A controversial program that offers drug addicts $200 to undergo sterilization has run into a roadblock set up by California activists, who call it a plot by the rich to neuter the poor.
A billboard put up in Oakland advertising the Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity (C.R.A.C.K.) was immediately torn down Tuesday, and community activists said today any further attempts to push the program would be met with protests and picket lines.
"The essence of this campaign is profound hatred against poor people," said Ethel Long-Scott of the Women's Economic Agenda Project. "It presupposes that addicted poor women have no redeemable qualities and their children have no contribution to make, so they are proposing to sterilize them."
The Oakland controversy is the latest test for C.R.A.C.K., a program begun two years ago and aimed at reducing the number of babies born addicted to crack cocaine and other drugs.
Already advertised in Chicago, Sacramento and other cities, C.R.A.C.K. is run on donations from the public and has won some high-profile backers such as radio therapist Laura Schlessinger.
Barbara Harris, the Southern California mother who launched the program, has no apologies for her campaign--saying it is aimed purely at preventing the agony of babies who are born addicted to drugs and who often suffer from severe medical problems as a result.
"The billboard shouldn't offend them. The need for the billboard should offend them," Harris told reporters after the Oakland advertisement was torn down by local protesters.
Under Harris's program, drug addicts get $200 for agreeing to any form of long-term or permanent birth control. About 85 women have thus far taken the deal, including 59 who have agreed to undergo tubal ligations.
While the program is open to members of both sexes, no men have stepped forward to participate.
"This offer is meant as an incentive, a thought-provoking means of sparking attention to those that have struggled with numerous abortions, unwanted pregnancies and abandoned children . . . and now want to do what's right," the group says on its Web site, www.cashforbirthcontrol.com.
C.R.A.C.K.'s opponents say it lures vulnerable people in poor and minority communities into birth control operations that might be difficult or impossible to reverse, while providing them with funds to buy more of the drugs that are killing them.
"It is heinous and diverts attention from the real benefit of investing in treatment programs that deal with the real issues of poor people," said Long-Scott, whose advocacy program has served low-income California women for 17 years.