Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 10:41 a.m.
Are you addicted to drugs? Will you be anywhere near Boca Raton tomorrow? Do you want $300? If so, say no more, drug person, because Barbara Harris has an answer.
Harris runs Project Prevention
, a nonprofit that's gone all over the country giving drug addicts $300 each -- to get sterilized. She says she adopted four children who were born exposed to drugs and wants to stop the problem now -- if you can prove you're addicted to drugs, she'll cut you a check to get your tubes tied.
She's been accused of all kinds of things -- including Nazi-style eugenics
-- but she says it's not about who the drug addicts are or what they do with the money once they get it. It's about saving children from being exposed to drugs before birth.
"They're going to get drug money either way," Harris said. "That's their choice. You know, if they think that sounds heartless, fine. But my heart is with the innocent victims, the babies."
She also said she wasn't bothered by the idea that addicts could be selling their reproductive futures for a quick drug fix, a move they might regret later. If an addict later got clean and wished she hadn't done the procedure, Harris said, "I wouldn't feel guilty at all. It's another decision, another thing they did under the influence of drugs."
She said it was an easy choice to pick protecting unborn children from drug exposure over preserving addicts' desires to have children once they're clean.
"It's like we're gambling with the lives of innocent children," she said, adding that the choice, even if they come to regret it, could be "the best bad decision they ever made... Nobody has come through our program that hasn't had a number of children."
To say "nobody" is a big deal -- Harris says more than 4,100 addicts
have taken her up on the cash offer since 1998, including about 72 men who have had vasectomies and many women who have opted for subdermal birth control implants, IUDs, or birth control injections instead of tubal ligations. And Harris says of those thousands of procedures, the group paid for only about 20 of them.
"Their procedures are usually paid for by the government," Harris said, because almost all are on Medicaid or other government health programs. But if they're uninsured, she said, the group will pay. "We don't turn anybody away."
The money for the payouts all comes from private donations, she said, adding that donors have been excited from the beginning because they feel they can get "the most bang for their buck" in actually effecting change.
The group's RV has hit up several Florida locations already -- Tampa and Jacksonville were earlier this week, and they're in Fort Myers today. Tomorrow, they'll be in Boca Raton, but Harris said they are still looking for a suitable spot to set up. Harris said, though, that the RV is more like a "traveling billboard" -- anyone interested can call 1-888-30-CRACK to get started.
"[The response has] been great," she said. "We've had so many people call us from all over Florida."
If you're wondering how the whole thing works, it's pretty simple: They give you paperwork, you take it to the doctor who does your procedure, then mail it back. Once they confirm you really can't have babies anymore, they give you the money. And don't be trying to game them if you aren't really on drugs: You need some kind of proof, like arrest records. Harris said she frequently receives paperwork from Child Protective Services indicating children have been taken away.
When it comes to proving their addictions, Harris said "they typically don't have a problem."