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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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142 Responses

  1. NBarnes
    NBarnes July 24, 2006 at 5:41 am |

    You know, there aren’t a lot of people in the world more enthusiastic than me about voluntary sterilization. And I love the idea of people of all classes getting government-funded sterilization for the asking.

    But COERCING people into doing it for $300… ew.

    And I just read John Rogers’ condemnation of Dershowitz’s abdication of any and all moral standards. Now I need a shower and to stop feeling ill.

  2. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl July 24, 2006 at 6:59 am |

    I often read complaints from younger white middle-class feminists about how their doctors refused to sterilize them, or second-guessed their request to have their tubes tied.

    Heh. Back when CRACK came to NYC, I remember commenting on a online discussion group “Oh, so -that’s- all I needed to do to get someone to tie my tubes… shoot a little heroin!”

    There is something to be said for getting good birth control to people with severe drug addictions, but coercive sterilization is quite another matter.

  3. Mama-Feminista
    Mama-Feminista July 24, 2006 at 7:58 am |

    The consequences are far-reaching and have everything to do with which women are appropiate mother material and which women have rights to their own bodies in every aspect of health care. Any women who has given birth knows the pressure and coersion located within the health care system on all levels. I just blogged about a great article in the NY Times yesterday that represents just another arm of syptomatic effects from the lack of education and or access to birth control. The problem with these programs whether they are state supported or not is the mentality that you can separate the mothers needs from the childs. If you want to heal the child you the worst possible and last resort should be to take the child out of the home which happens to 62,000 kids a year, thus populating our juevenile detention centers and then our prisions (not every kid of course but the majority).

  4. bmc90
    bmc90 July 24, 2006 at 8:41 am |

    Obviously sterilization should not be the first resort as opposed to the very very last for dealing with the social problems caused by drug addicition, but if a woman addicted to crack wanted an abortion wouldn’t we be holding a bake sale to raise the money and walking her to the clinic? Nonwithstanding the travesty the National Socialists made of eugenics as a concept, is it bad if you take the coercive element out of it but make it available to people struggling hard with life (or is non-coercive euginics a contradiction in terms)?

  5. TQL
    TQL July 24, 2006 at 8:43 am |

    So, since you are against “coersive” birth control, what would you recommend to keep drug addicted women from having children? Or, is that a “right” that all women should have regardless of how fit they are to fill the responsibility of being actually be mothers.

    After having worked with a fair share of drug addicted women and having kids dumped on family members by these women, I think they should be given options and STRONG encouragement to limit their ability to have children until they are off drugs and their lives are more stable.

  6. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 24, 2006 at 9:10 am |

    I don’t get how this is more coercive than my company paying me to work. I need to eat, so I work. If I didn’t work, then I’d be just as desperate for money as these women are, and I’d work for money.

    Their reproductive rights are precious, but so is my right to do what I want 8 hours a day. I give up my freedom, temporarily, for money. They give up the ability to have babies, temporarily, for money. (Yes, temporarily. In fact, they get paid MORE for going on temporary birth control, because they get paid annually for staying on it.)

    And they probably should. Have we heard from women who feel that they WANT to have babies while addicted to crack, but had to take the cash instead and are upset? I’d guess that we’d find many more women who are happy to have free birth control.

    The woman running the program has adopted FOUR babies from an addicted mother. So, I mean, she’s putting her money and life where her mouth is. It’s not as though she’s some pie-in-the-sky dreamer who doesn’t realize the reality of the street.

  7. Katie
    Katie July 24, 2006 at 9:11 am |

    Jill-I completely agree with you. But the majority of Kansas City is situated in Missouri, and the urban center is in Missouri (including Prospect Avenue, which is mentioned in the article). You damn blue-staters seem to think that the name of the city would actually indicate which state it’s in. :)

    (Sorry, just a little pet peeve of mine!)

  8. Darleen
    Darleen July 24, 2006 at 9:12 am |

    Why am I not bothered by this?

    Maybe working in a DA office for 8 years in a state that has THREE (count ‘em) THREE no-jail court supervised rehab programs that only a minority of the people going through it will stay clean.

    (In CA, mere addiction does NOT get one jail time.)

    AND I see what drug addicts do to their children.

    If you don’t like this program, then I propose an alternative.

    People addicted to drugs lose custody rights to their kids. And if they aren’t clean in six months, it’s permanent.

    Let’s see some righteous indignation for children malnourished, with skin infections, in vermin infested apartments because their “parents” spend days on end high on meth.

    I’ve seen the pics and victims. Have you?

  9. Katie
    Katie July 24, 2006 at 9:26 am |

    Jill–No problem. As a Jayhawk living in Missouri, I am particularly attuned to the cross-state rivalry. Missourians are very sensitive people!

  10. Sara P.
    Sara P. July 24, 2006 at 9:31 am |
  11. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 24, 2006 at 9:40 am |

    Jill – You keep talking about sterilization and ignoring the fact that the women can choose to be paid MORE for simply taking birth control.

    Would you be happier with this program if women only had the birth control choice and NOT the tubes choice? That’s taking a choice away, not adding one.

    And yes, my freedom is a human right. In a free nation, it can only be taken away from me if I commit a crime. But I can sell it.

  12. TQL
    TQL July 24, 2006 at 9:44 am |

    You all seem to think that simply making drug treatment “available” will mean that people will flock to them.

    They won’t UNTIL THEY ARE READY. And as long as drugs provide a greater pull in their lives than living a healthy life and making responsible choices the biological ability to create a child is not a “right” that they can adequately handle.

    Most addicts aren’t going to remember to get their pills refilled or their Depo shot, even when it is “affordable and accessible.” Their priority is getting high. So, what’s wrong with giving them an IUD that they don’t have to think about for a few years. I’m much more comfortable with that than with getting tubes tide, on the off-chance that they clean up their lives to the point that they can be responsible parents.

    I think we need to give women options, and that a disease is not an adequate reason to deprive people of their reproductive rights.

    You act like “reproductive rights” exist in a vacuum and do not have responsibilities attached to them. The product of having reproductive rights is having (in this case) children that end up abused and neglected.

    While I understand that historical context of forced sterilizations. I also know the reality of drug addicted women and the children they have that are born addicted to drugs, are neglected in drug-addicted households, and languish in the child protective services system.

    Like Darleen, this doesn’t bother me so much.

  13. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 24, 2006 at 9:45 am |

    I should say that I DO see a moral difference between working for money and selling your body or reproductive capabilities. I really do.

    What I’m getting at is that money isn’t coercion. To say that these women are coerced doesn’t sit well with my definition of the word (force, threats, etc.).

  14. Hestia
    Hestia July 24, 2006 at 9:46 am |

    I don’t get how this is more coercive than my company paying me to work. I need to eat, so I work. If I didn’t work, then I’d be just as desperate for money as these women are, and I’d work for money.

    But if somebody required you to do something permanent to your body (like getting your tubes tied, which is only temporary if you can afford to reverse it, and these women can’t), something that could substantially change your future, for a couple hundred bucks–which isn’t going to sustain you for very long–would you do it? I venture to guess not.

    There’s a difference between taking a job, which you can quit at any time and which offers at least some promise of long-term support, and the cruelty that is CRACK’s program.

    The woman running the program has adopted FOUR babies from an addicted mother. So, I mean, she’s putting her money and life where her mouth is.

    Except for the part where she’s paying drug-addicted women miniscule amounts of money to be sterilized. How about she adopts the four babies and contributes money to drug treatment programs instead?

    I’d be less concerned if all we were talking about were birth control pills or a shot. But we aren’t; we’re talking about sterilization or implants, which are difficult because, yes, they last for five years and can be removed, but what if the women don’t remove them? You can’t just stick some reproductive device into someone and then throw them out; you have to provide actual health care along the way.

    Would you be happier with this program if women only had the birth control choice and NOT the tubes choice? That’s taking a choice away, not adding one.

    Well then, the program is limiting choices by not offering other kinds of treatment, or health care, or death by hanging. The problem with the program isn’t the fact that it doesn’t offer enough choices–it’s the fact that the choices it offers are reprehensible.

    And yes, my freedom is a human right. In a free nation, it can only be taken away from me if I commit a crime. But I can sell it.

    Uh…what? You should never be able to sell your “freedom.” That’s called slavery.

  15. Hestia
    Hestia July 24, 2006 at 9:50 am |

    So, what’s wrong with giving them an IUD that they don’t have to think about for a few years.

    Except that you can’t get an IUD and then just forget about it. IUDs can go wrong; they can move out of place or cause infections or stop working. You need the kind of care that this program isn’t offering in order to IUDs or other implants a reasonable decision.

    The product of having reproductive rights is having (in this case) children that end up abused and neglected.

    THen help the children. You don’t need to give women a couple hundred bucks to sterilize them to fix that problem.

  16. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 24, 2006 at 9:52 am |

    Hestia: The Kansas City article says:

    “But Project Prevention pays the same amount for long-term birth control. Addicts who agree to take Depo-Provera, a birth-control shot administered every three months, can stay on the drug and receive $300 annually.”

    So that’s what I’m talking about. That’s why I keep saying that it’s not permanent. Ok?

    I should have said that I can TEMPORARILY sell my freedom.

    rwl

  17. Darleen
    Darleen July 24, 2006 at 9:52 am |

    Jill

    Why is paying them to keep them from having kids unethical? Because, as you state earlier, it is addressing their addiction?

    That argument sounds just like those against handing out needles and condoms to addicts because those programs, too don’t “address” the addiction.

    needles/condoms = at least we are preventing the spread of aids
    CRACK = at least we are preventing addicted babies and neglected/abused children

  18. TQL
    TQL July 24, 2006 at 10:00 am |

    THen help the children. You don’t need to give women a couple hundred bucks to sterilize them to fix that problem.

    How’s that for being proactive and taking preventive measures.

    Help the children after the fact, rather than do something to prevent them being born.

  19. Dennis
    Dennis July 24, 2006 at 10:13 am |

    Darleen,

    It’s a permenant solution to (what ought to be) a temporary problem. A crack head is not the best conceivable mother for a child, that’s a pretty reasonable proposition. However, cash for sterilization programs like this one commit a double error. First, they put their money in the wrong place. It could be used for treatment of addiction. Second, it assumes that addiction is a permenant condition, by permenant robbing the women of their reproductive capabilities.

    Needle and condom programs aren’t ethically questionable in this way because they do no harm. All they do is prevent disease (and in the case of condoms, pregnancy.) If CRACK were interested in treated addicted folk like people, they would give women 25 bucks a shot (and some clean needles!) to get Depo-Provera. But, they’re not interested in that at all. They’re interested in treating them like stray cats.

    — ———-

    By the way, anyone who actually wants their tubes tied and is poor and trusts the physicians employed by CRACK should go claim to be a junkie and rob their organization blind. … actually, reading back over that, maybe not.

  20. PLN
    PLN July 24, 2006 at 10:14 am |

    I think it’s interesting to look at this program in light of this NYT Magazine article about child services departments and one family’s struggle inside the system.

    I don’t deny that the woman running this program isn’t really “on the same side” as most visitors to this site, politically speaking. Nor, it seems, are the main sources of funding. And urging sterilization seems quite wrong.

    But I think the case of norplant, etc., is at least somewhat more complicated. *Given*, among other things, the way that the state is likely to use its authority to rip apart whatever families many of the women in question manage to start, does encouraging them to postpone starting them really deny them autonomy?

    To put it starkly: if we think their decision-making is so compromised that a 300$ incentive represents a ‘coercive’ intervention, how much autonomy are we really supposing they *currently* have with respect to their own reproductive capacities? Not very much, it seems to me. (And, of course, the rest of the state apparatus certainly won’t treat them as having the capacity to be autonomous decision-makers!)

    Part of the whole problem with serious drug addiction is that its victims *don’t* currently seem to be living autonomous lives; much of what makes policy in this area so agonizing is that the only interventions that really seem to have real impacts–and thus, offer the greatest chance for victims to achieve control over their own lives–are the most paternalistic (mandatory treatment with instant small penalties instead of jail, etc.).

    And with respect to Jill’s talk of context and history–I agree that it matters, and I think that alone is reason to take sterilization entirely off the table. But I think we need to ask -why- it matters. Does it matter in an evidentiary way–that history should teach us to *distrust the motives* of people who propose such things? Okay, let’s be skeptical. Or does it matter in a substantive way–that the history -makes such policy- intrinsically insulting and demeaning? It’s a different argument, with different conclusions.

  21. bmc90
    bmc90 July 24, 2006 at 10:15 am |

    Here’s part of a Wikipedia definition of eugenics:

    Eugenic policies have been historically divided into two categories: positive eugenics, which encourage a designated “most fit” to reproduce more often, and negative eugenics, which discourage or prevent a designated “less fit” from reproducing. Negative eugenics need not always be coercive. A state might offer financial rewards to certain people who submit to sterilization, although some critics might reply that this incentive along with social pressure could be perceived as coercion. Positive eugenics can also be coercive. Abortion by “fit” women was illegal in Nazi Germany.

    I guess my real problem with using the word is that when it comes to reproductive choices, I believe the needs and wishes of the woman should be paramount, and euginics posits the primary interest with society, which is very likely to lard its prejudices and fears into the process. Would we think this was ok if there were no financial reward? How do you approach people who are ill equipped to take care of children and try to interest them in being proactive without being coercive, if not with money (after all, there’s a universal langauge . . . .).

    I agree that the entire system is due for an overhaul, with more drug treatment programs and support and less criminalization. But that’s just not likely to happen any time soon, and let’s face it, drug addicts don’t make good parents.

  22. wall-flower
    wall-flower July 24, 2006 at 10:21 am |

    I’m a little surprised that so many commenters here don’t see a problem with this program. I agree completely with Jill and her well-argued, thoughtful analysis to this article. Part of the problem is that as a society (I’m not, just to be clear, accusing anyone on this board of this) we seem to see drug addicts as less than human, and hardly anyone seems willing to put real money toward helping them. Our society seems more interesting in locking people up and spending millions on the War on Drugs than anything that would truly help the situation. The article states this pretty clearly with a quotation from each side of the argument:

    “Poor women have fewer and fewer options to help them deal with their substance abuse dependencies,” says Gwen Rubenstein, director of policy research for the Legal Action Center, a public interest firm in Washington, which represents individuals with drug and alcohol problems. For this reason, Rubenstein believes that CRACK ’s money would be better spent developing viable treatment options for the women they serve. Harris has a simple response to that suggestion: “That’s not what we do.”

    As Rubenstein and Jill (and I) believe, if Harris and the others involved in this really cared about addicts, they would do more to help them instead of just controlling their ability to reproduce. There’s a better way to spend the money. Instead this is about control, power, and eugenics.

    Reproductive FREEDOM is about much more than abortion rights. Feminism, in my opinion, should be concerned with reproductive freedom, so that women — not the government, not their spouses, not private programs — have control over their own bodies.

    I would have absolutely no problem with any program (drug-related or not) that spread valid information about birth control, made birth control and abortion available and accessible for EVERYONE, and providing counseling about child care and child rearing. We need better sex ed and childcare support in this country in general. But paying an addict to be sterilized is enabling their drug addiction rather than helping them.

    I’m certainly not saying that I think drug addicts make great parents. Believe me, as a daughter of an alcoholic, I learned growing up that my father’s addiction was more important to him than I was. But I don’t think that gives certain people with money and power the right to decide who is “fit” to be a parent and who isn’t, without giving everyone the proper choices, education, and chances — basically, treating them as human beings.

    (In a somewhat related topic, there’s an interesting story in BUST magazine about mothers in jail (some of them in for drugs and even second-degree murder) who are in a program to help them learn about being more involved, caring mothers.)

  23. Daniel@NYU
    Daniel@NYU July 24, 2006 at 10:24 am |

    I don’t agree that bad decisions made by members of the American underclass should be automatically blamed upon those more fortunate or those in power, and I think that irresponsible reproductive decisions are common among the poorest Americans.

    The reproductive rights movement, as I understand it, acknowledges that responsibilities come with parenthood and further argues that a woman does not agree to take those responsibilities upon herself by agreeing to participate in sexual activity.

    Arguing that reproductive freedom is the freedom to have children without being willing to care for them or capable of caring for them is far beyond any arguments I’d associate with being “pro-choice.” I believe that there is a moral wrong in a woman, addicted to drugs and unwilling to cease her drug use during the term of a pregnancy or to care for a child when it is born to, nonetheless, fail to take the necessary precautions to prevent herself from becoming pregnant.

    Such a pattern of behavior will necessarily burden society with the cost of caring for, supporting, and in many cases imprisoning that child in the future, and the child will endure, in addition to a substantially enhanced likelihood of birth defects, the trauma of neglect and displacement. I don’t see anything wrong with the CRACK program. The women who take this offer clearly don’t want children, and yet they will not, without outside encouragement, take precautions against having children.

    I believe the “pro-life” movement is really anti-sex, and that its agenda is to prevent people who do not wish to have children in the near future from being sexually active. This is unreasonable. However, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that a woman who does not wish to have children should take reasonable steps to prevent herself from becoming pregnant, through condom use, or some other form of birth control.

    I think that the position of this organization, that a person who uses drugs habitually and has no intention of changing that pattern of behavior is unfit to care for a child, is reasonable.

    My understanding is that, while the procedure these people are providing is permanent, it is also reversible. To equate this with forced castration is disingenuous.

  24. wall-flower
    wall-flower July 24, 2006 at 10:25 am |

    PS: While I was composing a lot of other comments went up! I just wanted to add that I think it’s fine to advise someone about birth control and provide them with it (I doubt many addicts really want to be pregnant anyway) — but I think paying them to be sterilized is about power and money.

  25. Sailorman
    Sailorman July 24, 2006 at 10:37 am |

    For a while, India was offering free radios and/or cash payments to men who were willing to get vasectomies, and the government was providing the vasectomies at cost. That seemed like a very good idea at the time: If they weren’t going to use BC, and didn’t want kids, surely the vasectomy was better than the resulting abortion/adoption.

    Here’s an NYT article on it. This isn’t the exact article i first read but serves to show what it means.

    I am torn by this program you mention. The people running it seem truly frightening (yuck). And I am very uncomfortable with overly pressuring someone to make a choice–the India tactic seems like it’s close to the line. But still… I don’t think it’s crossed the line, so it seems OK.

    I also can’t help but note that in the various abortion-rights debates, there’s always more than a few people who complain sterilization isn’t free. And who note birth control doesn’t work. And who complain they have trouble finding people to perform tube tyings. And who (correctly) discuss the risks and unpleasant attributes of pregnancy.

    Here, the group is providing some people with a very expensive and unavailable-to-most-poor-women procedure for free, which will prevent them from any unwanted pregnancies. And paying them to boot.

    I truly dislike some of the folks associated with the organization. And I’d want to be cautious and be sure the women involved are making informed consent. But if they ARE making informed consent, why the paternalism? Why assume they can’t make a rational choice, given where they are in their life?

    Plenty of people use birth control. So the use of birth control is not per se problematic. Plenty of people get sterilized, as well–that’s surely not per se bad either.

    They should add men to the program as well.

    If somebody required you to do something permanent to your body (like getting your tubes tied, which is only temporary if you can afford to reverse it, and these women can’t), something that could substantially change your future, for a couple hundred bucks–which isn’t going to sustain you for very long–would you do it? I venture to guess not.

    The relevant question is: Is there SOME value at which I would sell an organ or sterilize myself?

    Sure. Hell, yeah. And I think I’m in the majority of people here. Much as I’d like to have both kidneys in case one fails, I’d sell one for the right amount. Why is this so problematic?’

    And of course I’d sterilize myself for the right amount as well. What would it cost to buy my right to reproduce? Well:

    If you asked me when I was newly married, healthy, and planning to have kids, it’d be expensive. If you asked me after I was 70, and long done having kids, it’d be cheap.

    And if I was in a situation where I coudln’t see having kids, and I thought they were unlikely, and I needed the money desperately for something else (whatever it was) it’d be cheap too.

    If you look down your nose at these women’s choices, YOU are imposing on THEIR freedom. You are saying “you may not make these choices until you are rich/provileged/nonaddicted/etc” This doesn’t make sense to me at all.

  26. Kaethe
    Kaethe July 24, 2006 at 10:38 am |

    Darleen, if you’ll read everything above, you’ll see that this notion of “addicted babies” is bullshit. Likewise, the assumption that the only abused/neglected children in are born to addicts.

    It is unethical to offer someone $300 for their reproductive capacity because:

    “A physician shall be dedicated to providing competent medical care, with compassion and respect for human dignity and rights.” AMA Principles of medical ethics. It is coercive to pay people to permanently sign away a right; broadly, their right to privacy, more specifically, their right to bodily integrity. No matter how high the demand for kidneys, it is both illegal and unethical for a surgeon to remove one of yours and pay you for it, because the surgery does not help you, and a payment, of any amount, is coercive.

    the NIH prohibits paying patients for experimental surgery (here the surgery would be experimental because it is clearly not being performed for the good of the patient, but for some perceived good society by preventing the birth of hypothetical children)

    Handling out needles and condoms to addicts is good public health policy, intended to protect the health of the recipients. CRACK does absolutely nothing to address the health of addicts, nor of their actual children. It is pure ideology with no scientific support. If you want to protect the health of children then:

    fund enough drug rehab for anyone who wants it

    actively encourage women who are pregnant to enter rehab, rather than, as now, refusing them services

    provide everyone with someplace to live

    provide everyone with routine medical care

    provide adequate funding to social services to investigate complaints of abused/neglected children, to hire and retain the most compassionate, helpful workers, to follow through

  27. wall-flower
    wall-flower July 24, 2006 at 10:54 am |

    Here, the group is providing some people with a very expensive and unavailable-to-most-poor-women procedure for free, which will prevent them from any unwanted pregnancies. And paying them to boot.

    It’s the “and paying them to boot” part, though, that IS the problem. It’s fine to offer free or reduced cost abortions, birth control, and sterilization. But paying them is a coersion when they are poverty-striken. It’s treated people like reproductive machines or animals intead of providing people with education and choices.

  28. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 24, 2006 at 10:57 am |

    I guess I just have a different idea of what freedom is, and of what coercion is.

    To me, paying someone to do something isn’t coercive. I think that for something to be coercive, there has to be a penalty for not doing it. You’re put in jail, or suffer pain, for not complying. In this case, you’re no worse off than you were. It may be ugly, but it’s not coercion.

    And I don’t think this is about power and control. It’s about an attempt to stem the tragedy of what happens to these kids. It may be misguided and wrong (I don’t think it is), but it’s not coming from an evil place. It’s not about a bunch of people who just want to control lives.

    AND IT’S NOT PERMANENT (unless the woman choose the permanent option, for less money)! Shots every few months is not permanent.

    I agree with Sailorman that they should offer vasectomies for men in the same situation.

  29. bmc90
    bmc90 July 24, 2006 at 11:03 am |

    Wall-flower has some really interesting points. As a board member in a child abuse prevention organization, I saw how dysfunctional the child protective services can be. In my state, getting them to take away terribly abused children was hard, and a lot of neglected children just got ignored. The money to really support familes so they would not end up in such dire straits was no where to be found, and every time a child died from abuse there was a big tisk tisk but no real change. I am not sure it’s better, in short, to end up dealing with the system, or with the actual results of your own irresponsibility/violence, as an abusive or neglectful parent than it is to give up your right to reproduction. And the percentage of drug abusing parents involved in the abuse and neglect cases is off the charts.

  30. Dianne
    Dianne July 24, 2006 at 11:06 am |

    THREE no-jail court supervised rehab programs that only a minority of the people going through it will stay clean.

    If a majority of people taking a given treatment for a given condition don’t recover, that suggests that the treatment is inadequate, not that the people using it are immoral. We don’t have good, reliable treatments for drug addiction and I think that the money CRACK spends would be better put to use researching better treatments for drug addiction. But then again, I’m a medical researcher and tend to think that more research is the solution to any problem;)

    Why is paying them to keep them from having kids unethical?

    Jill is following accepted medical ethics on this one. One of the questions an institutional review board asks of any research protocol that pays people to participate is “Is the compensation excessive?” The reason that this is important is that people, particularly poor people, may be influenced by a large payment to take part in an experiment that they don’t really feel comfortable with. Therefore, it is considered a form of coercion.

    If CRACK were simply offering free birth control to any woman who wanted it and couldn’t afford it or even any woman who was addicted to drugs, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But offering money–which, to an addict means offering a chance to get the drug they crave so desperately–is coercive.

  31. Kaethe
    Kaethe July 24, 2006 at 11:11 am |

    I just lost an incredibly long rebuttal post to some comments here.

    Paying for someone to have a surgery is coercive and illegal and unethical, particularly when the surgery isn’t intended to help the patient.

    And everyone who is jumping to conclusions about what lousy parents addicts are needs to spend a little time on some research. This is not about any tragedy of addicted kids, there is no such thing as crack babies. CRACK is targeting women, not men, and woc disproportionately, and it is encouraging sterilization, disproportionately.

    Weeklyrob, you may want to take a moment to look up the definition of coercion.

  32. JeffL
    JeffL July 24, 2006 at 11:12 am |

    Gosh, this is just like the best idea, ever!

    By why stop with just the crackheads?. Sure, druggies make lousy parents, but so do lots of other folks. Let’s t offer this awesome deal to the mentally handicapped! And the mentally ill — bi-polar people make such crappy parents! And poor people! The lower class is thre the real problem, you know; people who have kids but just don’t have the money to raise ‘em right.

    (/sarcasm)

    Seriously, to those of you who think this is a good idea, where should it end? Should we offer this horrifing deal to all “unfit” parents, or just those suffering from addiction? And who gets to decide who’s unfit, anyway?

  33. Dianne
    Dianne July 24, 2006 at 11:12 am |

    To me, paying someone to do something isn’t coercive.

    Suppose you were broke and starving in a place where there was no such thing as soup kitchens, that no one gave money to spare changers, and there weren’t even any dumpsters to dive in for food that had been thrown out. Suppose a wealthy woman approached you and said she’d pay you $200 if you’d allow her to cut off your balls, shallack them, and make them into earrings. You wouldn’t find that offer just a little coercive?

  34. johanna
    johanna July 24, 2006 at 11:13 am |

    So, since you are against “coersive” birth control, what would you recommend to keep drug addicted women from having children? Or, is that a “right” that all women should have regardless of how fit they are to fill the responsibility of being actually be mothers

    treatment for the addiction . . . ya know, the actual problem here.

    while, in fairness, I can kind of see the point that some people are making, that there is some choice involved if women decide they will take the cash in exchange for Depo or steralization.

    BUT it reeks in eugenics to me. it seems to me that giving addicted women the resources they need to get their lives back together would be much better for her AND her children than steralizing her and further enabling her addiction. especially in light of the fact, as many others mentioned, that young healthy women who simply don’t want children or have had as many as they want have an awful time trying to find a doctor to tie her tubes. while it may not look like coercion to some, a desperate drug addicted woman who has run out of options being offered money to be steralized is coercive. I’d be less inclined to say it was so if, perhaps, free steralization or birth control was offered without the monetary incentive.

    both the CRACK program and refusing to steralize healthy women who request it undermine our reproductive rights by deciding not only who is able to reproduce, but also who should, without regard to individual women’s desires.

  35. piny
    piny July 24, 2006 at 11:25 am |

    I guess I just have a different idea of what freedom is, and of what coercion is.

    To me, paying someone to do something isn’t coercive. I think that for something to be coercive, there has to be a penalty for not doing it. You’re put in jail, or suffer pain, for not complying. In this case, you’re no worse off than you were. It may be ugly, but it’s not coercion.

    (I know the first situation is a medical impossibility, but bear with me.)

    Well, what if there were an organization that offered poor, homeless drug addicts money in exchange for their kidneys? What if these women were being offered money if they agreed to get pregnant, sign themselves into incubator-jail for nine months, and carry a child to term for adoption by a wealthy couple? What if they were being offered money in exchange for aborting children they had already conceived, or permanently waiving the right to legal custody of existing children? Would that seem like an everybody-wins situation to you, or would it seem exploitative and horrible?

  36. Dianne
    Dianne July 24, 2006 at 11:26 am |

    One last (?) comment: I wince at the idea of giving out depo-provera or norplant to women who are almost certainly not going to get any follow-up medical care. Long term steroids can have nasty, even fatal side effects. Such events are rare, but if they occur, they need to be treated promptly. How quickly is a woman who is addicted to heroin going to notice that she even has a DVT or pseudotumor cerebrei, muchless manage to get to an ER to get it treated?

    As far as tubal ligation, I wonder if the women getting BTL even realize that what they are doing is permanent. Are they being told “oh, they’ll come untied eventually” or some other reassuring lie? I remember a patient I saw in med school who had severe cervical dysplasia (the step just before cervical cancer.) The OB/GYN resident was trying to talk her into a hysterectomy but she wanted to wait until she had one more child. I was idly looking at the chart while they were talking and noticed that her history included the letters “BTL” (bilateral tubal ligation). I pointed this out to the resident who then confronted her. Her response was “but they’ll come untied eventually”. This woman was neither a drug addict nor stupid. She just had not been told that BTL was premanent in any way that she understood. How likely is it that CRACK’s “patients” are being told what they are really doing?

    Vasectomy, on the other hand, is relatively reversible. It’s also safe (mortality of around 1 in 1 million) and effective. If we really want to reduce the number of addicted babies and think that sterilization of random addicts is an effective way to do it, why not start with the men?

  37. TQL
    TQL July 24, 2006 at 11:26 am |

    treatment for the addiction . . . ya know, the actual problem here.

    And again, you act like all people who are drug addicts are just dying to go into to treatment. They won’t go until they are ready, and unfortunately not even being pregnant is enough reason to seek treatment for some.

  38. Sailorman
    Sailorman July 24, 2006 at 11:28 am |

    Kaethe,

    The argument against organ payments is still ongoing. The AMA statement is far from the be all and end all of ethics discussion on the issue.

    I think people are slipping into the “this first!” trap. Merely because an option is not the best alternative does not mean is it not an acceptable alternative.

    “Should” the CRACK founder spend her money somewhere else? Yeah, perhaps. But she’s not going to. How on earth does the existence of other needs–even more complelling ones–end up as anything than a specious attack?

    it seems to me that giving addicted women the resources they need to get their lives back together would be much better for her AND her children than steralizing her and further enabling her addiction

    OK, let’s say that is true.

    Given that assumption, is THIS program better than doing nothing? I don’t think it has any effect at all. And if the quoted statement doesn’t address THIS program, why is it relevant?

  39. piny
    piny July 24, 2006 at 11:28 am |

    And again, you act like all people who are drug addicts are just dying to go into to treatment. They won’t go until they are ready, and unfortunately not even being pregnant is enough reason to seek treatment for some.

    So instead, we should give them money that they’ll use to buy drugs.

  40. wall-flower
    wall-flower July 24, 2006 at 11:30 am |

    OK, I can’t believe I’m posting again, but I walked away from this and was going over it in my head, and I became really disturbed by the casual way people are talking about selling their bodies, or part of their bodies, or their freedoms. It shows just how insidious capitalism has become to our way of thinking. It seems to me that not everything should have a price. I’m not planning to have kids. If someone offered me free birth control, I’d take it instead of paying as I do now, sure. If someone offered me a free sterilization, I’d consider it. But if someone walked up to me on the street and said, “My committee has decided you shouldn’t have children, so we’re willing to pay you $300 if you’ll come have this free sterilization,” I would have a problem with that. My body is not for sale.

    Once you choose one whole group that shouldn’t have children, it’s a slippery slope to deciding exactly who gets to and who doesn’t. Isn’t this a huge red flag? :

    Woodhill has hired Chris Brand, a British psychologist, who is working to expand CRACK overseas. Brand, a self-proclaimed “race realist,” claims that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites, and advocates taking a “eugenic” approach to “wanton and criminal females.”

    When are YOU going to be branded the wrong race, or a “wanton female”?

    If anyone’s interested, bell hooks is really good on how capitalism is linked to patriarchal oppression and how race, class, and gender are intertwined.

  41. Starfoxy
    Starfoxy July 24, 2006 at 11:31 am |

    I think that the position of this organization, that a person who uses drugs habitually and has no intention of changing that pattern of behavior is unfit to care for a child, is reasonable.

    The trouble is, this program seems to do very little to accurately determine if the person really has no intention of changing. They aren’t sending these women to rehab programs and then offering sterilization as an option if they fail the program or relapse. It looks like they aren’t even mentioning rehab as an option for any of these women. Instead they’re offering cash, which for most drug addicts is the same as offering free drugs.

  42. zuzu
    zuzu July 24, 2006 at 11:37 am | *

    Let’s take reproduction and organ-selling and all the attendant ethical questions out of it.

    Let’s say someone offered you $300 to tattoo something, say a brand name, on your forehead. Would you do it?

    What about if you were starving/addicted/homeless/etc.?

  43. Adrienne
    Adrienne July 24, 2006 at 11:43 am |

    So:

    Free birth control is a good thing;

    But birth control + cash is a bad thing?

  44. Katie
    Katie July 24, 2006 at 11:47 am |

    Dianne– “I wince at the idea of giving out depo-provera or norplant to women who are almost certainly not going to get any follow-up medical care. Long term steroids can have nasty, even fatal side effects. Such events are rare, but if they occur, they need to be treated promptly. How quickly is a woman who is addicted to heroin going to notice that she even has a DVT or pseudotumor cerebrei, muchless manage to get to an ER to get it treated?”

    I was thinking the same thing. And once she gets to the ER, how is she going to pay for treatment? Also, I know that eptopic pregnancies used to be a problem for women who receive tubal ligations. I know that the techniques they use today reduce the risk–is there any likelihood with modern methods of tubal ligation that a women could have an eptopic pregnancy?

    I am completely uncomfortable with the entire idea, and when we consider the affects of performing medical procedures and dispensing medications to populations with little or no health care support system, I am even more disturbed by this program.

  45. TQL
    TQL July 24, 2006 at 11:53 am |

    So instead, we should give them money that they’ll use to buy drugs.

    If it means that they won’t have children for the time being, yes.

    Harsh, yes. I suppose.

    If they are going to take the money to buy drugs, they aren’t in the mindset to go into treatment anyway. And that’s $300 that they won’t get from prostituting themselves or stealing.

    How about this, if the $300 is such a problem for ya’ll — How about advocating for Planned Parenthood to have a street team that offers reproductive services completely free of charge to women who are drug addicts. They can do targetted, mobile outreach in areas with high rates of drug crime and prostitution. Write a grant and spend some money to fund that if the idea of selling one’s reproductive rights is such a problem for you.

    Offer me an alternative other than, “fund more treatment centers” and “provide everyone a place to live”.

    My concern is limiting the ability of drug addicted women to have children. And while the ivory tower researchers and theorists want to tell me that “crack babies” are a myth, I guess my eyes and experiences have all been a horrible nightmare.

  46. Katie
    Katie July 24, 2006 at 11:55 am |

    Zuzu–I was thinking about those “Bum Fight” videos where they pay homeless people to beat each other up. CRACK isn’t as exploitive as that, but the argument that these people aren’t being coerced is similar.

  47. bmc90
    bmc90 July 24, 2006 at 11:55 am |

    Are soome of you making a huge leaping assumption that most women addicts can better deal with their addiction as mothers? Truth is, probably not. So are we ok with this whole thing if the women are offered perishable groceries to have their tubes tied instead of $300? The biggest whif of classism here is presumptively taking $300 out of a woman’s hands, presuming she would spend it on drugs, presuming she is not making an informed decision, and leaving her the birth control choice, which she may not want. I wouldn’t want to be standing there while you try to pry away the $300. I can’t stand the people invovled with this stuff either, but it seems that all the protestants are accomplishing is depriving someone of $300.

  48. Kevin T. Keith
    Kevin T. Keith July 24, 2006 at 11:58 am |

    “People say we don’t have a right to tell them how many children they can have . . . I disagree.”

    Good.

    Presumaly she’ll have no objection if we offer her kids $300 to lose their “Silver Ring Things” and go on Depo-Provera. We all have a right to tell other people what reproductive choices to make, right?

  49. piny
    piny July 24, 2006 at 12:04 pm |

    So:

    Free birth control is a good thing;

    But birth control + cash is a bad thing?

    The first option removes a forced-choice problem: it takes away the financial pressure against taking advantage of birth-control options. The second option puts another forced-choice problem in place: it offers women an incentive to sterilize themselves when they might not otherwise choose to do so. This is the system we have for blood donation and organ transplants.

    How about this, if the $300 is such a problem for ya’ll — How about advocating for Planned Parenthood to have a street team that offers reproductive services completely free of charge to women who are drug addicts. They can do targetted, mobile outreach in areas with high rates of drug crime and prostitution. Write a grant and spend some money to fund that if the idea of selling one’s reproductive rights is such a problem for you.

    How is this an argument? That’s precisely the approach that most of the commenters on this thread are advocating: free, non-coercive reproductive options for these women.

    My concern is limiting the ability of drug addicted women to have children. And while the ivory tower researchers and theorists want to tell me that “crack babies” are a myth, I guess my eyes and experiences have all been a horrible nightmare.

    Right, because evidence isn’t proof of anything.

  50. Rob
    Rob July 24, 2006 at 12:59 pm |

    Wow, back from lunch to see my name. Ok, here goes:

    Kaethe: The tragedy that I mentioned isn’t about the so-called crack babies. It’s about the babies who are raised (or NOT raised) by addicts. It’s a tragedy what happens to them.

    I have looked up the definition of coercive. In all the dictionaries I checked, it involves force. It at least involves, as I said, some penalty for non-compliance. Not getting paid more than you would otherwise be paid is not a penalty.

    I won’t argue that it’s extremely hard to turn down. Or that the women would use the money for food rather than drugs. Or even that it’s much of a choice. But it’s not coercion in the way that I think most people think of the term. It’s ok that we disagree.

    Dianne: If someone offered me money to anything, I wouldn’t call it coercive, regardless of the circumstances. Nice “balls” reference, by the way. Since you mentioned a wealthy woman and my balls, I wonder whether you see this issue as one of men vs. women. Do you?

    Others: The eugenics issue is interesting. I was wondering how I’d react if some millionaire offered $1000 to any black people who take birth control. Of course, there would be lots of black people making the “choice” to do it, even if they wouldn’t normally want to. I would fight against that millionaire.

    But this isn’t the same thing. This isn’t one type of person, genetically. And that’s what euGENICS is about. These are unfit mothers, plain and simple, and having babies only hurts them more.

    Actually, I’m more on the fence about the issue than it may appear from this discussion, but I definitely don’t think the program is clear cut wrong.

  51. Dianne
    Dianne July 24, 2006 at 1:32 pm |

    Rob: Nope. I’d think it just as wrong to offer drug addicted men $200 to get vasectomies. And just as ok to offer free vasectomies to any man who doesn’t have health insurance (or whose insurance won’t cover vasectomy). So, just out of curiosity, in the starve or get castrated scenario, which side do you come down on and why?

  52. piny
    piny July 24, 2006 at 1:37 pm |

    And just as ok to offer free vasectomies to any man who doesn’t have health insurance (or whose insurance won’t cover vasectomy).

    Right. It’s crucial to point out the distinction between offering these women reproductive options including sterilization and offering them money to make a particular choice.

  53. bmc90
    bmc90 July 24, 2006 at 1:41 pm |

    Instead of fighting these fundies, why not try to get them and their donors to help fund abortions for poor women who want them, including going to a clinic where it is safe and legal. Because if they won’t support that, then they are really whacked eugenics types.

  54. Dianne
    Dianne July 24, 2006 at 1:42 pm |

    And once she gets to the ER, how is she going to pay for treatment?

    She’s not. The hospital will harass her for a while then give up and eat the loss, possibly after taking any savings and ruining any credit she might still have. Plus she’ll probably end up with the impression that she can never come back to that hospital even if she’s dying. This is not true, but the belief probably keeps people away. Some of them are found dead in the streets.

    Ectopic pregnancies are still a problem after tubal ligation. Somewhat less so than in the past, but it’s going to be hard to ever get rid of the risk entirely. Tubal ligation is less dangerous than pregnancy overall, but a person who can’t or won’t get medical care when they have a problem is always in danger.

  55. jm
    jm July 24, 2006 at 1:43 pm |

    i think people should keep in mind that this situation might be far more coercive than one that simply involved a poor person who needs food. these women (maybe men) are drug addicts. that means that they aren’t necessarily making rational decisions in the way that posters in this thread, or poor, even starving, people might. addiction changes the way the addict’s mind works. consequently, the $300 is not money- effectively, it IS crack; the people might as well be giving the women $300 worth of drugs in exchange for getting sterilized. also, the draw of $300 worth of crack for an addict is much much stronger than the draw of $300 for a typically poor american. this makes the addition of money much more coercive than another seemingly comparable situation.

    having said that, i think these people should be giving out free/reduced fee reproductive health care, in clinics where people can get follow-up care. they should just do it without monetary incentives. to all poor women. but surprise! we already have this! it’s called planned parenthood. you know, the service that these same people want to de-fund (and which i’m sure most readers of feministe support with money and/or activism). it’s definitely suspect when they want to fund repro-care, AND give people money! that’s why this plan smacks of eugenics.

  56. Sailorman
    Sailorman July 24, 2006 at 1:45 pm |

    Just curious: Who here can honestly say their position would be the same if these were men instead of women? I can…

    Let’s say someone offered you $300 to tattoo something, say a brand name, on your forehead. Would you do it?
    Nope. $300 isn’t that much money. I wouldn’t be able to change/alter my life enough with$300 to make it worth doing.

    What about if you were starving/addicted/homeless/etc.?
    Yup. $300 would be a lot more money than no money. And BOY, would I be pissed if, just as I was about to get $300, someone stepped in and prevented me from doing so.

    There are a lot of things I would not do for pleasure, but I WOULD do to feed myself or my family. Why is that so odd?

    Sure, i suppose you could say “but they shouldn’t need to make the choice!!” And perhaps you’re right. But the result of that sidetrack is that it turns into a mishmash discussion about social programs and whther or not drug addicts can recover. And the result of it is… not much.

    BTW, I think it’s very interesting how some here are flipping the word “freedom” away from its usual “right to choose what to do” definition into a new “right not to have certain choices offered to you” definition. Anyone else notice that? Doesn’t it seem a bit odd?

    Similarly, this whole “coercion” thing is diluting the term to be meaningless. Where do you draw the line?

  57. Mickey
    Mickey July 24, 2006 at 1:50 pm |

    This whole debate reaks so badly of do-gooder-liberal-classim-racism that I can hardly stand the stench. The prospect of money is always most coercive to the people who need it the most. I have taken jobs that sliced every core value of my feminist principles….. because principles don’t keep the lights on. Anyone who has ever lived with or around crack addicts knows they will sell themselves, and even their children for the next high….and who are we helping by fighting for them to reproduce? Forced sterilization is apprehensible, ……but coerced sterilization in a matter of $300 to crackeheads?…….clearly some of you have never had a crackhead offer to sell you your own hubcap back.

    In the ivory tower world of feminism and reproductive rights I completely understand the outrage that this whole discussion ignites….as it should, yet in many ways it feels very misguided. The Crack epidemic hit the Black community so hard we are still disoriented from the train wreck….. from the trafficking, distrubution, gangs,crackheads, crackhead babies, and the dissolution of many of our inner cities and communities into violence filled wastelands. You say there is no such thing as a crack head baby? I’m not sure what book, article, or study that you are basing this on, but this seems like a comment born from a very well meaning place……that is just clearly out of touch. Ironically I am from Kansas City (missouri that is, we missourians are very sensitive), and I do not know a Black person from here or anyone else in the country whose family was not touched by the crack epidemic and by extension the babies that are born by the addicted mothers. I grew up in a house with a crackbaby in the house via an aunt who suffered with the addiction for 15 years, and had five children during that time. And you want to tell me particular problems don’t occur with kids whose parents smoke crack while they are pregnant? Its not that addicts aren’t human and they don’t deserve rights, but when your head is clouded by cheap, brain corroding chemicals your ability to parent is severely limited. So it becomes us who raises the children with the developmental and behavioral problems……its the grandmothers, the aunties, the sisters, the neighbors, the friends who pitch in and raise these kids if they can. And if noone can they end up in the system where they will languish and be moved around until they are 18. What are we really fighting for here?

    The drug is the coercive devise that should be rallied against, not the $300. My heart cries for every crackhead I meet and I rally for better options for them in terms of treatment……but if their reproductive rights as cracked out parents are put at a premium, my question to you is who takes these kids? When family can’t or wont take them, I don’t see white well meaning liberals lining up to take them in. To be a black child in the system now already puts you at a disadvantage……people will go to Russia or China to adopt a child before they will take a healthy Black child here…..so who’s lining up to take the premature Black babies born with a cheap cocaine derivative running through their veins?

    So before people start mouthing off in the name of saving the minority communities from being unfairly targeted….ask yourself if those same communities feel threatened by such a thing.

  58. piny
    piny July 24, 2006 at 2:00 pm |

    Just curious: Who here can honestly say their position would be the same if these were men instead of women? I can…

    Same here! I can also say that I haven’t engaged in intellectually dishonest argumentative tactics, like insisting that people aren’t telling the truth about their own intellectual positions.

    Mickey, it’s not that women who are drug addicts–never mind homeless and starving–do not have problems with a healthy pregnancy. It’s that the evidence supporting the idea that crack itself causes fetal defects was overblown or in some cases nonexistent.

  59. Casey
    Casey July 24, 2006 at 2:01 pm |

    Only briefly skimmed the comments, but didn’t see this brought up yet:

    If this is such a fabulous plan, why isn’t she also offering vasectomies?

  60. Rob
    Rob July 24, 2006 at 2:04 pm |

    Dianne: I’m not really sure I understand what you’re asking me.

    Are you asking me would I rather starve to death or accept a “wealthy woman’s” offer of $200 to “allow her to cut off your balls, shallack them, and make them into earrings”?

    Is that seriously the question you’re asking me? Remarkable. I have no idea what I’d do in that situation. I guess I’d prefer that she made them into a tasteful decoration for her home.

    Which side of this question do you fall on:

    You’re a drug addict. You know you shouldn’t be having kids, but you don’t have the energy or money to go get birth control. I offer to pay for it, and give you $300 bucks a year to take it for as long as you want. When you finish being a drug addict, you can stop taking the birth control. Do you do it?

  61. Sailorman
    Sailorman July 24, 2006 at 2:12 pm |

    Casey: She is. Though she’s not apparently doing as good a job selling them as she should be.

    Piny: I can also say that I haven’t engaged in intellectually dishonest argumentative tactics, like insisting that people aren’t telling the truth about their own intellectual positions.

    Really? Isn’t that what the claims of coercion and “these women don’t know that the choice is bad for them” and “nobody would really make that choice rationally” are all about?

    If people thought these women were making rational decisions then the protests against their recipt of payment would seem even more paternalistic, not less.

  62. Bamber
    Bamber July 24, 2006 at 2:16 pm |

    Some of the other news articles about the program indicate that they have paid a handful of men to get vasectomies. I assume that they focus on women because they are worried about the effects of prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol, not just the impact of drugs on one’s ability to parent.

  63. Dianne
    Dianne July 24, 2006 at 2:19 pm |

    Is that seriously the question you’re asking me?

    You’re right. That question is a distraction. The real question is would you consider the offer coercive in any manner? Remember, you’re not going to get food any other way. The rest of the scenario was just something that I was pretty sure you wouldn’t want to do if given a choice.

    When you finish being a drug addict, you can stop taking the birth control.

    Another one who doesn’t understand that tubal ligation is permanant.

  64. piny
    piny July 24, 2006 at 2:19 pm |

    Really? Isn’t that what the claims of coercion and “these women don’t know that the choice is bad for them” and “nobody would really make that choice rationally” are all about?

    More intellectual dishonesty! I was talking about how you argued that the people you were debating with were lying about their stated beliefs, then proceeded to argue with the positions you imputed to them. And you know it. Now you’re acting as though I was referring to arguments about informed consent on the part of the women involved.

  65. Katie
    Katie July 24, 2006 at 2:20 pm |

    Mickey–I hope this:

    Missourians are very sensitive people!

    read as a joke, because it was meant to be.

    As for your other arguments, you are right that it is very easy for many of us to discuss this in abstract terms. More than anything, I think people are concerned about this organization’s underlying motive and where a program like this could lead.

  66. Dianne
    Dianne July 24, 2006 at 2:22 pm |

    Woodhill has hired Chris Brand, a British psychologist, who is working to expand CRACK overseas. Brand, a self-proclaimed “race realist,” claims that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites, and advocates taking a “eugenic” approach to “wanton and criminal females.”

    Can anyone really read this and not conclude that CRACK’s motives are suspect at best?

  67. Rob-ot
    Rob-ot July 24, 2006 at 2:24 pm |

    I’m curious, are any other recovering addicts checking out this thread?

    Maybe they don’t offer vasectomies to male addicts because that would be eugenics. Men don’t get pregnant, so fetuses aren’t exposed to drugs in the bodies of male addicts. I don’t see as strong arguments relating to childhood environment for keeping male addicts from having children.

  68. piny
    piny July 24, 2006 at 2:25 pm |

    Can anyone really read this and not conclude that CRACK’s motives are suspect at best?

    I don’t know whether to be more horrified about the racism or by the fact that racists apparently have time machines now. Seriously, “wanton and criminal females?” Is it just me, or is it not 1878 any more?

  69. Mickey
    Mickey July 24, 2006 at 2:33 pm |

    Piny…..Maybe evidence of the screaming unconsolable crackbaby who will never be able to amount to anything is overstated, sometimes they turn out to be just fine…..but lets not swing the other direction……..there are definite problems associated with being a drug baby. I was referring to Kaethe’s statement in bold…..

    And everyone who is jumping to conclusions about what lousy parents addicts are needs to spend a little time on some research. This is not about any tragedy of addicted kids, there is no such thing as crack babies.

    no such thing as crack babies? been to a neonatal unit lately? And who is jumping to conclusions about what lousy parents addicts are? Tried raising these kids that are treated like throwaways by their parents? I am shocked and appalled

  70. Dianne
    Dianne July 24, 2006 at 2:35 pm |

    Is it just me, or is it not 1878 any more?

    It’s not, but the Republicans can dream can’t they*?

    *With apologies to all the sane “fiscally conservative” Republicans out there. Apologies and a suggestion that you leave the party ’cause it left you long ago.

  71. Mickey
    Mickey July 24, 2006 at 2:36 pm |

    Katie: I was joking about the Missourians are sensitive people thing……I was born and raised in KCMO, but now live on the Kansas side of town and its hard for people not from here to understand how ticky people from the Missouri side get when people assume that Kansas City is in Kansas……. nothing more meant by it

  72. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 24, 2006 at 2:39 pm |

    Shoot. I just realized that when I switched computers, I started posting as Rob instead of weeklyrob. But I’m the same guy.

    Dianne:

    You say that I am “another one who doesn’t understand that tubal ligation is permanant.”

    In fact, YOU are another one who doesn’t even bother to find out that the program pays for birth control shots (and pays every year you keep getting them) OR tubal ligation, and it’s the woman’s choice.

    Not only is this mentioned in the article that Jill linked to in the original post, but I’ve mentioned it several times *including the time when you first responded to me!*

    As far as your question, I’ll say again, but this may be the last time: if the woman didn’t threaten me in some way, then I don’t think she coerced me. If my life will be no worse because of her retaliation to my rejecting her offer, then I haven’t been coerced, by the usual definition of the term.

    Mind you, this is completely different from sexual harassment in the workplace, where an employee has an explicit right to not expect raises and promotions to be based on favors.

  73. Katie
    Katie July 24, 2006 at 2:40 pm |

    Mickey–Okay, good. I’m glad you were joking, too. I’m from Lawrence and now live in Columbia, so I try to be careful about what I say!

  74. Dianne
    Dianne July 24, 2006 at 2:49 pm |

    Re: the existence of “crack babies” and problems associated with prenatal cocaine:
    This article concludes that babies of mothers who take cocaine do no worse developmentally than other babies given similar confounders.

    By contrast, children exposed to alcohol in utero do worse than those that aren’t.

    So why aren’t they out there harassing suburbanites who drink a six pack a day while pregnant?

  75. bmc90
    bmc90 July 24, 2006 at 2:49 pm |

    Mickey, thank you. I am on the board of a child abuse prevention organization and also one that provides affordable housing, but I have no ‘street cred’ as it were. My mom teaches reading and has had any number of adult students who at some point talked about being ‘sold’ for sex by their drug addicted parents, a lot of other kinds of abuse revolve around it, and affordable housing is scarce (plus my organization would not partner with a drug addict, and the government progams won’t accept them either). Drug addicts know they should not be parents. I have no problem dangling $300 in front of someone to help them focus and make the right decision. If they turn things around someday they can adopt.

  76. Sailorman
    Sailorman July 24, 2006 at 2:50 pm |

    Dianne, you must have missed the “birth control” part. Tubal litigation is permanent. BC is not. About 2/3 of women have elected to get BC; 1/3 have elected to get their tubes tied.

  77. Darleen
    Darleen July 24, 2006 at 3:11 pm |

    Dianne

    If a majority of people taking a given treatment for a given condition don’t recover, that suggests that the treatment is inadequate, not that the people using it are immoral. We don’t have good, reliable treatments for drug addiction and I think that the money CRACK spends would be better put to use researching better treatments for drug addiction. But then again, I’m a medical researcher and tend to think that more research is the solution to any problem;)

    As a med researcher then you must know that addiction is neither purely physical or purely psychological. And even the most affective treatment to date in wide availability are 12-steps, and THEY only have an effective rate somewhere between 30-40%. Physically addiction is about brain chemistry, and while at least one new treatment is now on the market dealing with alcohol/drug addiction, it still does not obviate the need for psychological treatment.

    The reasons for the high failure rate of rehab programs are many, but one that people fail to really understand is that a lot of addicts do not want to change.

    So if they want to sit in a corner and use their drug of choice, FINE, but I want to minimize as many victims of their addiction as possible. That includes making sure they lose whatever children they currently have and make sure they make no more.

  78. Darleen
    Darleen July 24, 2006 at 3:15 pm |

    Dianne

    So why aren’t they out there harassing suburbanites who drink a six pack a day while pregnant?

    So if we don’t address all, we can’t address any?

  79. Darleen
    Darleen July 24, 2006 at 3:20 pm |

    there is no such thing as crack babies.

    That is such a statement of utter bs, I wonder what motivates someone who would say that.

  80. piny
    piny July 24, 2006 at 3:32 pm |

    Let me guess: you work in a doctor’s office?

    Here’s an article from alternet about the dispute, and another short article from the National Review of Medicine. In brief: researchers have found subtle differences that can easily be explained by other factors–lower birth weight, lower IQ–but no unified set of characteristics that would constitute a syndrome.

  81. Dianne
    Dianne July 24, 2006 at 3:41 pm |

    So if we don’t address all, we can’t address any?

    If you’re going to address only one, you should address the one that does the most damage, right?

  82. Dianne
    Dianne July 24, 2006 at 3:47 pm |

    the program pays for birth control shots

    Ok, fair enough. So you don’t understand hormonal birth control either. Depo-provera isn’t something you “just stop” one day and neither is norplant. They are long term treatments that take months to years to be reversed. Of course, if the person gets idiopathic intracranial hypertension or DVT from either of the above and dies, that’s permanent too. Though to be fair I did go for the cheap rhetorical device by choosing to address BTL and not hormonal manipulation.

  83. Mickey
    Mickey July 24, 2006 at 4:03 pm |

    Let me clear up my slang use of the term “crack baby”. Growing up, if your mother was addicted to crack (or addicted to almost anything, yet a whole other topic) …. you were called a crack baby. It didn’t necessarily mean that you were addicted to crack as a baby, or that you have all these supposed life altering crack afflictions for the rest of your life. I see now how it has been used by other people on this thread in a different way.

  84. Sailorman
    Sailorman July 24, 2006 at 4:03 pm |

    # Dianne Says: If you’re going to address only one, you should address the one that does the most damage, right?

    That’s one theory.

    Alternatively, you can address the one which…
    motivates you the most;
    affects the most people even if the individual effects are small;
    has the largest effect, even if it’s only on a few people;
    is the most efficient use of your resources;
    is the one most likely to get consensus and other support;
    is the one least likely to be done by anyone else;
    and so on.

    Dianne, please stop assuming that anyone who thinks this is tentatively a good idea is doing so only because we don’t understand what a depo or an IUD or a litigation really is.

  85. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 24, 2006 at 4:07 pm |

    Dianne:

    What do you mean by “either” in your first sentence above? We both understand that you didn’t read the comments or article before responding.

    The fact is that one of the options is not permanent. It’s that simple.

    I see that you’re worried about these people getting hypertension from the birth control. But honestly, I think carrying the baby might carry a risk as well for someone who’s malnourished and addicted to crack (and if she’s addicted to crack, then she’s malnourished). And more to the point, there’s a terrible risk to the baby to be born to such an environment.

  86. Steve Sailer
    Steve Sailer July 24, 2006 at 4:42 pm |

    Calling Barbara Harris, founder of the charity, racist is rather funny considering her husband is black. They raised their three mixed race children, and then adopted four black siblings of a crack -ddicted mother.

    My only contact with the organization was interviewing Ms. Harris for UPI in 2002. Here’s an excerpt:

    Q. When did you decide to adopt?

    A. In 1990, but I actually wasn’t planning on adopting any children, I just wanted to get a little girl because I had all boys. So, I decided to be a foster parent because I thought I could have little girls and dress them up and fix their hair and play with them and give them back. My husband didn’t want us to become foster parents. He said, “Barbara, there’s no way you’re going to be able to get a baby and give it back a year later.” I honestly believed at the time that wasn’t going to be a problem, because I thought that these aren’t my own kids and I won’t love them like my own kids.

    The first baby that was placed with us was Destiny. She was 8 months old. I found out when we got her that she had four older sisters. She was the fifth baby born to the same drug addict. When Destiny was born, she tested positive for crack, PCP and heroin. That was actually the first time I ever realized that babies were born addicted to drugs. I had never even considered that pregnant women could be drug addicts and having babies. Destiny was 8 months old, so I didn’t have to see her withdrawing from drugs.

    That was something I didn’t experience until four months later when her brother was born. We got a phone call from the social worker telling us that we had gotten another baby boy and the mother didn’t want him. I called my husband at work and we decided to take him because the older four children were in four separate homes.

    It wasn’t until I picked Isaiah up from the hospital and saw how he suffered that it had the full impact on me. He was just miserable for months. He couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t keep food down, his eyes were like they’d pop out of his head. Noises scared him, lights scared him. It was nothing like the experience I had bringing my birth children home.

    I started to get very angry at the fact that the mother was allowed to do this. Not once, twice but six times. That’s when I got angry, because I talked to other foster parents and found out that there were lots of addicted women out there having babies every year.

    Some kids will never be normal. We hear stories in the office about kids dying, kids having brain damage. But my kids are four of the more fortunate ones and they don’t seem to have problems. They are more emotional than my birth kids are, but they are all doing good in school and are all very well behaved.

    You can read the rest at:
    http://www.isteve.com/2002_QA_Barbara_Harris.htm

  87. bmc90
    bmc90 July 24, 2006 at 5:22 pm |

    Rob-ot – I see your point, but how are these fathers going to support their children. Oh, right, they aren’t. Are our expectations so low that we never expected them to in the first place?

    I see this as argument as a loser for progressives. You can palaver about eugenics and reproductive freedom all you want, but crack addicts garner no sympathy from 99% of voters. After you make your best argument they will just hold up a picture of crack baby or tell a story like this one and it will all be over. The best thing you can do is argue that both sterilzation and abortion should be government provided to the poor who want it, and that’s it. You aren’t going to win this argument over whether this is ok with or without $300 being involved, because the result will seem much more compelling than the principle to the average person.

  88. Half the Sins of Mankind
    Half the Sins of Mankind July 24, 2006 at 5:48 pm |

    Bioethicist + Feminist = No Project Prevention

    Amber Taylor wonders why this offends “left-wing feminists,” as represented on the feministe blog.

  89. Michelle
    Michelle July 24, 2006 at 6:49 pm |

    I used to work as a child protection worker and now work educating foster parents. To put it out there, I do not agree with this program, despite having seen the effects of drug & alcohol addiction on children. Research is showing that there is no obvious long term effects on a child of having been born to a drug addicted parent. However, drug and alcohol addiction do go hand in hand and there are severe permanent consequences to children born to mothers who drank while pregnant. Like Darleen, I have seen the effects of children raised in households where there is drug addiction and these children are often permanently damaged by sexual assualt, neglect and abuse. Removing a child from such a situation is always the last resort, but after attempting to work with families who can not protect their children from predators coming into the home due to drug and alcohol addiction, who may want to get clean but there is a year long waiting list for the rehab clinic, it is sadly often the only way to achieve safety for the children. In many cases, there are family members who would be willing to take the children, but they are already taking care of older siblings to the one being removed. I do believe there need to be more substance abuse treatment centers where families can go together to receive treatment, rather than mothers having to make the choice between sobriety or giving up their children. And, yes, they need to be covered by medicaid and have easy access to affordable birth control. One thing that seems to be forgotten is that these are human beings who would prefer to live a different way and do know they need to get clean.

  90. Darleen
    Darleen July 24, 2006 at 7:40 pm |

    Dianne

    “Most damage” in a small number of people or small damage in a far larger group of people?

    I’m thankful that so far research is showing that crack babies can get out from under the addiction their bio-moms forced on them. But they still go through very nasty withdrawals and it may take months even in the best of loving foster settings to get them to a place where they are equal to never-poisoned peers. The implication that we should not worry our silly little heads over newborns coming into the world with cocktails of poisons in their bloodstream because they’ll still be able to attend kindergarten in five or six years is just a bit creepy.

    By and large, addicts are adults, and any acquainted with 12 steps will let you know you are not helping an addict when you enable them. They must be held responsible for their addiction. Helped to get clean, yes, forgiven for getting addicted, yes; but never ever excused for not getting clean.

  91. Darleen
    Darleen July 24, 2006 at 7:54 pm |

    Steve Sailor

    Thanks for that article to accompany the one Jill has linked.

    I know Stanton, CA, having spent my teen years in Brea. It is a diverse, modest, working-class neighborhood, so I’m not surprised that Barbara Harris, caring, pragmatic and filled with common sense, hails from there.

  92. shannon
    shannon July 24, 2006 at 8:25 pm |

    You know, marrying a person of color/having mixed race children is no guarentee that you’re not racist. I’m just saying.

  93. Mickey
    Mickey July 24, 2006 at 9:13 pm |

    absolutely shannon….. just because Harris is married to a Black man can be filed under that whole “well my neighbor is black…..I can’t be a racist,….or Some of my best friends are Black, I can’t be a racist” list of dumb ass “I cant be a racist” remarks

  94. Darleen
    Darleen July 24, 2006 at 9:41 pm |

    Let’s say I assume that someone who makes a loving family with another of a different “race”, has children whom they also love..but somehow can still be “racist” …

    However, no where in either article (Jill’s or Steve’s) have I seen any evidence to support or substantiate a charge of racism against Harris.

    Yanking out the “race card” on people one disgrees with reflects one’s own intellectual bankruptcy, not the one charged.

  95. Darleen
    Darleen July 24, 2006 at 9:43 pm |

    BTW

    Isn’t there a substantial difference in relationships one has with one’s neighbor and one’s spouse?

    Just sayin’.

  96. shannon
    shannon July 24, 2006 at 10:10 pm |

    You know, if we in the ‘court’ who have ‘charged’ Harris with racism found him ‘guilty’ what would happen to him? Would anything remotely bad or even slightly uncomfortable happen? If the race card is so powerful, how come nobody of color can ever say anything is racist, or even that you still have the potential to be racist even if you like one person of color without getting that race card crap? Do you ever hear this of white people whining about ‘reverse racism’? Thinking- it’s fun!

  97. Darleen
    Darleen July 24, 2006 at 10:33 pm |

    Shannon

    Huh?

    One thing I got was that you think Barbara Harris is a man.

    Hokey dokey.

    Now what does happen when the “race” card is pulled is that it derails any conversation. It isn’t made with any reference to reality, it is made to dismiss the person being charged.

    And if used often and indiscriminately, the user then is ignored as someone with any credibility. See “boy who cried wolf.”

    “Racism” is a type of collectivism or groupism. It holds that melanin levels automatically convey talents, traits, moral standing and … in contemporary usage … and proper political thought.

    Again, I’ve seen nothing to substantiate a charge of “racism” against Harris.

  98. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz July 24, 2006 at 10:48 pm |

    Again, I’ve seen nothing to substantiate a charge of “racism” against Harris.

    Well, then, let’s think real hard about who is mostly likely to be recruited in to her program. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s not middle class whites. Forty-three percent of people “treated” by CRACK are black or African American, but they only make up 12% of the total population. I think it’s also worth pointing out that when people say crack baby, the implication is that the child and the mother are black.

    Is that the same as having Harris on tape shouting racial slurs? No. But I think there’s ample evidence to suggest that she thinks black babies need to be saved from their drug addicted mothers.

  99. Older
    Older July 24, 2006 at 10:59 pm |

    “They don’t even know what race the kids are.” Why, that’s . . . . a good thing, really.

    Seriously folks, all the anecdotes about “drug addicted babies” and “crack babies” can be matched from within my own family, and none of these kids were actually exposed to drugs in utero. We need to just give the babies what treatment they need, and skip the labels.

  100. Darleen
    Darleen July 24, 2006 at 11:25 pm |

    Hmmm… “suburbanites” “middle class whites”

    Who is the people with class problems here?

    Does Harris troll only black neighborhoods? or

    Most hear about the offer through fliers and from social service locations such as homeless shelters, Harris said. They have to call a toll-free number to register.

    She puts the info out and people come to her. And while the acronym is CRACK, I’m sure the addicts are not too choosy.

    The drug o’choice we see most in our office is meth.

    And your stats are fairly meaningless as the total clientele of the organization is both very small and we do not know what the demographics of the neighborhoods they came from.

    We give clean needles and condoms to drug addicts because we figure that, well, at least the addict won’t create another victim of aids. CRACK gives out birth control or sterilization because they figure that, well, at least the addict won’t create another poisoned baby.

    Sure, the money from clean needle programs and CRACK could be funneled into rehabs. But neither program is a REHAB program.

    she thinks black babies need to be saved from their drug addicted mothers

    We should think black babies aren’t worthy of saving?

    Hmmmm.

  101. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 25, 2006 at 6:20 am |

    You may as well say that any program for poor people, or prison inmates, is racist, since blacks are over-represented in those areas. “Oh, those nuns working with the poor obviously think that black people need to be fed because they can’t take care of themselves.”

    Now, I believe that black people are over-represented in those areas due to social (not genetic) reasons. And I hope that someday those reasons will be eliminated.

    But until they are, it’s unhelpful (and vile) to suggest that any program that therefore works with more blacks than whites (proportionately) must be racist and paternalistic.

    YOU cut it out and stop reaching for reasons that this is some kind of disgusting and horrible program. Can’t you people just disagree on its value without painting others as racist, sexist, and/or stupid?

  102. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 25, 2006 at 6:43 am |

    Oh, Jill.

    I guess, really, I didn’t mean that I can stop you from cutting it out, as you could stop me if you wanted to. Obviously.

    I know it’s your blog, and I know the issues. I READ your blog (all caps) fairly regularly, which is partly a compliment to you. If you’re going to key in on that part of my post and tell me all about how this blog works, rather than the part about how and why I think this program isn’t sexist, then I guess we’ve lost any real discussion value.

  103. pourquoi
    pourquoi July 25, 2006 at 6:46 am |

    Since when did foster children become the hot accessory (At least Jolie doesn’t expect to be able to make returns)? Am I the only one disturbed by the this quote:

    So, I decided to be a foster parent because I thought I could have little girls and dress them up and fix their hair and play with them and give them back. My husband didn’t want us to become foster parents. He said, “Barbara, there’s no way you’re going to be able to get a baby and give it back a year later.” I honestly believed at the time that wasn’t going to be a problem, because I thought that these aren’t my own kids and I won’t love them like my own kids.

    I had a whole rant to accompany this, but figured Barbara speaks for herself.

  104. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 25, 2006 at 6:48 am |

    Crap. I meant “racist” not sexist. Though I think it’s not sexist either.

    And, crap again, I really meant to say that I was responding to two people. One, who said that it’s racist because blacks are over-represented, and two (you, Jill, at the end of my post) because you griped at Darleen (which you can do, since, hey, it’s your blog), when I saw her post as an attempt to fight fire with fire.

  105. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz July 25, 2006 at 7:41 am |

    You may as well say that any program for poor people, or prison inmates, is racist, since blacks are over-represented in those areas. “Oh, those nuns working with the poor obviously think that black people need to be fed because they can’t take care of themselves.”

    No. I’m saying that a program which seeks to deprive women of their reproductive rights and falls disproportionately on women of color is racist. There is a long and disturbing history in the US of WOC being sterilized against their will, labeled as unfit, and so on. This program, high minded or not, falls squarely into that pattern, and that’s a problem.

    We should think black babies aren’t worthy of saving?

    Hmmmm.

    Darleen, don’t be ridiculous. If you have an actual criticism of my point, make it, rather than erecting strawmen and blatantly/deliberately misreading my comment all over the place.

  106. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 25, 2006 at 8:05 am |

    evil_fizz: You said that there’s ample evidence to suggest that Harris thinks “black babies need to be saved from their drug addicted mothers.” In other words, she’s a racist.

    Your ample evidence was that black women are disproportionately represented in the program. So that’s why I asked whether the nuns think that black people need to be fed and can’t take care of themselves.

    If your stance is now that the program may be high minded, but wrong, well, that’s a different discussion.

    I personally don’t see how a program can be racist. To me, a racist is someone who thinks that one race has less or more X than another. A program, run by high minded people, may affect a race negatively, but to call it racist is overly inflammatory and therefore unhelpful to the cause or the discussion.

    As to your points: This is not against their will. They can (and often do) choose the temporary birth control option instead of the permanent one, and I bet that 99% agree that they shouldn’t be having babies while addicted.

    What if they restricted black participation to 12%? Would that make it less racist?

  107. Rob-ot
    Rob-ot July 25, 2006 at 8:54 am |

    I don’t know about anyone else here, but I have personal experience in the area. Using addicts are horrid parents. Whether or not using while pregnant causes permanent damage to the child, almost no one abuses and neglects children like addicts do.

    All those confounding factors, the researchers must’ve looked far and wide to find non-using women who spent days not eating or sleeping while pregnant. Women who let abcesses fester for weeks or months before they got treatment.

    Do people have any reproductive responsibilities to go along with reproductive rights?

  108. Marian
    Marian July 25, 2006 at 9:36 am |

    Coming in late here, but I think that in arguing whether “crack babies” exist or not, the question is whether we are arguing the existence of a “syndrome” (like fetal alcohol syndrome in babies of alcoholics), or whether we are in denial (“There are no effects at all, so go ahead and use crack when you’re pregnant).

    I think it *is* intellectually and scientifically dishonest to argue that there are NO effects from prenatal drug exposure. The absence of a specific syndrome (e.g., distinctive birth defects) doesn’t mean that we should go ahead and get high through pregnancy, or not discourage doing so, because obviously there are effects (lower IQ, withdrawal, low weight, etc., as someone here said). But I don’t think anyone here is saying that.

  109. Dianne
    Dianne July 25, 2006 at 9:36 am |

    I see that you’re worried about these people getting hypertension from the birth control

    Rob, idiopathic intracranial hypertension is not the same as primary vascular hypertension. In IIH the pressure of CSF surrounding the brain increases. Although death is rare–it would be unusual for the pressure to get high enough to force the brain down the spinal cord, hence, the misnomer “benign intracranial hypertension”–but chronic pain and blindness are common, arguably inevitable without treatment. Treatment is generally effective and so it’s not such a major problem for women who can and will get medical care in time. But this and other possible adverse effects of long term hormonal birth control (DVT, infection at the insertion site, ovarian cysts, and, yes, systemic hypertension) make it a bad idea to just implant it in a woman without doing a physical exam and screening labs before hand and making sure she has adequate follow-up afterwards.

  110. Dianne
    Dianne July 25, 2006 at 9:40 am |

    By and large, addicts are adults, and any acquainted with 12 steps will let you know you are not helping an addict when you enable them.

    And how is giving a drug addict $300 and sending them off with no follow-up, no referral to treatment, not even a discussion of whether they might be interested in stopping, anything other than enabling?

  111. TWAndrews
    TWAndrews July 25, 2006 at 10:09 am |

    Sterilization seems rather extreme to me. Why not just long-term, implanted birth control? It seems to me that there are probably a decent fraction of people who are high out of their minds in their teens and early twenties and really shouldn’t have children then, but who eventually clean up and could make good parents.

    It just seems shitty to advocate an irreversable treatment for a problem that is quite possibly temporary. Particularly when that treatment deprives the recepient of the opportunity for something that tens of millions of people believe to be the greatest source of satisfaction in their lives.

  112. TQL
    TQL July 25, 2006 at 10:16 am |

    But the issues that children born to drug addicts face, physically and mentally, are usually more a product of poverty, lack of nutrituion, lack of healthcare, etc than in utero exposure to cocaine.

    Love how systemic issues trump any level of personal responsibility that an addict has in actually taking care of their children.

    Love it!

  113. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 25, 2006 at 10:33 am |

    Though people are still commenting as though sterilization is the only option. Oh well.

    Dianne: I’m hopeful that someone will find your post interesting. I’d already looked up most of that, though I won’t get into a debate about its risks in this case. I’m sure you know more than I do about it.

    To me, it’s irrelevant because I make the assumption that women who see a doctor to get shots will be checked out by that doctor, whether Harris is paying for it or not. If not, then you should advocate that doctors do more for ALL women getting birth control, for money or not.

    Also, as I said, I’d worry more about the health risks (of mother and child) of carrying a baby while addicted to crack or meth.

    And also again, I worry more about the babies getting born to be neglected and worse.

  114. zuzu
    zuzu July 25, 2006 at 11:10 am | *

    Though people are still commenting as though sterilization is the only option. Oh well.

    It’s been explained repeatedly why the long-term birth control options, like Depo or IUDs or implantable BC, is not the best option for someone who is not regularly seeing a doctor, probably does not want to regularly see a doctor because of the addiction, etc.

    Besides, people, $300 in exchange for your fertility (or in exchange for implanting something in your body that can do bad things to it if not properly monitored) is really goddamn cheap. I made at least that much participating as a research subject when I was in law school, and all I had to do was become allergic to some substance that exists only in a lab and then spend an afternoon on a rooftop, getting a sunburn on my ass. They even threw in a free bottle of sunscreen.

    Nobody cut me open, nobody did anything irreversible, nobody implanted anything or shot me up with anything that I’d have to go follow up on. And I still got more than these people are getting for undergoing surgery.

    And yes, $300 was a lot of money to me back then. Not as much as it would seem to an addict, but still a lot of money. But I wasn’t going to participate in anything that would affect me long-term or be dangerous.

  115. bmc90
    bmc90 July 25, 2006 at 11:38 am |

    There is a post going on over at Feministing about termination of parental rights. Go read it and then mount a cogent argument as to why it would not be a flaming great idea if some of the women discussed decided in exhange for $300 or maybe even a Porche that they did not need to have 6 kids when they already have 5, plus an abusive boyfriend, plus drug problems, etc. I agree that both parental terminations and this program target poor black women. However, to look at it from a Linda Hirshman perspective, how the hell are you supposed to ever get on your feet and break out of poverty if you keep popping out kids like puppies? Answer: you aren’t. Maybe if we really cared about these women making it, the last thing we would be worried about is their future lack of fertility. Last time I checked, no one ever starved or ended up dead with the herion needle still stuck in their arm from NOT having a baby.

  116. PLN
    PLN July 25, 2006 at 11:51 am |

    I’m still a bit puzzled by the way critics of the program seem to slide back and forth between two viewpoints that appear rather incompatible:

    1: the women this program reaches out to, as autonomous agents, are being demeaned by the program’s insistence that it knows better than they do whether they ought to be mothers;

    2: the women this program reaches out to, as drug-addicts who are in all likelihood poverty-stricken, are, for various reasons, so diminished in their capacity for autonomous, rational decision-making that, A, small monetary incentives rise to the level of ‘coercion’ for them, and, B, they will be unable to properly handle the consequences of, say, long-term birth control.

    Aren’t these critiques fundamentally incompatible? Moreover, don’t they each highlight the weaknesses of the other? Control over one’s reproductive capacity is hugely important, and it seems like a central aspect of feminism to recognize this–but this kind of control can be undermined not merely by meddling outsiders, but by personal tragedy, too.

    For those women who are genuinely in a position where 300$ consitutes a coercive level of inducement–which I think requires not merely poverty but some degree of diminished decision-making or akrasia–do we really believe *simultaneously* that they currently are able to exercise reproductive autonomy? I don’t think that’s tenable, and therefore, am unsure whether we should really see such cases as an ‘assault on reproductive rights’. If, indeed, it *is* the case that most fall into the category of “I don’t want to have kids again, but just haven’t managed to commit to an effective regimen of birth control that prevents this”–then mightn’t this be seen as *enabling*, rather than diminishing, autonomy?

    The worries about harm done by insufficient medical monitoring seems like a red herring, too–again, how can we *simultaneously* believe these women are unable to take long-term birth control safely but *are* able to risk pregnancy safely? Both involve medical risks; I suspect, especially for drug-addicts, the latter is more risky. (This is, of course, an empirical question.)

    Finally, as I said earlier, I think the question of historical context should lead towards skepticism and concern–but I don’t think it’s a conclusive reason on its own. (And I agree with those who think that pushing *sterilization* is a very bad idea.)

  117. bmc90
    bmc90 July 25, 2006 at 11:58 am |

    PLN, I agree. I think people are treating this proposal they way they would a situation where a crack addicted woman in front of a judge has the opportunity to plead to a lesser offense in exhange for sterilization. A clearly coercive circumstance that should not be allowed. This program – not the same thing. I think you are right on that if you believe in women’s reproductive decisionmaking, then you should support a woman’s decision to take the money and tie her tubes. As I said above, every time a progressive tries to argue otherwise, they will come up against the stories of the 5 crack babies some woman had and their own shilling for personal choice.

  118. PLN
    PLN July 25, 2006 at 12:07 pm |

    Also, I’m curious what you mean, Jill, by “the values underyling the program are sexist and racist.”

    Do you mean that, while people might, in fact, support the program for all sorts of reasons, the only *intellectually coherent* reasons to do so are to promote sexist and racist values? (If you are supporting it in order to further the well-being and autonomy of minority women, for example, you are simply *making a mistake* in your analysis, if perhaps a good-faith one?)

    Or are simply saying that, regardless of the values of bystanders who might happen to support the program, those who *run it* are sexist and racist, which ought to lead us to look at it with a very skeptical eye?

    (I’m willing to believe the second; I have a harder time buying the first.)

  119. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 25, 2006 at 12:17 pm |

    Zuzu: Though it may have been explained that long-term birth control options “is not the best option” for these women, that doesn’t really excuse some people from continually talking about this program as if the only option is permanent sterilization.

    [I think it's bad for any cause when exaggeration is used in the fight. It tends to make one less believable when the next issue rolls around.]

    Besides, I’m not sure that it’s been explained what the best option currently available would be if they want birth control.

    It’s interesting that you mention that $300 is cheap for this. Maybe (I’d even say probably, though what do I know) they think it’s a good idea. In that case, it’s not cheap. It’s a huge bonus to do something they already want. I wish someone would talk to these women and see what they think. Do they say, “it was worth it for the cash,” or “thank God someone’s helping me get birth control”?

  120. Margaret Salmonface
    Margaret Salmonface July 25, 2006 at 12:33 pm |

    Their bodies, their choices. Deal with it, hypocrite.

  121. zuzu
    zuzu July 25, 2006 at 1:03 pm | *

    It’s interesting that you mention that $300 is cheap for this.

    Why? They’re offering a very small amount of money to undergo major surgery, or to have something implanted that could cause hypertension or other complications.

    And really, whether you’re talking about long-term BC or sterilization, the purpose of this program is the same: make sure that certain people don’t breed. Not get them clean so that they can have healthy children and provide for them adequately, not get them healthy for their own sakes.

    For what it costs to pay for the surgery or the doctor visits and the payment to the user, you might be able to treat the user. Sure, people need to want to be treated, but they also need options for treatment when they are ready. If someone’s ready for treatment but can’t get a place in a program, is it really helpful to throw $300, stick an IUD in her and say, “Well, tough luck, but at least you won’t have any crack babies now”?

    No, it’s not. What’s helpful is creating an additional place in a treatment program. And while she’s in treatment, offer her counseling and parenting classes and other services to ensure that she has the skills and the resources to take care of herself and the children she does have instead of worrying about the children she may be conceiving.

  122. Gabriel Malor
    Gabriel Malor July 25, 2006 at 1:53 pm |

    zuzu, you’re back to arguing that because a better option (treatment) is not being provided, the lesser option (CRACK) should not be provided. Sailorman pointed out that argument back in comment 43.

    If you like, think of CRACK as an option for women who are not ready for treatment. If a woman is not ready for treatment, she will still have some options for birth control. This is one of them.

    Also, (while I know that you, zuzu, have not made this argument) others have already argued that offering $300 is too much coercion for an addict. Should the money be increased, these folks would certainly have a stronger argument.

  123. Dianne
    Dianne July 25, 2006 at 2:50 pm |

    To me, it’s irrelevant because I make the assumption that women who see a doctor to get shots will be checked out by that doctor, whether Harris is paying for it or not.

    From the article it’s hard to say. Hopefully they are doing at least an initial exam, although I wouldn’t count on that even, at least in the case of those who choose depo-provera shots. They may just get injected, no questions asked. In any case, I don’t see any mechanism for follow-up, either through Harris or otherwise. It sounds more like she’s getting them sterilized or implanted with depo hormones and then forgetting their existence. Of course, someone who works with someone like Chris Brand isn’t going to worry much about the death of a few “undesirables.”

  124. Marian
    Marian July 25, 2006 at 3:10 pm |

    You’re right, Marian. Certainly there is going to be a higher probability of developmental issues when pregnant women use drugs, including alcohol. But the issues that children born to drug addicts face, physically and mentally, are usually more a product of poverty, lack of nutrituion, lack of healthcare, etc than in utero exposure to cocaine. Most of these problems occur after birth. What also seems relatively clear is that drugs like cocaine increase the probability of pregnancy-related complications.

    Obviously using crack or any other drug while pregnant is not a good idea. I was just taking an issue with the “crack baby sydrome,” which was used to pathologize entire communities.

    I’d be interested whether anyone here has seen the movie “Losing Isaiah,” with Halle Berry. Berry’s character gives birth to a baby while on crack, and the baby is adopted by a different family. Three years later, the boy is screaming, and the adoptive mom says, “He’s screaming because of all the crack she pumped into him.”

    Is it really likely that a child is still going through withdrawal after 3 years, or that the emotional problems last that long, or is this a “nitpick?” FWIW, the baby in the movie is adopted at about 6 weeks.

  125. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz July 25, 2006 at 4:54 pm |

    I personally don’t see how a program can be racist.

    I refer you to The Tuskeegee Syphilis Studies.

  126. Djur
    Djur July 25, 2006 at 5:15 pm |

    There appear to still be people who question whether Harris is racist. Here:

    “Men don’t have many options (just vasectomies), so they don’t follow through. When they hear what they have to do, they go, “Ooh, I’m not doing that.” And in most cases it’s not drug-addicted men who are getting these women pregnant — it’s johns that they prostitute with all day long for $5 a person. One of the women who came through our program had 14 babies. She doesn’t know who the fathers are, and that’s usually the case. A lot of times they don’t even know what race the kids are. How sad is that?

    It’s right there in the posting. Blatant racism.

    Oh, and hey, it’s Steve Sailer. Rot in hell.

  127. Gabriel Malor
    Gabriel Malor July 25, 2006 at 5:33 pm |

    That’s racism? Pointing out that some addicts are so messed up they don’t know what race the kids are is racist?

  128. Katie
    Katie July 25, 2006 at 7:54 pm |

    Um. Oh my God. How can that NOT be racist?

  129. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 25, 2006 at 9:12 pm |

    Evil_fizz: it was a typing mistake. I meant to say “the” instead of “a.”

    Of course, there have been lots of racist programs. That is, there have been lots of programs with the goal or method being informed and directed by racist beliefs.

    Did you have anything to say about the rest of what I said?

  130. weeklyrob
    weeklyrob July 25, 2006 at 9:18 pm |

    Dianne: Your assumption seems to be that unless we hear differently, we should assume that the doctors will be negligent. Mine is that unless we hear differently, we should assume that the doctors aren’t negligent.

    I didn’t read anything about implants (not saying it’s not there). I read about shots, which I assume are given by medical professionals, and prescribed by a doctor (once a quarter?). I assume, hearing nothing to the contrary, that the doctor isn’t negligent. If it’s just a nurse, then I assume the same thing.

  131. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom July 25, 2006 at 10:41 pm |

    I was somewhat disturbed by her quote about “dressing them up and fixing their hair”, but – I don’t consider that necessarily an indication that she’s treating them like accessories. I haven’t exactly been pressuring my younger boy to get his (tangle-prone) hair cut, mostly because I’m hoping he’ll allow me to braid it and, yes, fuss around with it. Hair is fun. Dressing up kids is fun. The societally-allowable dress-up and hair options for girls are generally broader than those for boys.

  132. Rob-ot
    Rob-ot July 26, 2006 at 7:35 am |

    Does anyone think that people who live every moment of their lives focused on drugs and ways and means to get more is exercising personal autonomy in any meaningful sense?

    There are lots of programs for drug treatment, until those actually work for most of us, putting more money into those is foolish when other programs can reduce the number of children born into those situations.

    Is Head Start racist for being more African American than the population as a whole?

    If having a black spouse and several black children is not evidence of not hating black people, what is?

  133. Sally
    Sally July 26, 2006 at 7:54 am |

    Is Head Start racist for being more African American than the population as a whole?

    No, because black people are more likely to be eligible than the population as a whole. But I don’t think that black people are more likely than white people to abuse drugs. Haven’t there been several studies that have suggested that, if anything, white people are slightly more likely than black and Latino people to use illegal drugs? And I suspect that white people are overrepresented among prescription drug abusers.

  134. Sailorman
    Sailorman July 26, 2006 at 9:17 am |

    People are incorrectly classifying the sterilizations as a surgery without benefit. It should be obvious to everyone (I hope) that if you WANT to be sterilized, then that’s how it happens. That’s why a lot of women–rich women, with full autonomy–choose to be sterilized.

    So it’s not inherently bad after all. Unless you want to argue that all the people who pay big bucks to get it done are being coerced….

    These women are clearly not being coerced to get sterilized instead of choosing BC. 2/3 of them are opting out of it.

    # Jill Says:
    J…it’s antithetical to a truly pro-choice position, which values women’s reproductive rights.

    I’m not really sticking on semantics here, I promise… but doesn’t a true ‘prochoice positon’ value women’s reproductive CHOICES, including the ability to give up reproduction? The goal isn’t to “keep her fertile so she can have more rights,” you know.

    “…I do believe that the values underyling the program are sexist and racist”

    Personally, I am inclined to agree with you. The statements in your original post don’t make the motives look good. But I’m more interested in results, and so long as the program ACTIONS aren’t sexist/racist (which they don’t seem to be) then it seems OK.

    If you were going to choose one of the populations in worst shape, crack addicticted women would probably be near the top of the list. They’re addicted to a horrible drug, and (unlike men in a similar situation) the unfortunate realities of society mean it’s much more likely they’ll be forced into prostitution, be unable to afford BC, and have to bear a lot of unwanted infants. The men are doing this too, of course: But the men are harder to track, since they don’t bear the kids in question.

    Unsurprisingly, many of these women may have incentives which deter them from ,making an optimal decision. Maybe they don’t want to be off the street. Maybe they don’t want to face withdrawal during surgery.

    It’s likely though, that if you asked a crack addict with multiple children, almost all of who had been removed by DCF, whether she wanted to have children ever again… well, if you were to try to identify a population with the highest probability of saying “yes, sterilize me” you’d probably have found it.

    You can take a position that the $300 is coercion. Or you can see it as a rational incentive to make it possible to have an accurate decision, which allows them enough cash to decide without worrying about (for example) lost income.

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