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Group Offers Crack Addicts Money for Contraceptive Procedures


November-December 1997

An Orange County (CA) group called CRACK (Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity) is offering to pay female drug addicts to have their fallopian tubes tied or to pay for contraceptives. Barbara Harris, who has four adopted children born to a crack addict, founded CRACK last year with the hopes of reducing the number of drug addicted babies being placed in foster care (Tom Berg and Jeff Collins, Orange County Register News, October 23, 1997, Metro Section, p. 8; Robert Ourlian, "Addicts are offered cash to be sterilized," Los Angeles Times, October 24, 1997; "Tubal ligation means $200 for drug addict," San Jose Mercury News, October 27, 1997).

CRACK offers female drug addicts $200 for tubal ligation, $50 to get Norplant®, and $20 for an injection of Depo Provera®. Harris said that many of the sterilization operations would be paid for by Medi-Cal, the state's health system for the poor. She has lobbied to make it a crime to give birth to a drug addicted baby. She plans to offer money to male addicts who agree to have a vasectomy. The first addicted woman to accept the offer, age 28 and identified as Sheila H., recently gave birth to her sixth baby. Although she was drug free during the pregnancy, her previous five children were born addicted to crack.

The program has troubled women's rights activists and medical ethicists. Rebecca Jurado, formerly a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, and currently an assistant professor at Western State University College of Law in Fullerton said, "The focus should be on treating women while they are pregnant and addicted. ... They're saying, `I'm going to give you $200 to give up your right to procreate.' It doesn't sound moral. It doesn't sound ethical." Melanie Blum, an Orange County attorney who specializes in bioethical issues raised the question of whether a drug addicted mother, without professional treatment and counseling is capable of giving "informed consent." She said, "If she's addicted to crack cocaine, how valid is her judgement?"

CRACK - P.O. Box 74, Stanton, CA 90680, Tel: (714) 236-0217,

Professor Rebecca Jurado - (714) 738-2524.