is that the capitalist element provides the illusion of free will, when it was never really a freely-made choice at all.

God help us all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:24 PM on October 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


notion, if you can't tell the difference between "just so we're clear" and "clearly" then you shouldn't really be the arbiter of who receives Internets.

That is all.
posted by unigolyn at 11:25 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh okay, I missed that part. Can you link me to that statement?

Poor choice of words on my part -- "say" as in their actions were implying a fundamental premise.

Really, it's a starkly utilitarian policy, and like most starkly utilitarian policies, the first reaction of nearly everyone is shock and outrage.

I see what you're saying, but to me, personally, philosophical exercises are best left as academic exercises and nothing more. So yeah, this is definitely utilitarian, but so is the idea that the best solution for anthropogenic global warming is for everyone to kill themselves or stop reproducing. Doesn't make it a good idea, reasonably or otherwise.
posted by spiderskull at 11:27 PM on October 17, 2010


Ok, here's the devil's advocate:

[Caveat - I don't support this charity or think that bribing people to sterilise themselves is a good idea]

Some people are out of control - addicted to drugs, narcotics... etc. Some people can function with substance abuse problems, but we're talking about the others. They cannot support or raise a child. In the event that they do get pregnant/get someone pregnant out of stupidity or carelessness, and they don't want the child and and are not willing or able to change their lives, that child may suffer seriously:
- first from the exposure to alcohol/narcotics in utero,
- then from the insanely poor parenting ability of their parents, and
- then, if they are lucky, from the universally fucked up (but still better than their natural parents) system of state care.

When these people have kids, those kids may be seriously messed up, suffer, and sometimes die. If the kids survive, the state spends a massive amount of time and resources trying to help or deal with them, and usually does a fairly poor job of it.

(I used to work in child endangerment and saw all of the above, in various combinations, happen).

So, if addicts are offerred the choice to sterilise themselves, and opt to exercise that option:
- a bunch of unwanted children may not be created, and
- the state saves a whole lot of money which could be diverted to other things, like harm prevention.

In any case, who are you dictate what people can and can't do with their bodies? If you would support the right of an addict to have an abortion (and many here support the concept of abortion as an absolute right, I think), why would you be against them excercising their rights to not have children at all, whatever their reasons?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:31 PM on October 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


n any case, who are you dictate what people can and can't do with their bodies? If you would support the right of an addict to have an abortion (and many here support the concept of abortion as an absolute right, I think), why would you be against them excercising their rights to not have children at all, whatever their reasons?

Who is saying what people can or can't do? I support sterilisation as an option just like I support abortion as an option, both are free and available already. I don't support paying people who are addicted to drugs (and therefore need money badly) to have abortions.

I support donating kidneys, I don't support rich people buying poor people's kidneys as an industry. I support prostitution in general but I don't support the system that keeps poor women in prostitution when they'd prefer not to be. Money is the issue here, not sovereignty over our bodies.
posted by shinybaum at 11:37 PM on October 17, 2010 [23 favorites]


Once again I'm astounded at the philosophical sophistication of the denizens of the sizeable Leftist faction of Metafilter. Just so we're clear, saying that something is "plain and simple" or "clearly" the case doesn't actually make it so.

That's not okay on MetaFilter. And you know it.


I stand corrected. In the future, I will assign you some political label, and then proceed with the ad hominem.

I was also going to post some what Blazecock did, but you can read it for yourself: this woman is clearly racist, and plainly wants to spay and neuter people she considers to be inferior.
posted by notion at 11:47 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


spiderskull: I see what you're saying, but to me, personally, philosophical exercises are best left as academic exercises and nothing more. So yeah, this is definitely utilitarian, but so is the idea that the best solution for anthropogenic global warming is for everyone to kill themselves or stop reproducing. Doesn't make it a good idea, reasonably or otherwise.

Ethics in general is a philosophical exercise, but it's one the world forces on you. Inaction isn't a free choice that absolves you of responsibility. So even if it sounds utilitarian, that doesn't mean it isn't the right decision, or that you can just discard it on the basis of being utilitarian.

However, as best I can tell, this doesn't seem like a good use of utilitarianism. As usual, the right solution to the horrible utilitarian question is to think outside the box and not be forced into the dichotomy in the first place. If I had to speculate on what to do here, I'd say the right utilitarian proposal is to act like Portugal; devote the enforcement resources to harm mitigation instead and stop persecuting addicts. They don't want to have kids, but they're forced into the outskirts of society where they don't have reliable or free access to birth control. If you didn't do that, and instead focused on preventing harm while focusing on reintegration into society, I think you'd find they avoid it on their own.

tl;dr version; just hand out the birth control at the same place you hand out clean needles and welfare checks and they'll take it themselves. No need for persecution and trickery.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:47 PM on October 17, 2010


If you would support the right of an addict to have an abortion (and many here support the concept of abortion as an absolute right, I think), why would you be against them excercising their rights to not have children at all, whatever their reasons?

Harris isn't going after all pregnant addicts across all economic and ethnic groups, but exploiting predominantly poor, black women.

Those human beings aren't making their own, independent decision to be sterilized, they aren't coming to Harris on their own after emerging out of a hermetic bubble, they are fulfilling Harris' moral and political agenda in exchange for cash.

We can examine that agenda on its own, by reviewing Harris' statements about the human beings she wants to sterilize. This is not inconsistent with recognizing people's authority over their bodies.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:47 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Rather, money obscures sovereignty over our bodies. It's the difference between providing a real choice and imposing ethical decisions on other people by stealth and bribery.
posted by shinybaum at 11:49 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't mean to be flippant here but $300? Children may be hard work when they are growing up, but even in a purely economic analysis they provide something of an insurance policy against being old and destitute with no one to take care of you.


Anyway, this clearly should be illegal. I wonder how pro-lifers feel about this.
posted by delmoi at 11:49 PM on October 17, 2010


What's so bad about wanting to ensure kids are healthy and born to good families?

My name is not "those people".

posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:56 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Hi. Former heroin addict here. I don't actually want to have kids, so when I was a junkie, I might have considered tubal ligation for $300, because, yeah, it gets that desperate. But Christ, the thought that I'd let someone cut into me for for any reason other than medical neccessity, for any amount of money, sickens me now.

When you're on smack, you can only think as far ahead as your next fix. It's a positively horrifying addiction, and it is incredibly cruel to take advantage of a junkie when they're weak and sick and in need of relief, which is what these good Christians are doing.

Why don't they contribute some cash to public rehab facilities? I was desperate to quit, but uninsured. Every local public health resource I tried had nothing to offer. No slots in the programs, no funding for the programs. I finally took matters into my own hands and cleaned up on my own.

I was not a lost cause, and I'd probably make a decent parent if doing that held any interest for me. I'm sure I'd fare at least as well as my alcoholic father. Do they have a fund to stop alcoholic fathers yet?
posted by apis mellifera at 11:58 PM on October 17, 2010 [98 favorites]


If they had this here, I'd happily take their money.
posted by pompomtom at 11:59 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


notion: “and didn't you mean to select "thesophomoron" as your handle instead?”

thesmophoron: “That's not okay on MetaFilter. And you know it.”

Well. The problem is that it's a really stupid joke that anybody could make about anybody, considering the fact that we all have made-up names here. 'Oh gee, I've got a notion that you're wrong, ha ha!' Making fun of somebody's username should be banned unless you're actually clever about it, and 'ha ha, thesmophomoron!' is probably the most idiotic pun I've heard all week.

We're not very far into this week, yet, though. So I guess there's still hope.
posted by koeselitz at 12:09 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Making fun of somebody's username should be banned unless you're actually clever about it, and 'ha ha, thesmophomoron!' is probably the most idiotic pun I've heard all week.

It was actually a bit more clever than that: combining the "moron" pun with the "sophomore" pun. User name mockery is a pretty low form of wit, true--but I think in general no good can come of trying to treat this dumb proposal as if it is an object for rational analysis.
posted by Schmucko at 12:14 AM on October 18, 2010


Who cares whether the people involved are addicted to drugs or not?

Paying people to undergo irreversible medical procedures is unethical, in a very VERY general way. Yes, you can get away with it if you are researching treatment and compensating people for their time. Yes, there are probably some other exceptions, too. This really just isn't one of them.

Also not OK:

- Paying a drug addict for their organs.
- Paying a drug addict to contract syphilis for research purposes.
- Paying a drug addict to kill somebody for you.
- Paying a drug addict to vote for you for political office.
- Paying a drug addict to lie on your behalf.
- Paying a drug addict to pretend they're going out with you to impress the popular kid in school.

Get the idea? Ethical rules are a little harder to get around than you might think... You can't just target one group or another and say, "HEY! You know that thing that we always thought was bad? Well, it's really OK with drug addicts/Muslims/Christians/Jews/whites/blacks/hispanics/men/women/gays/the poor/the rich/intellectuals/non-intellectuals/farmers/city slickers/suburbanites/those with bellies with stars/those with non upon thars."

If you disagree, please take my advice and do not apply to be on the human research review board at your local reputable university. Also, stay the hell away from me and my family, because I'm sure you'll find some reason why we need to be cut on.
posted by dsword at 12:16 AM on October 18, 2010 [15 favorites]


They should offer this to outraged moral absolutists too.
posted by londonmark at 12:17 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


apis mellifera, you've managed to post the first argument against this group that wins any real sympathy from me. Hysteria, moral indignation, and idealism, not so much. Children born to addicts are a HUGE burden on society, and the "homes" and situations they are innocently born into are horribly undeserved. I'm not sure that reducing the number of children who suffer that path is easily labeled a "bad thing".

Thank you.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:26 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


a pregnant woman with an active drug addiction really IS endangering her child, and condemning that child to a life where being born into poverty pales in comparison

Ah yes, the unborn, not-yet-even-conceived children take precedence over the here, now, breathing, women who are in addiction.

Someone explain to me the logic of the argument that the targeted women are considered to be unfit and incapable of raising children YET somehow at the same time fit and capable of making semi-permanent to permanent choices of optional surgery?

Oh, yeah, their agency never matters because people are busy worrying about "spaying the beasts".

Groups that dehumanize people from the outset are generally not the folks you want to be going to for ideas on humanitarian social policy.
posted by yeloson at 12:26 AM on October 18, 2010 [12 favorites]


Hitler would be so proud...
posted by 1000monkeys at 12:30 AM on October 18, 2010


Sorry guys, I didn't mean to derail. I had a reasonable observation about the inherent inconsistency of generalizations denouncing generalizations, followed by a dumb, lowbrow, grade school joke. I honestly thought he was a troll, but I should have looked at his comment history.

Though I'm still a little baffled by the thin red line in ad hominems, feel free to delete any posts you like.
posted by notion at 12:30 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Project Prevention board members. Past contributors and supporters include Laura Schlessinger . Mother Jones had this article in 2001 and in 1998 Salon showed just how deluded founder Barbara Harris is.
posted by adamvasco at 12:33 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Once again I'm astounded at the philosophical sophistication of the denizens of the sizeable Leftist faction of Metafilter. Just so we're clear, saying that something is "plain and simple" or "clearly" the case doesn't actually make it so."

thesmophoron, your second sentence is absolutely correct. Saying that something is "plain and simple" doesn't actually make it so. Just as pointing out that fact doesn't make it not so.

Just as labeling someone "Leftist" (for...mentioning the word eugenics?) doesn't actually make them so.

As for my label of eugenics, I think the definition given by Unified Medical Language System of the National Library of Medicine:

Applied science or the biosocial movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population. Usually refers to human populations.

matches the aims of this Project pretty closely. There's not much moral judgement in there that I can see.

The moral part, for me, comes in (as many above have mentioned) when the money does.
posted by jet_manifesto at 1:20 AM on October 18, 2010


It's entirely possible for the people running the program to be delusional and have some incredibly ugly ideas, and the program itself not to be particularly unethical.

My test is, does this violate the autonomy of the person? I can't see that it does. If this transaction is a violation of autonomy then so is paid blood donation, or any job where there's a risk of injury.

Does this cause harm to a person? Possibly, with greater risk for tubal ligation, however a vasectomy is outpatient work.

That said, because it's not wrong, doesn't make it right. Counseling, contraception, education are all better ways of reducing the number of unwanted children. There's an argument on utilitarian grounds that this is a waste of resources, and there's an argument on theological grounds that contraception is wrong, but I really can't see the argument from the right to personal autonomy that this is unethical.
posted by Grimgrin at 1:24 AM on October 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


... I really can't see the argument from the right to personal autonomy that this is unethical.

I would argue that a drug addict is by definition lacking or in a reduced state of personal autonomy due to their addiction. As an addict you are by definition illogical - you are willing to put your addiction above other, more rational needs. I think an addict is not capable of "proper" informed consent to an irreversible medical procedure when their addiction is in the mix.

This raises its own issues about who/what to deem worthy of informed consent, but I think the difference between sober and addicted is big enough to make this program unethical.

That said, I don't seem to have the same extreme anti reaction that other posters do to this, maybe I need to recalibrate my moral compass ...
posted by scodger at 1:42 AM on October 18, 2010


thesmophoron: "Anyone want to give a go at explaining how it's not pretty straightforwardly a eugenics project?

Um. Because it has nothing to do with genetics?
"

Just to be clear, eugenics has nothing to do with actual genetics, beyond a belief that certain genes (say, white, blonde and high-cheekboned) make a person superior or inferior and hence worthy or unworthy of the right to procreate.

But I'm sure the fact that this charity's 'work' will disproportionately affect poor, vulnerable and desperate people whom history's previous eugenicists have long identified as a problem to be solved by sterilisation is entirely coincidental.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:45 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is one of the divides between right and left right here. People who chose to use drugs can now choose to not have children. Fewer drug addicted babies born into an absolute fucking nightmare. Fewer abortions. Fewer kids locked in a closet while mommy goes off on a binge. Fewer kids beaten to death by mommy's latest co-dependant psycho.

But no, *this* offends human dignity!

I'm sorry, but God damn you people. Goodbye.
posted by codswallop at 1:49 AM on October 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


I guess the "violation of personal autonomy" argument is the one that quite a few people have made indirectly, which is that those in desperate need of cash for their next hit are not necessarily "free to choose". Much in the same way we have laws to cover those who are deemed unable to make their own free choices due to mental issues, being under the age of consent, under threat of extortion or violence, etc. The program, to me, treads similar moral ground to the Bumfights films, where homeless people were paid to engage in humiliating acts. There is sense in which respecting personal autonomy means not exploiting those who are weak.
posted by jet_manifesto at 1:50 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


People who chose to use drugs can now choose to not have children.

People could already choose not to have children, codswallop, particularly in countries like the UK where contraception and tubal ligation are free.

Giving money to drug addicts to make them undergo surgery is not an appropriate way to behave. It is using their bodies to satisfy someone else's emotional needs.
posted by communicator at 2:00 AM on October 18, 2010 [12 favorites]


What's so great about children that everybody must have the ability to produce them, even when they want to prevent that themselves? Aren't you guys denying all agency to the drug addicts here?
posted by shii at 2:17 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bear in mind that we're talking about the UK here, people, so some US-based assumptions might not be correct (for example, the demographics of people with drug problems, others below).

People who chose to use drugs can now choose to not have children.

They already have that choice: "In most parts of the UK, a vasectomy is available free of charge under the NHS."

As mentioned above, I suspect that giving money to help addicts get clean might be more appropriate and useful. But there are people (Peter McDermott for one) in this thread with much more knowledge than I, so I'll defer to them.

My test is, does this violate the autonomy of the person? I can't see that it does. If this transaction is a violation of autonomy then so is paid blood donation.

I understand your logic, but for what it's worth, paid blood donation is also banned in the UK, if I understand correctly. It certainly doesn't seem to be standard (see National Blood Service).
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:25 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


paid blood donation is also banned in the UK, if I understand correctly. It certainly doesn't seem to be standard (see National Blood Service).

You can sell blood for medical experimentation - the criteria are very strict and not open to any drug users in any case.

You can't even donate if you've ever used iv drugs. You can't sell blood to be used for transfusions under any circumstances I think.
posted by shinybaum at 2:33 AM on October 18, 2010


This is a tough one.

The difficulty is that vasectomy, male sterilization, is not reversible. Tubal ligation, the female version, usually is - reversals have 98% success rate. Here are comparative articles on Wikipedia.

The ethical dilemma is that a drug addict has impaired decision making skills, and I wouldn't be able to forgive myself for asking someone with impaired decision making to make any kind of permanentm life-altering decision.

My gut feeling is that you cannot ethically propose that someone accept A) a definite short-term benefit ... paired with B) something that is long-term, irreversible, and may turn out to be either a benefit or a detriment to their future life.

We really, really, really need to create a method for fully reversible male sterilization.

(There's one being tested, RISUG. In it, the sperm tube is internally coated with a sperm-destroying mixture of plastic and organic chemicals, which can be flushed out later.)
posted by krilli at 2:43 AM on October 18, 2010


My gut feeling is that you cannot ethically propose that someone accept A) a definite short-term benefit ... paired with B) something that is long-term, irreversible, and may turn out to be either a benefit or a detriment to their future life ...

—— not when they are in an obviously impaired state, I mean.
posted by krilli at 2:44 AM on October 18, 2010


Just for info, I got a vasectomy as a single, childless UK resident with no trouble whatsoever - unless you count the doctor giving me a long, level stare and saying "You need to be absolutely sure about this" as being "trouble".

The money aspect of this is dodgy. The fact that a US charity is sterilising UK residents is dodgy. The claim that addictive tendencies are hereditary - while having a certain degree of scientific support in certain cases - is well dodgy. And yet I find it hard to get overly concerned about this, mainly because I am really, really concerned about overpopulation, and frankly anything that encourages people not to spawn is going to get at least some degree of approval from me.
posted by Decani at 3:23 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really, it's a starkly utilitarian policy

But that's the thing - it's not even close to utilitarian - these people don't have any freaking clue about the numbers involved, namely:

How many chronic drug users never get clean - even with help?
Of that proportion, how many have children?
What are the effects, developmentally, socially, etc on those children?
What are the costs of those children on society?
How does that compare to children from other substance abusers, e.g alcohol? (pro-tip, on any drug statistic you care to name, in terms of cost to society, alcohol is leading the race by a million miles. But we all like to get pissed, so no one takes the societal cost of alcohol seriously).

The reality here is such a policy in the UK would effect well under 1000 kids in any given year. Probably under 150. Certainly, under 50 is in the realm of possibility. Contary to popular belief, there aren't that many heroin addicts (in the UK), and even fewer having children.

There is no cost-benefit calculation involved here - it's a flawed policy ignoring the wealth of literature and best practice recommendations published on the subject, based the preconceptions of a tiny group of people working largely outside the well-established sector, aimed at punishing and demonising an already marginalised - and tiny - group of people in society, and ignoring any of the questions asked in generating any kind of public policy, not to mention the huge costs of other, less topical drugs.

I'm not talking about of my arse here - I have worked professionally in the alcohol and other drugs sector, and when I see the innumerable groups doing inspiring, amazing, literally life-saving work and how they struggle - not just for funding but - for publicity, understanding, resources, and more, and then I see one-dimensional cowboy bullshit like this, I get upset.

Drug addicts are people too, people with a terrible problem and they need our help and understanding, not our judgment. They are already marginalised and ignored by the greater society, paying them hush money and telling they don't even deserve to breed - a right anyone else has - is discriminatory, patronising, and so so destructive. You could be that drug addict one day, or your family member, or your best friend. So rather than telling them what they can't do, let's focus on letting addicts know what they can do, that they do have choices, and options, and support.
posted by smoke at 3:25 AM on October 18, 2010 [19 favorites]


So the idea here is to tempt unspeakably desperate people with the one thing they need in order to procure more of their unspeakably addictive substance, in exchange for their fertility itself. This is somehow a defensible action to people? To entertain an image of autonomy in decision-making in this scenario requires a diabolical level of blind-eye-turning.

What happens when various individuals get clean. Will the charity pay for reversals? If the reversals fail, will the charity pay damages to the individuals? These people were unquestionably "under the influence" when making these choices, by the very definition of their participation in the program. What other rights will they have to prosecute the charity as a result of being strong-armed into medical decisions while not of sound mind or body?

Or are there currently detailed interviews, physical and mental exams, video evidence, and an external review of each case, proving that these individuals are in a proper state to make this kind of decision?

Still, it has been instructive to read many of these comments, and see the thought processes of those supporting many of the practical tenets of eugenics.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 3:28 AM on October 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


That there's the least bit of deviation in response to this from "life sentences for all involved" is pretty much why we're doomed as a species.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:30 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


A quick perusal of the projectprevention website and the beeb article didn't show me what the average guy who decides, for any reason, to get a vasectomy has to pay in the US or the UK.
posted by Fraxas at 7:13 AM on October 18


In the UK it's free. We have this terrible socialist nanny-state nightmare thing called the NHS...
posted by Decani at 3:34 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is one of the divides between right and left right here. People who chose to use drugs can now choose to not have children. Fewer drug addicted babies born into an absolute fucking nightmare. Fewer abortions. Fewer kids locked in a closet while mommy goes off on a binge. Fewer kids beaten to death by mommy's latest co-dependant psycho.
What does this have to do with right v. left? The right doesn't even want abortion or birth control. And "the left" doesn't like fucking eugenicists. Sounds like common ground to me!

---

Also, where the hell does it say you can't make fun of people's usernames?
posted by delmoi at 3:38 AM on October 18, 2010


The right doesn't even want abortion or birth control.

Well, the Roman Catholic Church doesn't. Most Protestant pro-lifers, not wanting much truck with natural law theology, are completely okay with birth control, as far as that goes.

And I'm a little nonplussed by all the outrage, even after having read the entire thread. Incentivizing the behavior of drug users would seem to need to be a violation of their personal autonomy in every case or in no case. But most of the people objecting are probably completely fine with condescending paternalism as directed in any number of different directions, but because this one has to do with sex they completely lose their shit.

I just don't get it.
posted by valkyryn at 4:03 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


At base, I read this as a case where social services practice is grossly inefficient, and attempts to improve it unpalatable.

There is little question that the many and several cases where drug users have kids that then go on to either be taken off them or who grow up to be a net drain on society are undesirable. Travel on a London bus for a year and I'd guarantee that on at least one day you'd secretly wish for the power of instant confiscation of a child from its parents.

But the problem with this scheme is not so much the condescending paternalism, the wacky politics of the charity or even the thin end wedge of eugenics, but rather that the trade-off is so unethical:

It's a permanent procedure to deal with what might be a temporary problem incentivised, basically, with the offer of a few free fixes - which is what £200 is. It's a cynical scheme designed to prey on drug users' need for a fix.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:12 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can see that women could have an IUD or Implanon fitted (not sure how common the latter is in the UK though) but there is no equivalent for men - no long-term, multi-year duration contraceptive. It's the permanence of it that bothers me. It reminds me of when people with disabilities were sterilized and involuntarily given contraceptives. Is an addict in a great frame of mind to have an irreversible procedure carried out?
posted by mippy at 4:50 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


most of the people objecting are probably completely fine with condescending paternalism as directed in any number of different directions, but because this one has to do with sex they completely lose their shit.

Wow.

That's a bit of a stereotype!

I'm sure you could address the many good arguments made in this thread about why this is bad, both pragmatically and ethically, rather than writing off a whole point of view by claiming to know what's going on inside the heads of people you have never met.

(After all, right wing groups are hardly a model of sober, responsible and reasonable behaviour when it comes to dealing with sex, are they?)
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:00 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, but God damn you people. Goodbye.

MMkay, buh-bye!

What's MeFi's policy on calling down the wrath of a vengeful deity?
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:07 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dangling money in front of addicts as an incentive for them to allow what would otherwise certainly be considered grievous bodily harm in any criminal court is deeply, deeply unethical. An addict does not have freedom of choice. Those who argue that nobody is obliged to accept are either blithely ignorant of what physical addiction means, or being completely disingeneous about it.
If this "charity" was trying to convince drug addicts to forfeit parenthood without any incentive, it would be quite ethical. If it offered shelter, or food in exchange for the sterilisations, it would already be quite dubious. Offering money, which in their circumstances is akin to directly handing them their next fix, is utterly monstruous.
As for the utilitarian argument, you could also use it to justify a program in which the addicts would be offered bags of dope of which, say, one third would be poisoned, the addicts being informed of the risk. It would be the addicts' own "choice" to take them, and the resulting deaths would certainly ensure that those addicts wouldn't be able to cause harm to anybody anymore. How ethical would that be?
posted by Skeptic at 5:09 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


About half of vasectomy reversals work.
posted by josher71 at 5:17 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


but it's interesting that a group of Americans would acknowledge that poverty is something one can be born into and not a moral failing or lack of personal responsibility

No, it's really not, unless you don't know much about America.
posted by empath at 5:23 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


This PDF of an article from The Journal of Law in Society ("Why Caring Communities Must Oppose C.R.A.C.K./ Project Prevention: How C.R.A.C.K. Promotes Dangerous Propaganda And Undermines The Health And Well Being Of Children And Families") is an excellent in-depth examination of the issues involved.

* C.R.A.C.K. = "Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity," also known as Project Prevention
posted by taz at 5:31 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


These projects creep me out and are offensive, but in the interests of maintaining honest commentary, it should be pointed out that Barbara Harris, though loony, does not come across like the staunch racist that some have portrayed her to be. Evidently, more than half of the women who've taken her up on her offer have been white. There's no evidence she targets poor black women more than poor white women, so at best you could call her classist in this regard, except that she makes the point that it's women with addictions who can't afford their children who are causing the problems, so it wouldn't make sense, if you follow her logic, to go after Beverly Hills coke fiends. Additionally, her husband is black, her own children mixed-race and she and her husband have adopted / fostered several children from black, drug-addicted mothers.

I think she's a lunatic and I don't like the company she keeps (Dr. Laura, et al) and the whole enterprise is a bad precedent. Nonetheless, I believe in an accurate presentation of facts, which in this case tend not to support the claim that hers is a predominately racist-motivated endeavour.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:37 AM on October 18, 2010 [22 favorites]


This is incredible disturbing. I can't believe there is anyone willing to seriously defend it, especially after reading the comments by the group's leader.

I mean, if someone calling himself Hitler2.0 got elected with the tag line "Hitler - New updated policies for our modern capitalist society!" and advocated paying disenfranchised people desperate for money to be "spayed" like dogs (in just those words, like the leader of this group is saying), could the parallels be any clearer and more worrying? Or maybe everyone would cry Godwin and say we bleeding-hearts are being too sentimental about human dignity.

This is why we have history classes, people.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:42 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, where the hell does it say you can't make fun of people's usernames?

The right to make fun of usernames was established in The People v Languagefat, v17(3) Journal of Comparative Metatalkery, p136ff.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:44 AM on October 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Paying people to undergo irreversible medical procedures is unethical, in a very VERY general way.

It's weird the things that override otherwise sensible people's support in a person's autonomy over their own bodies.
posted by spaltavian at 5:47 AM on October 18, 2010


Good comment Dee. Shame that no who needs to read will.
posted by Snyder at 5:49 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


More seriously, I've known probably dozens of people who were regular heroin users, and other than two accidental ODs and one deliberate (didn't want to go to jail after too many shoplifting offences), the rest are fine & clean now, living useful lives as teachers and scientists and so on.

But given the opportunity of AUD$400 or so in the hand at the time, it's possible that some may have jumped at this opportunity, which would be a damn shame because I'm sure they'd be great parents, if they aren't already.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:49 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want this procedure. I could use the money right about now and I don't want children. I guess I'm an alcoholic, I wonder if they would set me up, or if they would discriminate against me.
posted by fuq at 5:51 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The difficulty is that vasectomy, male sterilization, is not reversible.

Yes it is—or rather, it can be. See josher71's link above; also, there's a guy in St. Louis, Dr. Sherman Silber, who's known for his success in doing such reversals.
posted by limeonaire at 5:55 AM on October 18, 2010


[few comments removed - please don't do that shit here. Go to MetaTalk or head home, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:24 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's no evidence she targets poor black women more than poor white women

Well except that a third of the "clients" are black, which is grossly disproportionate. Black people and white people do not use drugs at significantly different rates. The number of black drug users in the US is roughly proportionate to the population, but that isn't the case with Project Prevention's clientele. That the founder of the program has black people in her personal life really REALLY does not mean racism can't be involved in the goals and methods of the program. It's irrelevant.

A program that targets a marginalized group of people for greater harm and that has a disproportionate impact on a racial minority is a racist program. Amongst other things.
posted by Danila at 6:25 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end." -Kant

I've studied Kant's ethics, and it's not at all clear to me what his opinion about this program would be. How is offering people money to voluntarily be sterilized, quite arguably helping themselves and preventing them from having a child with birth defects who they're ill-equipped to care for, treating them as only a means?
posted by John Cohen at 6:30 AM on October 18, 2010


The same organization has been doing this in the United States for years.
posted by John Cohen at 6:33 AM on October 18, 2010


A program that targets a marginalized group of people for greater harm and that has a disproportionate impact on a racial minority is a racist program.

You're characterizing it as "harm." Obviously, not everyone considers it "harm." Some people think the organization is actually doing good. At the very least, the members of the organization think so -- that's why they're doing it. If they're right, then would you be "racist" for opposing it?
posted by John Cohen at 6:38 AM on October 18, 2010


I wonder if this fairly direct cash infusion has affected the UK heroin market.
posted by graventy at 6:39 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


MOAR LIKE KOESEDITZ AMIRITE
posted by waraw at 6:39 AM on October 18, 2010


You shouldn't pay people money to make ethical decisions that affect them in the long term, while they're addicted to something that requires money. That isn't a real decision and it isn't a real choice.

It seems awfully selective to say that drug addicts can't be trusted to make an intelligent, voluntary decision to get sterilized, but they can be trusted to make intelligent, voluntary decisions about protected sex and having children. Personally, I think it's the opposite: I trust them much more to make a smart decision to get sterilized, than to be diligent in deciding when and whether to have children.
posted by John Cohen at 6:46 AM on October 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


How is offering people money to voluntarily be sterilized, quite arguably helping themselves and preventing them from having a child with birth defects who they're ill-equipped to care for, treating them as only a means?

They aren't offering money, they're offering dope. Really. There are many alternatives to paying addicts in cold, hard cash that could prevent them immediately spending the money in a fix. It is clearly what is intended here. If anything, directly giving them little bags of heroin would be more ethical, as it would at least cut out the dealer.
posted by Skeptic at 6:48 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


FOREIGNERS ARE STERILIZING OUR DRUG ADDICTS

Oh yeah serious comment? You're all a bunch of closed-minded reactionaries.
posted by grobstein at 6:50 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


My gut feeling is that you cannot ethically propose that someone accept A) a definite short-term benefit ... paired with B) something that is long-term, irreversible, and may turn out to be either a benefit or a detriment to their future life.

You can't offer anyone anything that might turn out to be either good or bad in the long term? I don't see how you could possibly stick to that principle. Any major life decision is potentially regrettable.

We seem to be focusing almost entirely on the adults involved, not the children who might or might not be born. As long as people aren't being forcibly sterilized (and no, offering money, even to people who really really want money, does not constitute force), if it causes fewer children to be born with birth defects or into abusive families, why isn't that worth it?
posted by John Cohen at 6:57 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


They aren't offering money, they're offering dope. Really. There are many alternatives to paying addicts in cold, hard cash that could prevent them immediately spending the money in a fix. It is clearly what is intended here. If anything, directly giving them little bags of heroin would be more ethical, as it would at least cut out the dealer.

Would you then characterize all welfare as "offering dope" if the recipients are drug addicts (or cigarette smokers or alcoholics)? Even if the welfare is earmarked for a specific purpose, e.g. food stamps, that just frees up the recipient's other money to spend on other things.
posted by John Cohen at 7:03 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


One word: barbaric.
posted by ericb at 7:16 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


It seems awfully selective to say that drug addicts can't be trusted to make an intelligent, voluntary decision to get sterilized, but they can be trusted to make intelligent, voluntary decisions about protected sex and having children.

If you can show me where I said that I'll agree with you. I agree with you anyway. Fertility is often involuntary and I know many people who are absolutely incapable, on or off drugs, to control their own. This is a poor situation, for them and their children. Mental illness, learning disabilities, social situations, whatever- all contribute to unwanted, unneeded and in some cases disastrous pregnancies. I myself, of almost completely sound mind and body, have been accidentally pregnant at a time I could and should have been perfectly capable of making that a decision and not a chance. I will not argue that people are anything other than messy, flawed and sometimes dumb as fuck when it comes to their own bodies.

Offering a fake choice is force, though. It exploits a need - take away the fulfilled need and would they do it anyway? if they wouldn't, it's force. If they would, well good on them for screwing a nutcase out of £200.
posted by shinybaum at 7:17 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


It seems awfully selective to say that drug addicts can't be trusted to make an intelligent, voluntary decision to get sterilized, but they can be trusted to make intelligent, voluntary decisions about protected sex and having children.

If you can show me where I said that I'll agree with you.

I'm not really interested in hashing out the precise details of what you did or didn't say. I was drawing out an implication from your comment along with other comments in the thread. If I slightly skewed the literal meaning of your comment, so what? That wouldn't change my comment.
posted by John Cohen at 7:19 AM on October 18, 2010


One word: barbaric.

Three words: begging the question.
posted by John Cohen at 7:19 AM on October 18, 2010


Would you then characterize all welfare as "offering dope" if the recipients are drug addicts (or cigarette smokers or alcoholics)?

If that welfare specifically targets addicts, and is given in the most convenient way for them to indulge their addiction? Heck, yes.

I'm getting tired of your sophistry in this thread. Project Prevention could avoid most criticism by offering actual help to its "clients" (ugh), food and shelter, rather than cash. If they haven't done so it's because they believe it wouldn't be nearly as efficient in achieving their aims. They've quite simply taken the position that the end justifies the means, even if the means is the addicts' own addiction. If you agree with that, please state it clearly, but don't hypocritically pretend that serious addicts are free to reject such an offer.
posted by Skeptic at 7:33 AM on October 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


A friend of mine who is a grade school teacher talked with me about a similar idea five or six years ago. He teaches in an economically disadvantaged part of town and has seen, time after time, year after year, the effects drugs and alcohol has had, primarily with his students but also with the parents. In his mind there is no doubt whatsoever that drugs and alcohol along with low to no financial support and unplanned parenthood is not only cyclical but often stays in the family. He has been teaching long enough that some of his former students are now parents.

The idea was framed to him (as I remember) by a comedian. Have a government-run program that offers a carton of cigarettes and 24 case of beer in return for sterilization. Keeping in mind that this was supposed to be a (sick) joke, it really isn't that much different from the program being offered here. The supposed benefit would be that it would break the cycle of drug and alcohol passed on through learned behaviour, would potentially save the state bucketloads of cash and would potentially reduce crime rates. The money saved could be reinvested into the community.

Keep in mind that I don't support the idea, and neither does he because it is morally/ethically abhorrent. There's all kinds of perfectly valid nasty issues surrounding the idea as discussed upthread, but the IDEA of it, if it could be implemented with all kinds of very strict parameters and whatnot, and with a moral compass that is properly aligned (but who is to say that so and so's moral compass is aligned properly? More of a minefield there...) is very attractive.

Obviously the potential for abuse here is huge. Targetting certain ethnic groups, economic groups, disadvantaged groups and so on could be very easily done, especially if the people offering the "service" had a long view with a long term goal. Is the idea scary? Damn right it is. Is the potential for it to turn into something horrible and nightmarish there. Once again, damn right there is. Is that potential to risky? Yeah, maybe. And I think that's why government, especially left-leaning democratic government, will never offer this kind of program.
posted by ashbury at 7:41 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


also, there's a guy in St. Louis, Dr. Sherman Silber, who's known for his success in doing such reversals.

Which is great if you live in St Louis, rather than 3000 miles away. And if you have the - somewhat more than £200 - money to pay for it. Junkies aren't generally known for their high earning potential.

I feel it's a short leap from this to 'sterilise all mothers on benefits' and the whole thing feels incredibly uncomfortable to me.
posted by mippy at 7:42 AM on October 18, 2010


I am trying to look at this in an unflinching manner, without going into Godwin mode and one bit is interesting to me: if you accept the premise that a drug addict is reason-impaired enough that they ought not to make these serious life decisions, like being sterilized, then would not that same individual also be making not particularly great decisions about, say, raising kids? I have a hard time buying that you're so impaired as to be unable to responsibly make one decision and then, somehow, are perfectly fine in another arena.

What would change if *waves magical surgical wand* these procedures were easily and relatively cheaply reversible?

Perhaps the sticking point here is the permanence of the procedure?
posted by adipocere at 7:46 AM on October 18, 2010


The sticking point is the bribery.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:48 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Last year, she founded CRACK (Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity)

That's not how you spell community. I think one can tell from the name alone that this is a kneejerk reactionary group whose purpose is to grab headlines rather than offer any long-term solution to society's problems. So yeah, that's not how you fucking spell community.
posted by ob at 7:51 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


if you accept the premise that a drug addict is reason-impaired enough that they ought not to make these serious life decisions, like being sterilized, then would not that same individual also be making not particularly great decisions about, say, raising kids?

The difference is that nobody is offering them cash or dope for kids. And those who are offering them cash for unprotected sex belong, in my opinion, in prison. And sterilised. With a pair of rusty scissors.
posted by Skeptic at 7:55 AM on October 18, 2010


If that welfare specifically targets addicts, and is given in the most convenient way for them to indulge their addiction? Heck, yes.

No, that's not what I'm asking about. I'm asking about all welfare, as long as it ends up going to drug addicts. I'm not talking about exclusively giving welfare to drug addicts.

I'm getting tired of your sophistry in this thread. Project Prevention could avoid most criticism by offering actual help to its "clients" (ugh), food and shelter, rather than cash. If they haven't done so it's because they believe it wouldn't be nearly as efficient in achieving their aims. They've quite simply taken the position that the end justifies the means, even if the means is the addicts' own addiction. If you agree with that, please state it clearly, but don't hypocritically pretend that serious addicts are free to reject such an offer.

Often, ends do justify means. That isn't inherently bad. Beyond that, I'm not going to dignify your vague charges with a response. You're trying to shift the discussion to be about me rather than if this is a program or not. You don't know enough about me to be able to say whether I'm being "hypocritical."
posted by John Cohen at 7:59 AM on October 18, 2010


edit: rather than if this is a good program or not
posted by John Cohen at 8:00 AM on October 18, 2010


If that welfare specifically targets addicts, and is given in the most convenient way for them to indulge their addiction? Heck, yes.

Which raises another question: How do they know if the people volunteering for this are addicts? What prevents just anybody from doing this?
posted by symbollocks at 8:03 AM on October 18, 2010


They've quite simply taken the position that the end justifies the means, even if the means is the addicts' own addiction. If you agree with that, please state it clearly, but don't hypocritically pretend that serious addicts are free to reject such an offer.
I must say, I'm not even slightly troubled if someone who isn't "free to reject" $300 for surgery loses their ability to have children.
posted by planet at 8:06 AM on October 18, 2010


My impression is that the root of this argument comes down to a definition of informed consent. Specifically, can a drug addict be trusted to make an informed, rational decision about this subject? If not, do we have the right -- or even the duty -- to take that choice away from them? It's the same old battle that right and left clash over time and time again in a variety of guises: the rights and responsibilities of the state to intervene in people's lives to protect us from ourselves.

Perhaps the sticking point here is the permanence of the procedure?

Yes, I think that's probably a big part of the emotive response to this argument. As the treatment becomes more permanent -- and denies these people arguably one of the most fundamental rights and biological drives we have as humans -- the emotional stakes get higher. Insofar as it's possible to quantify these things, I'd expect to see a gradually increasing amount of outrage as you slide along a scale like:

"Charity gives payments in exchange for...

(i)...use of condoms/spermicidal cream
(ii)...use of hormonal birth control (daily pills)
(iii)...use of a birth control that works a month at a time
(iv)...year-long sterilisation
(v)...indefinite but safely reversible sterilisation
(vi)...permanent sterilisation."

I suspect that, at the bottom end of the scale, most people would agree that it's pretty reasonable, encouraging drug users to use protection. But as the longevity of the treatment increases toward being permanent, people will think it's more and more objectionable.
posted by metaBugs at 8:07 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The sticking point is the bribery.

What if they were paying $100 for drug addicts to get vaccinated against blood-borne (i.e., needle-borne) illnesses like hepatitis B? That doesn't feel nearly as 'icky' to me -- I think there's something more going on here than just the ostensible wrongness of financially incentivizing medical decisions.
posted by thesmophoron at 8:10 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


John Cohen, I believe I've explained in my various posts in this thread why I believe this is a very bad program. I understand that at least some of the people behind it have very worthy aims, and that they are being motivated by direct experience of the fate of children of drug addicts. But I find that the means used in this case are unconscionable, and I do resent your attempt to ignore the very conscious choice of those means, and the implications of offering cash to addicts. So, yes, please do address the program, and don't try to escape some of the moral implications: does the very worthy aim of alleviating child suffering justify the very obvious means used here? I don't think so, and I believe I've explained why. What do you think?
posted by Skeptic at 8:22 AM on October 18, 2010


I think there's something more going on here than just the ostensible wrongness of financially incentivizing medical decisions.

Same old thing really - ignoring social problems in exchange for a quick fix that fixes nothing, using extreme examples of women with lots of children taken away by the state or adopted and the financial burden they are (which is probably miniscule, tbh) and the way that if the US government would just get off its high horse about the fact that people have sex, less women would get pregnant to begin with. Add that to a history of forced or coerced state sterilisations on 'unfit' populations including the simply physically disabled, trying to apply a US solution to what is not a straightforwardly equivalent problem in the UK (we don't not provide contraception, so contraception isn't the problem) and somewhat shrill laying of blame at the door of the poor and disenfranchised rather than society, and there you have some small amount of umbrage to be taken.
posted by shinybaum at 8:27 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


All life is precious
posted by ReWayne at 8:30 AM on October 18, 2010


Well, sure, one of the things going on is babies! That particular topic tends to jettison rationality more or less immediately. There's just something hardwired into human beings that says "we have the right to babies! Lots and lots of babies! No matter what!" That's what makes these topics so fraught with tension.
posted by adipocere at 8:31 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


adipocere Now, that is a pretty nasty and unjustified ad hominem. If those addicts would simply be forcibly sterilised, would it be OK for you, considering the worthy aim?
posted by Skeptic at 8:36 AM on October 18, 2010


"we have the right to babies! Lots and lots of babies! No matter what!"

There have been governments that restricted legal births (China) and those that enforced them (Romania). I'm personally in favour of people can keep their grubby morals out of my body. My preference results in some unwanted, abused and neglected children. So do the other options. We need to deal with that.
posted by shinybaum at 8:42 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Where was that ad hominem, and to whom?

If you're talking about babies!, are you suggesting that human beings deal with the subject of reproduction with a cool, detached rationality?
posted by adipocere at 8:45 AM on October 18, 2010


On the upside, their "turn in a DVD player for $20" program has been a raging success.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:46 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Last year, she founded CRACK (Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity)"

When I was a kid, my father explained why we couldn't go to a place that advertised "Go Karts," by saying, "Any place you see a 'K' substituted for a 'C' is run by Nazi sympathizers."
posted by klangklangston at 9:07 AM on October 18, 2010 [15 favorites]


You'd better change your name to clangclangston.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:13 AM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


if you accept the premise that a drug addict is reason-impaired enough that they ought not to make these serious life decisions, like being sterilized, then would not that same individual also be making not particularly great decisions about, say, raising kids?
It's all about the permanence. Current drug addicts may not remain addicts their entire lives. If they were offering drug addicts regimented birth control in exchange for cash it probably wouldn't be bad. In fact, it might not be that bad.
posted by delmoi at 9:14 AM on October 18, 2010


adipocere, you clearly aimed your barb at one side in this argument (and not the "think of the children" side, btw). If you want to dismiss the rationality of your opponents, please address their arguments and don't second-guess their motivation.
posted by Skeptic at 9:14 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I support this. If you've seen the devastation drug addicts having kids actually has, you might, too. If you've seen children malnourished because the parents have been high for days and didn't have money for food anyhow, you might. If you've seen children covered in filth and not recognize food other than crackers, you might. If you've seen siblings split up by foster care once they have been removed from the immediate danger, you might. So go ahead and deplore this on philosophical grounds and hope that addicts might turn their lives around. I'm not willing to be so patient at the expense of as-yet unborn children brought into this world to be abused, neglected, and tortured in such a fashion.
posted by l2p at 9:16 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


No, Skeptic. I'm afraid you've second-guessed my motivation. As you said, please don't do that.

My point is that people tend to get a little crazy about the topic of reproduction. That is all.
posted by adipocere at 9:16 AM on October 18, 2010


I can see a levelheaded, rational argument that this may decrease suffering. But the history of eugenics is so recent and so horrific that anything resembling intentional mass sterilization must be condemned.
posted by miyabo at 9:22 AM on October 18, 2010


I'm gonna start paying addicts $300 to have an abortion.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:26 AM on October 18, 2010


It's all about the permanence. Current drug addicts may not remain addicts their entire lives. If they were offering drug addicts regimented birth control in exchange for cash it probably wouldn't be bad.

FTFA: "1,059 have chosen Depo-Provera, 1,272 Tubal Ligation, 892 IUD, 121 Implanon, 38 Norplant, and 51 Vasectomies."

Also: "1,714 clients have been Caucasian, 913 African-American, 441 Hispanic, and 364 of other ethnic backgrounds"
posted by thesmophoron at 9:29 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


codswallop: “This is one of the divides between right and left right here. People who chose to use drugs can now choose to not have children. Fewer drug addicted babies born into an absolute fucking nightmare. Fewer abortions. Fewer kids locked in a closet while mommy goes off on a binge. Fewer kids beaten to death by mommy's latest co-dependant psycho. But no, *this* offends human dignity! I'm sorry, but God damn you people. Goodbye.”

You may well be gone, but I want to say this just in case you're not:

There's a contradiction inherent in the tack you and Ms Harris are taking here. That is: you say that you think drugs are a choice, that people are choosing to use drugs. In fact, that's a major part of Ms Harris' point in the Salon profile of her (though it's admittedly more than ten years old now) – she says that people have a choice to use drugs, but, as she puts it, "the kids don't have a choice." That is: it's not fair that people can choose to use drugs, but that the poor kids don't get to choose whether or not they're born in desperate circumstances. She's adamantly opposed to the notion, agreed upon nearly unanimously by psychiatrists, that drug use is not a choice (at least not simply) but something more akin to a disease.

But – this is where the contradiction comes in – she doesn't treat it as though it's a choice. Sterilization is generally permanent, and she's encouraging people to go with the most permanent forms of sterilization, too. The implication is clear: people who are drug users now will always be drug users. And that's the disturbing bit of all this to me; it says "these people will always be like this, and they'll never make good parents."

Purely anecdotally, I can be certain that that's not always true. As it happens, a bunch of the best parents I know were drug addicts at one point in their lives. Seriously, the best daddy I know grew up in horrible circumstances, and was addicted to meth for a while in his early twenties. He cleaned up, married a friend of mine, and got into medical school; he's got a few more years to go, but I'm constantly amazed at the awesome things he does. And his kids are extremely lucky to have an awesome guy like that for a father.

But he would admit himself (as someone else did above) that at his worst moments he would've gone for this in a heartbeat; yes, he was that desperate.

Society isn't supposed to encourage people to do permanent things to disfigure their bodies. I don't know much about incentivizing drug use, and I don't really support that kind of thing myself I guess; but this is in an entirely different category. We don't allow people to disrespect their bodies in this way; a parallel case would be selling kidneys and lungs for organ transplants. We don't let people do that because it's not ethical to allow people to disfigure themselves and their bodies on that scale because of some temporal thing like cash. Someone who is (I guess) an extreme libertarian might argue: 'but it's their body, and their choice – and it's going to a good cause! Organs are in short supply in many quarters, and a kidney or a lung could do a lot of good for someone who needs it!' That may well be, but allowing people to do such permanent things to their own bodies which forever impair their ability to live healthy and complete lives, even if it's their choice, is simply wrong. We don't allow people to do things like this which can so very easily be mistakes, which can easily end up being tragic. It would be tragic if my friend hadn't ended up a dad – the affection he has for those kids, and the good that I know he's doing the world, are irreplaceable.

I think one reason people find this so disturbing, by the way, is because it's so counter to compassion and fellow-feeling for those who are struggling with drug use. To offer to take away someone's ability to have children permanently sends them a clear message: 'we don't think you'll ever be capable of raising kids. Ever.' People might not see it at the time they're getting the operation, but that's an extraordinarily hurtful instance of human disrespect, I think. This is not to say that having children is the highest or finest distinction a person can attain, but we all know that parenting is a special skill that requires some of the best qualities in human beings. To offer to take that away from people – to offer to pay them to take it away – is a distinct insult to their worth as human beings. Yes, even drug users have worth as human beings – lest we "normal people" forget it, there but for the grace of god go we, and people really can clean their lives up and become better people. But this program flies in the face of all those efforts, and works directly counter to all anti-drug programs; those programs say "clean your life up, you can make yourself better, you can be a productive member of society" – whereas this program says "y'know what, forget it... you'll never be good enough to be a parent."

This is not just a loose implication, either; it's actually a direct part of the campaign. The Salon article notes the slogan, in block letters, on the brochure for the program: "DON'T LET PREGNANCY GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR DRUG HABIT." When it's stated that plainly, the sneering tone and general disdain for and devaluing of those who use drugs is pretty obvious. And they're the ones who put this out there. There really is something monstrous in crude about all of this, and I think that's why people are really upset here.
posted by koeselitz at 9:47 AM on October 18, 2010 [17 favorites]


You'd better change your name to clangclangston.

Now THAT'S how you make fun of someones name.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:52 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is not just a loose implication, either; it's actually a direct part of the campaign. The Salon article notes the slogan, in block letters, on the brochure for the program: "DON'T LET PREGNANCY GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR DRUG HABIT." it's stated that plainly, the sneering tone and general disdain for and devaluing of those who use drugs is pretty obvious.

What if someone values a drug habit above getting pregnant?
posted by spaltavian at 9:53 AM on October 18, 2010


I wonder whether this is really a feasible charity, though, by the way. Aren't there aspects to this that seem difficult to verify?

I know a few people who don't want to have kids. I should see how hard it is to fake being a 'drug user' so they can grab the money; what does it take, smelling like gasoline and wearing dirty clothes? Even beyond that, this seems quite open to hacking. What if you get Norplant and then promptly have it removed? That's gotta cost less than £200 to have taken out – heck, it might be free under National Health, I dunno. And how do they verify that you've actually had the procedure done? All we'd need is a few doctors or nurses in the right place willing to lie about it or just outright refuse to do this sort of thing and it'd be either (a) shut down or (b) bankrupt. The whole system seems quite exposed to 'hacking.'
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 AM on October 18, 2010


I remember reading about such a charity a few years back — maybe on here, maybe on Salon, though I can't find it now — and they offered addicts a one-time sum of money to be sterilized, and a larger, yearly sum of money to go on Norplant. The organizers said most of the addicts were choosing sterilization. And as for being "right-wing", the organizer's founder had adopted four FAS children and said, "I want anyone who critices us to adopt an FAS or FAE child, and then tell me we're wrong to be doing what we do."
posted by orange swan at 9:58 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


spaltavian: “What if someone values a drug habit above getting pregnant?”

People nowadays seem to have the interesting notion that, so long as you choose to do something, it's good for you. They think this despite the fact that it's proven wrong dozens of times every day. As I said above, there are things which we as a society shouldn't allow people to do, because a mistake on those points can be terribly tragic.

For example, we don't allow clinics where people can walk in, pay a small fee, and have help killing themselves. That's because it would mean creating an economy that would have a lot of unfortunate side-effects; competition for would-be suicides, for example, is a bit horrific to contemplate.

What about the parallel I mentioned above? As I said, I think this is pretty similar to the organs-for-profit problem. Do you think people should be allowed to sell their own kidneys or lungs for cash?
posted by koeselitz at 10:04 AM on October 18, 2010


orange swan: “And as for being ‘right-wing’, the organizer's founder had adopted four FAS children and said, ‘I want anyone who critices us to adopt an FAS or FAE child, and then tell me we're wrong to be doing what we do.’”

You should probably read the Salon article that adamvasco linked above – it sounds like you're talking about the same woman we're talking about here. Of course, it should be noted that the number of kids you adopt is not in any way an indication of whether you are "right wing" (or, for that matter, of whether you're a good parent). And as for being "right wing," I don't know; but she comes off as pretty awful in the article. Blazecock Pileon's comment above is correct; she likens these people to dogs, and says she's just trying to spay and neuter them. That's hard for me to swallow, no matter who she happens to vote for or how many kids she's adopted.
posted by koeselitz at 10:08 AM on October 18, 2010


Still waiting for someone to explain to me how spending money on children who do not yet exist and may never exist is more important than spending money on people who do exist...
posted by yeloson at 10:47 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


It would be tragic if my friend hadn't ended up a dad – the affection he has for those kids, and the good that I know he's doing the world, are irreplaceable.

There are any number of non-tragic things your friend might have done if he hadn't ended up a dad, though; in some parallel universe, you might be going on about how his dedication to volunteerism, science, or art was irreplaceable. And in another parallel universe, maybe he'd be miserable because he had kids. Both outcomes of this decision are potentially "tragic", not just one of them... yet we don't mind rewarding people monetarily when they choose to have children.

I agree that centering these payments around drug use is problematic, especially since that implies some dog-whistle politics these people are too afraid to openly admit to, but the idea that "society isn't supposed to encourage people to do permanent things to disfigure their bodies" is ridiculous. In a lot of ways, this is exactly what our society does -- it pays people to choose vocations, foods, recreations, and medical procedures which result in permanent disfigurement or other obvious harm, generally for somebody else's profit. We love tragic choices so much that we've rigged our society so that our people are led down a path lined with tragic choices on every side... and then we howl and rend our clothes over the tragic choices which lie in wait for those who leave the path, and how awful and tragic it would be if we had that kind of society.

In short: sterilization-for-pay, suicide booths, and organs-for-cash are considered problematic because they run counter to what our quantity-of-life-over-quality-of-life system of morality expects from its citizens, not because "a mistake on those points can be terribly tragic". You want to see tragic choices, look to the environment which has created millions of addicts in the first place... all to enrich a few people who clearly prefer that their loyal "dogs" continue to procreate.
posted by vorfeed at 10:56 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Quietus: You decide when
posted by benzenedream at 11:11 AM on October 18, 2010


krilli writes ""The ethical dilemma is that a drug addict has impaired decision making skills, and I wouldn't be able to forgive myself for asking someone with impaired decision making to make any kind of permanentm life-altering decision."

However we ask them to make these decisions all the time re: assorted criminal offences. Heck some States will even put them to death for their crimes.
posted by Mitheral at 11:29 AM on October 18, 2010


Somehow, Roddenberry knew.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 11:48 AM on October 18, 2010


I wonder what would happen if we paid addicts not to use drugs...
posted by Mister_A at 11:48 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"the rest are fine & clean now, living useful lives as teachers and scientists and so on."

Well if that ain't a Lifetime movie waiting to happen. "From Junkie to Scientist: The Jane Doe Story". Color me skeptical.
posted by MikeMc at 11:53 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting arguments. A common theme is that it is wrong to offer money to people to influence their decisions about reproduction. But the government has done that for a long time -- giving baby bonuses and child support payments to encourage people to have babies. Is it right to bribe people to have babies but wrong to bribe them to not have babies?
posted by binturong at 12:12 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: spaltavian: “What if someone values a drug habit above getting pregnant?”

People nowadays seem to have the interesting notion that, so long as you choose to do something, it's good for you.


I didn't express and I don't share that notion. It's largely irrelevant.

What about the parallel I mentioned above? As I said, I think this is pretty similar to the organs-for-profit problem. Do you think people should be allowed to sell their own kidneys or lungs for cash?

Yes, though I'm no Randnoid. Effective regulation can curb, but certainly not eliminate, the perverse incentives that would be a consequence. Or put another way, I don't believe it's a choice between our current organ donation system and an updated Upton Sinclair. If done fairly and competently, it might even result in less waking up in a Bangkok ice baths.
posted by spaltavian at 12:49 PM on October 18, 2010


I keep falling on both sides of the following argument:

- if a drug addict IS NOT capable of making good decisions on bearing children, then how can they make this life altering decision?
- if a drug addict IS capable of making good decisions about on bearing children, then why can't they rationally make a decision to do this sterilization if they so choose to?

...because it's not like they are being rounded up and sterilized against their will.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 1:03 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you really want to stop the problem of abused children, there are plenty of ethically sound ways to do that by addressing the problems of drug addiction and poverty rather than sterilizing the unwashed masses.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:04 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well except that a third of the "clients" are black, which is grossly disproportionate. Black people and white people do not use drugs at significantly different rates.

I think you're missing an important point, which is that the likelihood that a black American will live on the economic margins of American society is much higher than the likelihood that a white American will. So, as Harris targets poor people exclusively, the percentage of black Americans who accept her deal - all other things being equal - will be much greater than the percentage of black Americans in the whole population. Additionally, the addicts targeted by Harris tend to do the sorts of drugs more commonly found in urban areas, where the percentage of black residents is greater than in the nation as a whole. Controlling for these sorts of factors - there are several others, too - it's pretty hard to say that she's "targeting" anyone but the poor - which she herself admits. This fact alone makes black women more likely to be ensnared in this plan . . . but it's not evidence that she planned this per se. And, there is at least some evidence that she is not a rampant racist.

She's still nuts, though.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:05 PM on October 18, 2010


That's not such a hot foundation, but rewarding prudence most certainly is.

That would be your lesser point, actually.

Coercion is something an institutional review board looks at very carefully when money is offered for participating in a biomedical study. To offer an addict, whose whole problem is not controlling behavior, some money to be used for short-term drug highs in exchange for a long-term, permanent decision that may eventually be a harm is moral turpitude (ah, is there any other kind?). The literature indicates that most drug "addicts" (there's a loaded term) mature out of their habit eventually. This research is borne out by my personal experience as well. The thinking behind this "charity" is mean-spirited, selfish, and immoral. I think it's designation as a charity should be examined carefully.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:05 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Doh, I pasted the wrong quote in there. It should have been: But my greater point stands.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:06 PM on October 18, 2010


- if a drug addict IS NOT capable of making good decisions on bearing children, then how can they make this life altering decision?
- if a drug addict IS capable of making good decisions about on bearing children, then why can't they rationally make a decision to do this sterilization if they so choose to?

...because it's not like they are being rounded up and sterilized against their will.


The point is someone who is CURRENTLY an addict is not in their right mind. Posts like yours work under the assumption that someone is and simply will always be a drug addict, period.

It's the same reason we try to stop people who are extremely depressed from jumping off of buildings. This whole movement is standing up there on the building with them yelling, "JUMP! YOU'LL SAVE US TIME AND MONEY AND WON'T ABUSE YOUR KIDS THAT WAY!"

I mean, it's not like we're rounding them up and throwing them off against their will.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:10 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some people think the organization is actually doing good.

Careful now. I may have to Godwin this.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:10 PM on October 18, 2010


Solon and Thanks: stop reacting and actually read my post.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 1:25 PM on October 18, 2010


I think there's a difference between whether offering economic incentives for sterilization to certain groups of people can ever be a good idea and whether this group offering these economic incentives to this group of people is a good idea.

I think it's pretty clear that allowing this group to offer these economic incentives to this group of people is a bad thing.

A cogent discussion of the first point would be quite interesting, but it'd be hard to have-certainly too hard for me to have, in my four minute break here at work.
posted by Kwine at 1:34 PM on October 18, 2010


I think you're missing an important point, which is that the likelihood that a black American will live on the economic margins of American society is much higher than the likelihood that a white American will. So, as Harris targets poor people exclusively, the percentage of black Americans who accept her deal - all other things being equal - will be much greater than the percentage of black Americans in the whole population.
Is she targeting drug addicts, or poor people? If she's targeting poor people how is it not just straight up Nazi eugenics? White people are actually more likely to self-report using drugs then black people. Obviously rich drug addicts would be just as bad at parenting then poor ones.
posted by delmoi at 1:38 PM on October 18, 2010


"the rest are fine & clean now, living useful lives as teachers and scientists and so on."

Well if that ain't a Lifetime movie waiting to happen. "From Junkie to Scientist: The Jane Doe Story". Color me skeptical.
My guess is pretty much all your knowledge about drug users comes from TV movies.
posted by delmoi at 1:40 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you're missing an important point, which is that the likelihood that a black American will live on the economic margins of American society is much higher than the likelihood that a white American will. So, as Harris targets poor people exclusively, the percentage of black Americans who accept her deal - all other things being equal - will be much greater than the percentage of black Americans in the whole population.

Dee, none of that changes the fact that the program is racist. The structural expression of racism is more significant and harmful than the personal. By targeting people who have already been marginalized and discriminated against due to institutional racism (which is why black people are more likely to live on the economic margins of American society), the program takes advantage of the racism inherent in their circumstances. The program also contributes to their marginalization even further. It is racist.

To put it another way, now we go from "racism causes black people to be more likely to be poor" to "thus black people are more likely to be targeted for sterilization bribes". That is clearly racist.

This fact alone makes black women more likely to be ensnared in this plan . . . but it's not evidence that she planned this per se. And, there is at least some evidence that she is not a rampant racist.

Well to be clear, I don't care if she planned it or not. I think the view that racism is always personal and psychological is harmful and untrue. In fact, this program is a clear example of the difference between personal racism and structural racism. In the end, black women are disproportionately harmed by it. That the program is simply building on top of the foundation laid by racist institutions that came before it does not make Project Prevention (i.e. C.R.A.C.K.) less racist.
posted by Danila at 1:52 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


correction, this is a quote: This fact alone makes black women more likely to be ensnared in this plan . . . but it's not evidence that she planned this per se. And, there is at least some evidence that she is not a rampant racist.
posted by Danila at 1:54 PM on October 18, 2010


Solon and Thanks: stop reacting and actually read my post.

I'm not sure in what way you think I misread it.

Your post framed it as an either/or thing. Either they ARE NOT capable of good decisions about children (and thus should not make this decision) or ARE capable of making good decisions about children (and thus should be allowed to make this one.)

I think that boils the issue down into much too simple terms, and works on problematic assumptions that are what led to this group being formed in the first place: that someone who is addicted to drugs IS or IS NOT capable of something, forever and ever amen.

I don't necessarily think someone who is seriously addicted to drugs is in a position to make good decisions about bearing children now, but I do think that they could likely make good decisions in the near or distant future, and manipulating their inability to make good decisions now to remove the ability for choice from their future self is unethical.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:05 PM on October 18, 2010


Well if that ain't a Lifetime movie waiting to happen. "From Junkie to Scientist: The Jane Doe Story". Color me skeptical.

Here are two real-life stories that might qualify for 'movie-of-week' status:
From homeless to Harvard: How the daughter of two drug-addicts defied the odds to become an Ivy League graduate. Oh, it's already a three-time Emmy-nominated film.

Harvard and Heroin.
posted by ericb at 2:35 PM on October 18, 2010


"the rest are fine & clean now, living useful lives as teachers and scientists and so on."

Some who lead 'useful lives' are also addicts.
Addicted Doctors Still Treat Patients.

Treating Drug-Addicted Doctors Is Good Medicine.

Medical Boards Let Physicians Practice Despite Drug Abuse.

Why Are So Many Doctors Addicted to Drink or Drugs?
Forget treatment and prevention. I say we sterilize the bunch!
posted by ericb at 2:42 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is she targeting drug addicts, or poor people? If she's targeting poor people how is it not just straight up Nazi eugenics? White people are actually more likely to self-report using drugs then black people. Obviously rich drug addicts would be just as bad at parenting then poor ones.

Project Prevention, don't forget to go after the educated and successful physicians.
"Figures from the U.K., U.S., Holland and France suggest that 15% of all drug addicts are physicians."
posted by ericb at 2:52 PM on October 18, 2010


Obviously rich drug addicts would be just as bad at parenting then poor ones.

Or just as good. I think there are high-functioning chronic drug users whose judgement is as good as yours or mine. They just don't get written up in the newspaper and no after-school specials are done about them. If you see some raggedy crack head on the street they don't necessarily represent every "addict". Our friend Sigmund Freud was a steady cocaine user, por ejemplo. There are many other examples.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:57 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is she targeting drug addicts, or poor people? If she's targeting poor people how is it not just straight up Nazi eugenics?

Well, because being poor isn't a genetic condition. Don't get me wrong, I think this is a pretty horrible program. But eugenics is about trying to get rid of inheritable traits by preventing breeding. While poverty can be "inherited" socially, it is very rarely genetic (I suppose certain genetic disabilities or genetically low "IQ" could help engender poverty).

Another way of saying this: this would in no way eliminate poverty no matter how much you did it, because people born into "middle class" households become poor all the time. Whereas eugenics could get rid of, say, blonde hair by never allowing blondes to reproduce (kind of a reverse-Nazi eugenics thing there).
posted by wildcrdj at 3:06 PM on October 18, 2010


I want this procedure. I could use the money right about now and I don't want children. I guess I'm an alcoholic, I wonder if they would set me up, or if they would discriminate against me.

If they turn you down, fuq, next time we go drinking, if you buy, I'll kick you in the nuts several times if that helps.
posted by jonmc at 3:20 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This would be way less complicated if they just tainted street drugs to cause sterility, kind of like the good old days.
posted by Menthol at 3:24 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or just as good. I think there are high-functioning chronic drug users whose judgement is as good as yours or mine.

This is an important point. Most addicts do not fit the stereotype promulgated by this woman and many others in the thread. In fact the majority of drug addicts - for all substances - are holding down steady jobs, often with a family, etc etc.

In short, they "look" successful and highly functioning members of society, and may in fact be so by many common definitions.

In light of this and the other facts I mentioned in my previous comment, it's obvious that this is targetting poor people moreso than drug addicts; yet another deeply problematic aspect to this.
posted by smoke at 3:57 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


wildcrdj: “Don't get me wrong, I think this is a pretty horrible program. But eugenics is about trying to get rid of inheritable traits by preventing breeding. While poverty can be "inherited" socially, it is very rarely genetic (I suppose certain genetic disabilities or genetically low "IQ" could help engender poverty).”

This implies eugenics, however – because it's permanent. As I said above, that permanence implies that there's something about the people being sterilized that will never change – that they'll always make awful parents, and that there's absolutely nothing that will ever change that fact. And the implication that there are some people who are simply beyond hope in this arena is clearly an implication of a eugenic program.
posted by koeselitz at 4:01 PM on October 18, 2010


OK, that makes sense. And it's quite possible that these idiots have a stronger belief in the heredity of poverty/drug use than I do, and thus may be motivated by eugenics-like concerns (thinking they can breed out poverty or drug use). My point is simply that, regardless of the ethics, you can't "breed out" poverty or drug use the way you can a purely genetic trait like hair color. It didn't quite occur to me, though, that the proponents of this thing might believe they can.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:14 PM on October 18, 2010


Our friend Sigmund Freud was a steady cocaine user, por ejemplo. There are many other examples.

Like Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein whacked out of her nut on laudanum.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:24 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Keith Richards, who made Exile On Main Street high on just about the whole drugstore.

and Sid Vicious, who....well, never mind Sid.
posted by jonmc at 4:28 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know what I noticed when I was addicted to heroin? There are addicts everywhere, addicts of all different kinds. All around you. All the time.

If you have the good fortune (or sense) to make alcohol your drug of choice: TGIF! Woohoo! Boot n'rally! Lampshade on the head. Party!

But if you take heroin: you're scum. Street trash. You're probably half-retarded and smell like gasoline. You're not to be trusted, certainly.

Almost all of the really bad things I can say about dope, all of the things that make it arguably worse than booze, stem from the fact that it is illegal and difficult to obtain. There are lots of prefectly functional opiate addicts. As long as they have a supply and the means to pay for it, you'd really never know if the person sitting next to you at work or on the bus is on the junk. I was a functional addict for two years until my habit escalated beyond what I could afford. I always used to have good luck catching one dealer early in the morning. I was out of work, but took advantage of the fact that many of his clients were not. They were making their 6am score so they could be at their jobs by 8.

Having experienced both situations, I'd rather live with a dope fiend than an alcoholic. At least when a dope fiend has his dope he's relatively well-behaved. This has not been my experience with drinkers.

I'm not prepared to cite any sources at the moment, but it's my understanding that heavy drinking while pregnant is probably going to do more harm to a developing fetus than heroin use will, and will have much more dire consequences for the child's long-term growth and development as well.

I'm not really trying to make the case that heroin is better than alcohol.
Addiction of any kind just sucks. It's all enslavement.
It just consistently amazes me how so many people happily demonize one kind of substance abuse while celebrating, and ignoring all of the social costs, of another.

I spent most of my life, like a number of people in this thread, having very little sympathy for addicts. I thought addiction should be treated like a disease, sure, not a moral failing--but secretly I thought addicts were all pathetic. Even cigarette smokers. How weak they seemed to me, to have so little self control.

Now, of course, having lived it, I am overflowing with compassion for anyone mired in a chemical dependency. I can grasp how, when looking down the barrel of kicking cold turkey, buying heroin you can't afford becomes a rational choice, if you can call it a choice. It feels like the only choice. Staying ahead of the sickness begins to feel like a fight for basic survival. (Which is why offering free sterilization to junkies is fine, but dangling money before someone who's dope-sick to do the same thing is coercive and wrong.)

I'm glad not everyone is as heartless and obtuse as I was--that some people can have the compassion without having to suffer the pain first-hand.

If anyone really gives a shit about "the children" and the cost to society caused by addiction, they should redirect their attention to stopping the idiotic war on drugs. All of the money wasted on treating addicts as criminals, on busting small time dealers, on incarcerating these individuals, would all be better spent on rehabilitation, on improving access to education and other basic necessities of life--for everyone. I bet children born to homeless people have shitty lives. Shall we sterilize them, as well? Maybe in exchange for a hot meal and a safe place to sleep, right?
OR, perhaps we could build societies that pick people up when they fall down, instead of grinding them into the dust...
posted by apis mellifera at 4:36 PM on October 18, 2010 [12 favorites]


For those denying a eugenicist element to this, I shared this issue on another board, where one nutjob responded:

"There's a lot of evidence to suggest addiction is genetic. I fully support what this charity is doing. If we can't get these people clean, we should at least keep them from spreading their terrible genetics, not to mention having children they don't want or need, or can't provide for."
posted by kafziel at 4:52 PM on October 18, 2010


As long as they have a supply and the means to pay for it, you'd really never know if the person sitting next to you at work or on the bus is on the junk.

You mean apart from the nodding off, rubbing of itchy noses, strained constipated-sounding speech or pinned pupils?

Even if they only took barely enough to function normally and weren't fully on the nod, the pupils are a dead giveaway anytime - at least for anybody familiar enough to recognise it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:55 PM on October 18, 2010


I would like a do-over on this entire discussion, in light of the fact that they are offering the participating addict a choice between irreversible and reversible methods of birth control. Information like that should have been in the FPP text.

And everyone who's foaming at the mouth, calling each other Nazis without having looked at least that far into the issue, shame on you. You ought to be sure before you talk to another person like that.
posted by richyoung at 6:02 PM on October 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well if an eugenetic solution was to be applied, then we should wipe off the entire humankind from the planet, simply because we all have in common the very same chemicals that trigger "pleasure" sensation in our brain.

An apparently "normal", law abiding citizen that lived "perfectly" for 60 years can turn in "junkie" in a few minutes, just because he tried some substance and found it to be the perfect way to have some more happines or to "cure" some unhappiness.

Everybody wants to feel good, but it so happens that not every way will be socially acceptable, as the spillover effects of one behavior will eventually affect somebody that doesn't want to be affected.
posted by elpapacito at 6:13 PM on October 18, 2010


I can see a levelheaded, rational argument that this may decrease suffering. But the history of eugenics is so recent and so horrific that anything resembling intentional mass sterilization must be condemned.

Arguments invoking moral taints or associations by mere resemblance are never very convincing. If something is morally supportable when considered in isolation, how does it become immoral from being associated with something abhorrent (e.g. the T4 Extermination Program)?

If the argument is that the seemingly-innocuous and morally justifiable policy invariably (or frequently) leads to the morally abhorrent one, then what difference does it make whether it was in the recent past or the distant past? Why unlearn a valuable lesson of history after a certain time limit expires?

If the slippery slope argument is not the reason why a taint makes something morally unacceptable, what is?

A taint-by-association can make it difficult to get widespread support for something (because people mentally associate it with that other bad thing) but that's different from saying that it's actually morally wrong. It's just a PR problem, not a moral objection, and can be overcome.

If the argument is that the implementation of the policy will bring up painful memories for victims of the policy it was associated with, or that it insults their memory, that's perverse. It amounts to saying that preventable suffering should be inflicted on innocents to honour their memory.

Taints, bad vibes and negative associations aren't moral imperatives. They're mental heuristics and "red flags" at best.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:26 PM on October 18, 2010


Obviously rich drug addicts would be just as bad at parenting then poor ones.

Drugs generally aren't like after school specials and most people do not get dangerous on drugs. The problem with addiction is what it leads you to do: blow too much money and then do terrible things to get more money.

Rich drug addicts can afford their habit; they're not turning tricks or ignoring groceries to have enough money to score. They have less of a reason to put themselves in another's power to get drugs, which means less abusive pushers/boyfriends with rap sheets around the kids. They can sometimes afford nannies, and they can afford to live in decent school districts with less crime so that their kids are safe. They aren't stealing stuff to get some quick money, and when they get caught, they can afford a lawyer to get probation and mandatory NA so their kids don't go into the system. If they want, they can even afford treatment.
posted by spaltavian at 7:29 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


We seem to be focusing almost entirely on the adults involved, not the children who might or might not be born.

Right. Because the lives of hypothetical, non-existent babies are more important than the well-being of tangible, existing human beings who are marginalized and being taken advantage of, or at the very least, being coerced into making a life-altering decision that they may very much regret in the future.

If courts can throw out contracts by proving that a party to said contract was unable to use clear judgement, or someone can claim rape because they were drunk/high and therefore unable to give consent, how is this any different?
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:42 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]



I would like a do-over on this entire discussion, in light of the fact that they are offering the participating addict a choice between irreversible and reversible methods of birth control.


So, does this mean that for those who do choose the irreversible methods, that there would be compensation if they later changed their minds? Having options is good, not taking advantage of someone who is (almost definitely) not legally/ethically able to give consent is not. And what if someone does wish to reverse their vasectomy/tubal ligation? Is that paid for by the foundation/NHS? Would future fertility treatments be covered? It would be great if someone who knows this could reply, as I'm interested.
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:52 PM on October 18, 2010


As long as they have a supply and the means to pay for it, you'd really never know if the person sitting next to you at work or on the bus is on the junk.

In my experience, all drug addicts are convinced this is true. I have never met a non-drug user who bought it, though.
posted by kate blank at 8:14 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the argument is that the seemingly-innocuous and morally justifiable policy invariably (or frequently) leads to the morally abhorrent one, then what difference does it make whether it was in the recent past or the distant past?

I don't like slippery slope arguments in general. But we know that the invention of sterilization lead several different societies to immediately implement the widespread forced sterilization of people those societies perceived as undesirable. The US sterilized the mentally handicapped, Japan sterilized criminals, the Nazis sterilized just about anyone who wasn't Aryan. These practices persisted right up to the 1970s, in transparent democratic societies with access to modern medical and scientific knowledge. Societies that are not far removed from our own.

In this case the slippery slope is one we've slipped down before. We crawled up slowly and painfully over 60 years, only to stare down it again.
posted by miyabo at 8:34 PM on October 18, 2010


kate blank, what usually tips you off that someone is a drug addict? Just curious. I play "spot the junkie" better than I did a few years ago, but even now, I see people who I've known to be addicts for years, and, at least from a certain distance, they appear normal. Being close and familiar with a drug user is a different story.

As it goes, I don't know many people who are truly non-drug users. I know a healthy number of people who don't use illicit drugs, but most partake of one or more of the socially acceptable ones on the daily.
posted by apis mellifera at 10:41 PM on October 18, 2010


Five dollars! I offer five dollars to the first person to film themselves clubbing their own head with a rolled-up printout of this thread!
posted by tehloki at 11:14 PM on October 18, 2010


Sorry for going on a tangent here, but I've always wanted to ask this question. An adoption requires interviews and background checks. Presumably because the adopted child has a right to a baseline standard of living and semi-capable parents. And most people supports the government taking away a child from neglectful or abusive parents. But how come giving birth to one does not require the same kind of scrutiny? Shouldn't the right of an unborn child to get a decent home, trump the right of its parents to create another life for their own amusements?
posted by bluishred at 11:30 PM on October 18, 2010


The problem with addiction is what it leads you to do: blow too much money and then do terrible things to get more money.

Rich drug addicts can afford their habit; they're not turning tricks or ignoring groceries to have enough money to score. They have less of a reason to put themselves in another's power to get drugs, which means less abusive pushers/boyfriends with rap sheets around the kids....

spaltavian, that's a very pretty, naive picture of addiction. And untrue.

The problems with addiction include blowing too much money and doing terrible things to get more. That's only one problem. Drug-induced personality shifts, emotional instability, health problems, inability to responsibly and effectively manage one's life while high or withdrawing, psychological side effects of long-term drug usage... you've only grazed the surface of the problem.

Rich drug abusers also get involved with controlling personalities. Some do; some don't; but I'd bet my life earnings that more drug addicts end up with controlling, abusive lovers than non-addicts, regardless of income.

Having good income doesn't "free up" an addict to be a passably-good parent, as you have implied.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:40 AM on October 19, 2010


IAmBroom, it might be better if you respond to what I actually wrote, not what you wanted to read. Are you seriously trying to tell me that I don't know about the health consequences of addiction? Seriously? How many qualifiers do you need? Maybe I should have put "Of course they are other problems with addiction, I'm obviously talking about problems within the context of what this discussion is about" in a blink tag.

The biggest problems with addiction for parenting is the loss of economic stability and saftey associated with it. Because, potential personality shifts aside, even addicts generally don't think they can fly and develop an urge to eat people. The assertion that the rich have no more insulation from loss of economic stability and saftey associated is flatly absurd and is an embarassingly after-school special conception of what addiction is. People who are desperate do desperate things, people who aren't, don't. Having good income without a doubt "frees up" an addict to be a passably-good parent. It's doesn't mean they will, it means it is possible.

Since you're are totally unaware of my experiences, I would avoid labeling anything as "naive", especially when you're view of the subject seems gleaned from DARE program propaganda.

but I'd bet my life earnings that more drug addicts end up with controlling, abusive lovers than non-addicts, regardless of income.

Because all addicts are battered women, of course.
posted by spaltavian at 6:10 AM on October 19, 2010


but I'd bet my life earnings that more drug addicts end up with controlling, abusive lovers than non-addicts, regardless of income.

You may be confused about the direction of the causal arrow here.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:42 AM on October 19, 2010


Solon and Thanks: then my point stands.

...if *right now* they are unable to make good parenting decisions, then *right now* they are unable to make a good decision on whether to be sterilized.

...if *right now* they are able to make a good decision about being sterilized (whichever decision that is, which is up to the individual), then *right now* they are able to make good decisions about bearing children (again, whatever decision that is).

My point is that the capability of making the decision is the most crucial point in all of this. Unfortunately, it's not an externality to the drug addict, so no one can make that decision for them.

I believe the best view on this is that paying money to the drug users to be sterilized is at best problematic. If the sterilization was instead provided free of charge, it changes the dynamic of the decision entirely and drug addicts would be empowered to make the correct decision, for them.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 10:15 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would like a do-over on this entire discussion, in light of the fact that they are offering the participating addict a choice between irreversible and reversible methods of birth control. Information like that should have been in the FPP text.

"They" is she. And Harris thinks addicts are animals — dogs. She wants to snip a group of human beings she doesn't like, because she equates them with dogs. This wasn't in the FPP text, either, but it probably should have been. People in this thread who support her campaign of eugenics should know what they are really getting themselves behind.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:04 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


They're not "getting themselves behind" anything beyond the program itself. You don't automatically adopt her worldview just because you don't oppose this concept. If she decided I was an "undesirable" and offered me money to get such a procedure, I'd jump at it. She might think I'm not "worthy" of having children but to me, it would be totally sweet to never have to worry about kids. I can take advantage of her belief system without adopthing the value behind it.

I know she thinks addicts are scum. I do not. What she's offering is still a net benefit for some of them.
posted by spaltavian at 2:06 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


...if *right now* they are unable to make good parenting decisions, then *right now* they are unable to make a good decision on whether to be sterilized.

...if *right now* they are able to make a good decision about being sterilized (whichever decision that is, which is up to the individual), then *right now* they are able to make good decisions about bearing children (again, whatever decision that is).


This assumes that the capacity for the two things are equal, which is absurd. To make an informed, rational decision, one needs only a period of clarity. To raise a child, one needs years. One who has frequently diminished capacity can still make decisions during lucid periods, including "I'm in my right mind now, and I never want to have a kid because of the times when I'm not in my right mind." Put another way, addicts aren't drooling crazies 24/7, which is the implication a lot of the "humanitarians" in this thread seem to be making.
posted by spaltavian at 2:13 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, Blazecock, she wants to snip OR offer Norplant OR Depo-Provera OR intrauterine devices OR (....) to, yeah, a group of humans she apparently equates with dogs.

The lady has said some squicky things, I won't deny that. And I'll willingly stipulate that there may be more effective or humane or respectful ways to approach the problem. But it's pretty clearly not a cut & dried example of eugenics if they are employing some temporary sterilization techniques, i.e., if you want, you can get the kind where it wears off. Indeed, restore that one little fact to the scenario, and it seems like a pretty well-reasoned Utilitarian ethical stance, with all the good & bad baggage that comes with that.

All I'm trying to say is that this is at least complicated enough that we can't simply glance at the headline and jump to the conclusion that she and all of her supporters are a bunch of Nazis.
posted by richyoung at 2:22 PM on October 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


The lady has said some squicky things, I won't deny that. And I'll willingly stipulate that there may be more effective or humane or respectful ways to approach the problem.

Part of the issue with this is how Harris and her sympathizers think this is an abstract "problem", one that requires a Solution that involves exploitation and sterilization. When you're denying the humanity of people you're talking about in abstract terms, the words "humane" or "respectful" never applied in the first place.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:38 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


richyoung: “But it's pretty clearly not a cut & dried example of eugenics if they are employing some temporary sterilization techniques, i.e., if you want, you can get the kind where it wears off.”

See, that's what I'm talking about. I could use that kind of 'sterilization', and I sure as hell could use $200. I think I just became a drug addict. Who's with me?
posted by koeselitz at 2:39 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you are interested in the historical roots of this kind of thinking (i.e., sterlization of the poor and eugenics), NLM recently added to PubMed Central digitized articles from the scientific journal The Eugenics Review published between 1916 and 1926. I find it scary/fascinating to read such politically incorrect thought and handwringing so blatantly stated. While atrocities commited during Nazi experimentation put an end to the popularity of eugenically-based policy options for combatting poverty-related social ills after WWII, forced sterilizations of "imbeciles" and the "feeble-minded" continued in many prestigious hospitals through the 1970's.
posted by Sidthecat at 3:03 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is absolutely abhorrent.
posted by agregoli at 6:08 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now, if they could offer this program for mouthbreathers, I could get behind it.



:-P
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:47 PM on October 19, 2010


spaltavian, my bad. I responded to what you wrote, not what you meant for me to understand between the lines. (You accuse me of not responding to what you wrote, despite the fact that I quoted you.)


And, Mental Wimp: You may be confused about the direction of the causal arrow here.

Nope, don't think so. I didn't imply any direction to a causal arrow.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:35 PM on October 19, 2010


I didn't imply any direction to a causal arrow.

Good to know. The implication was there based on the "end up" formulation.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:08 PM on October 19, 2010


spaltavian: Note that I said "bearing children" not "raising children".

As a father I fully understand the long-term full-life commitment required.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 11:53 PM on October 19, 2010


Good to know. The implication was there based on the "end up" formulation.

Mental Wimp: Ah, I see what you mean. Poor wording on my part.



IAmBroom: but I'd bet my life earnings that more drug addicts end up with controlling, abusive lovers than non-addicts, regardless of income.

spaltavian: Because all addicts are battered women, of course.

Because all those with controlling, abusive lovers are women, of course.

What was your point, again?
posted by IAmBroom at 11:30 PM on October 24, 2010


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