- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

NEW YORK A group that is paying drug addicts and alcoholics $200 apiece not to have babies has expanded its reach into this city amid an outcry from liberal activist groups and a cold shoulder from the health care establishment.
Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity (CRACK), also known as Project Prevention, seeks to stop addicts from giving birth by offering money in exchange for sterilization or long-term birth control. It also offers vasectomies for the same deal.
Its philosophy is blunt: It is better for a child not to be born than to suffer the physical and psychological damage inherited from addicted parents.
Barbara Harris of Orange County, Calif., founded the group in 1997. Mrs. Harris, who has given birth to six children and adopted four black children, has been branded a racist and more by some, but she scoffs at the detractors.
"Everybody on the left and right and middle loves us because they agree it's not OK to abuse children," she said.
More white women than black have availed themselves of the group's services, Mrs. Harris said.
"To assume that they're all black is more racist than they could ever accuse me of. Black babies matter, too. And even if it were all black people, is that unacceptable?" she said.
In October, Mrs. Harris announced the group's opening of an office in New York City at an unruly news conference attended by more anti-CRACK demonstrators than journalists.
The National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPR), Mrs. Harris' chief antagonist, accused her of "racial targeting" and says that her group's activities are reminiscent of Nazi Germany's sterilization programs of the 1930s.
"Nearly half the women she has paid are African-Americans," said Lynn M. Paltrow, NAPR executive director, adding that Mrs. Harris' statistical information is faulty.
Asia, Tepper, a 27-year-old Brooklyn woman, constitutes CRACK's New York office.
Mrs. Tepper volunteered to start the chapter after hearing about CRACK on a radio program. Part of her job is to distribute and post leaflets that read: "Get birth control. Get cash If you are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol then this offer is for you."
She said the response among addicts, social workers and the homeless has been "amazing," adding that "not one person has said it's a bad idea."
Mrs. Tepper, a mother of two, said it is important for children to be born into an environment where they are wanted.
"Nobody wants to see a 2-day-old baby left in hospital without a name," Mrs. Tepper said. "I don't know one taxpayer who will say, 'Let's support a crack baby for the next two years.' We're targeting people who don't want to have children."
In the two months since the office has been operating in New York, four persons have applied to the program, according to Mrs. Tepper, and some hospitals have expressed interest.
But New York's medical establishment is not likely to take up CRACK's approach. The city's Health and Hospitals Corp., which runs 11 municipal hospitals, said in a statement that it is "philosophically opposed to coercing women, economically or otherwise, to make reproductive choices."
Dr. Van Dunn, HHC's chief medical officer, said in an interview with The Washington Times that he opposed the group's methods because sterilization is irreversible.
"Offering a woman, a poor woman, money to give up her reproductive rights is unethical," he said.
Addicts and alcoholics apply to CRACK through a hot-line number on the group's fliers or Web site and through methadone clinics and other drug-treatment programs.
They are required to fill out a form that must be taken to a doctor or clinic for "long-term birth-control" and also prove that they have a drug problem.
CRACK has paid 838 women, half of whom received sterilization, according to Mrs. Harris. Twenty-two men have had vasectomies.
Before contacting CRACK, the women treated had had a total of 1,322 abortions, with some having had 15.
"They use abortion as birth control," Mrs. Harris said.

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