January 6, 2003 10:19 AM   Subscribe

MeFiers have gotten into this before, in terms of forced sterilization. Although it has been around in California for some time, the idea of optional, paid sterilization or long-term birth control is presenting itself in New York City. (NYT reg.req) The founder of the organization that sponsors this paid sterilization/LT birth control has her experience with drug-addicted children, seeing as she adopted four. The FAQ is certainly interesting, but equally as compelling is the 'natural response' to this organization. This is a fact sheet presented by Communities Against Rape and Abuse (Acrobat), and more links here, here, here, and here.
posted by oflinkey (17 comments total)
What a saint, she adopted the poor unfortunate crack babies. Show me someone who does things like that, I'll show you someone who can't be trusted. I am more frightened of someone who wants to save me, than of someone who wants to kill me. Moral crusaders have been behind just about every unjust law one could think of.
posted by son_of_minya at 11:30 AM on January 6, 2003

Hmm. I don't know many people who are willing to adopt one child of a drug addicted mother, or four perfectly healthy siblings. Adopting four crack babies, and then trying to do something to prevent more crack babies, seems fairly saintly to me.
posted by padraigin at 11:41 AM on January 6, 2003 [1 favorite]

I am not calling double post on you, but here was a previous conversation on the subject.
posted by thirteen at 11:42 AM on January 6, 2003

*sigh* No, that looks like a double post. I searched, but apparently not hard enough. Thanks, thirteen. You are very nice about it.
posted by oflinkey at 11:50 AM on January 6, 2003

I bet no one ever reads the archives, and 3 years later is certainly enough time to renew the discussion. I only linked back for additional coverage.
posted by thirteen at 12:11 PM on January 6, 2003

I dunno, it's been 2.5 years since it was discussed, and we do have a whole new slew of people...thus, I think this might bear interesting conversational fruit. Especially since they've changed their policies somewhat, and their branding quite a bit, as they're dropping CRACK and going with Project Prevention now. And yes, Thirteen was tres diplomatic...kudos there!

As to my opinion, I don't really see much wrong with the project. It's not as though they're forcing someone to be sterilized, but they are, for all intents and purposes saying "Look, if you're going to be a junkie, and you don't want to raise kids, then we'll help you not get pregnant."

This seems like a good thing to me, both from the standpoint of not bringing sick and dying babies into the world, and from a cultural standpoint of not needing to provide for those children who are unwanted to begin with.

I think if it were only paying for sterilization, then there would be some ethical concerns. But, since they're allowing things that are easily reversible, i.e., depo-provera and the like, then the addicts have the option of bearing children when and if they want to bear children.
posted by dejah420 at 12:11 PM on January 6, 2003

you know the crack baby thing is a myth right? I mean, it rolls off your tongue well,and is an easy stereotype to perpetuate, but in general, crack cocaine is not linked to any problems on its own. Many if not most time drug addicted mothers are also using alcohol, cigarettes, or are just malnourished and these have a much larger effect on fetal growth and development, as well as babyhood, than crack addiction.

The posters all over Seattle might as well be saying "Need more money for drugs? call us and we'll put you on birth control and you can score a few more times." It doesn't seem to actually address root problems with poverty substance abuse and reproductive health care.
posted by jessamyn at 1:35 PM on January 6, 2003

jessamyn: Of course it doesn't deal with root problems, but it addresses a fairly significant symptom (and a problem in and of itself). In this case, it's probably easier to reduce the symptom (i.e., unwanted pregnancy) than it is to reduce poverty and substance abuse. (Besides, doesn't this qualify as reproductive health care?)

Judging from the comments, the objection is the financial incentive. I don't think people would have the same objection to subsidized reproductive health care, so I take it the problem is with the payment. But people get paid to do things all the time. I'm unsure why this scenario is so different, unless either (1) it's unethical to pay people for reproductive acts (what about egg and sperm donation? surrogate mothers?); or (2) it's unethical to give money to people who will use it for drugs or booze (panhandlers? tickets to rock and roll shows?).
posted by subgenius at 2:15 PM on January 6, 2003

I remember reading an article several years ago about Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity. I think I still have a screen shot of it somewhere. Throughout the online version of the article, there were references to "mothers addicted to C.R.A.C.K.," "the scourge of C.R.A.C.K.," etc. Apparently someone searched-and-replaced a little too quickly... anyway, it sort of highlights why they might be better off with "Project Prevention."
posted by staggernation at 2:57 PM on January 6, 2003

I'm unsure why this scenario is so different....

my feeling is that it's more like 3) it's unethical to take advantage of desperate people who may not be at the best point in their lives to make irreversible decisions Sort of like how we have laws about minimum wage. Just because someone will work for $2.50 an hour doesn't make it ethical to pay them that.

Obviously, this applies to sterilization programs and not to birth control programs which I think are actually fine and dandy.

If you're not desperate, and really don't want kids, then having this program available where you get medical care of your choice [vasectomy, Depo-provera, whatever] for free would be sufficient encouragement. If the $200 makes a huge difference in someone's opinion of getting themselves sterilized, then maybe they're not making the most free decision. It's sort of like how most ethical tattoo shops won't tattoo you if you're stinking drunk. They don't want you to wake up and regret your irrevokable decision [plus you bleed more]. If you believe that people can change, encouraging sterilization under duress is a dicey proposition.

I think it's a good idea to strongly encourage, even via incentives, birth control, family planning and STD prevention, but this program doesn't seem like it's about that.

"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." -Barbara Harris the CRACK lady
posted by jessamyn at 3:18 PM on January 6, 2003

The paper by the Communities Against Rape and Abuse is full of really lame arguments such as "Positive Prevention/CRACK ignores rape, sexual trade and sexual coercion for drugs, money, food or shelter, the overall complex nature of sex and sexual activity among women
substance abusers."

Well of course it does, that isn't its mission. You don't go to a mission shelter to have an abortion, you don't go to CRACK to get one either.

Money for no love...
posted by woil at 3:21 PM on January 6, 2003

I thought the name change was particularly interesting. I saw an article about how Naral Pro-Choice America is the new name of National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, effectively taking the word "abortion" out of their name, and adding the all important "America" necessary to show their patriotism. It would seem that B. Harris has decided that a snugglier approach to advertising her organization will indeed help it along.
I personally think that the idea of offering LT birth control is an excellent, but permanent sterilization is something I cannot support. If a man or woman is willing to prostitute themselves (assuming that they would not otherwise choose to do so, i.e.- not a professional prostitute/ member of COYOTE), why wouldn't they sterilize themselves for $200? I would like to see more about how many women choose Depo Provera or Norplant over tubal ligation.
posted by oflinkey at 3:28 PM on January 6, 2003

jessamyn... taken advantage of?

It seems to me that paying someone to have a service done that usually costs money isn't exactly taking advantage of them...

So they're doing it to buy more crack. Know what? I really don't care. That's their problem, and as long as they aren't truly being taken advantage of (ie: Being paid below minimum wage, whored out, enslaved, whatever) then if they want to be sterilized, so much the better.

The fact is these people were totally able to make good decisions for themselves prior to addiciton. They knew (or were taught and ignored) the implications of their new life with drugs. And, as the lullaby goes: Que sera, sera.

(Then again, sometimes I like the Futurama notion of $0.25 suicide booths... but don't let that out... Oh boy, I better don that asbestos jacket!)
posted by shepd at 4:26 PM on January 6, 2003

my feeling is that it's more like 3) it's unethical to take advantage of desperate people who may not be at the best point in their lives to make irreversible decisions

How is $200 for a year of birth control (the Depo Provera option) an irreversible decision? It seems like the people going for the full sterilization would be the ones who know they shouldn’t have any more children. The $200 is just an incentive to find the time to do so (maybe they have a low-paying job and can't afford to miss a day?).
posted by Gary at 7:52 PM on January 6, 2003

jessamyn: The problem with your argument, I think, is that there is no financial incentive to choose sterilization over long-term birth control. To the contrary, a chronic alcoholic or drug abuser would receive about $800 a year (PDF) rather than a one-time-only payment of $200, assuming the program pays each time a woman agrees to use long-term birth control. For a person who wants to undergo reproductive-health services in consideration for money -- and I'm not saying that's the case, but it was raised above -- sterilization is the less profitable choice.
posted by subgenius at 8:45 PM on January 6, 2003

I'm with Jessamyn on this:

I hope this won't get you in trouble with your sociology class, but the "crack baby" phenomenon was overhype. Basically, women with a wide range of problems, some of whom took cocaine, gave birth to children with a number of problems. Immediately (and predictably) this was blamed on cocaine, and the "crack baby" phenomenon was born.

Stanton Peele in answer to Why are crack babies so screwed up?

Peele, S. (1990, July), The new thalidomide (drinking and pregnancy) . Reason, pp. 41-42.
posted by y2karl at 10:08 AM on January 8, 2003

I'm not a crack addict, but I sure do wish someone would pay me that kind of money and cover the cost of my birth control. Between exams and the cost of the pills it's quite a bit over the year, especially without insurance.
I wonder if they drug test, or if they'll just take my word for it...
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:21 AM on January 8, 2003

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