Drug addicts get paid $300 to stop making babies

Published: Mar. 10, 2010 at 1:09 AM HST|Updated: Mar. 10, 2010 at 5:19 AM HST
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Close-up of Project Prevention flyer
Close-up of Project Prevention flyer
Tricia Wright
Tricia Wright

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A controversial organization pushing birth control for Hawaii's homeless and drug addicts hit the streets of Oahu Tuesday and they're offering hundreds of dollars in cold hard cash.

The group's called Project Prevention. Its founder from California has been on Maui before. This is her first trip to Oahu.

But the goal hasn't changed: To reduce the number of substance exposed births to zero.

People near Aala Park were handed an unusual offer. With each flier came a promise of $300, if they promised to be sterilized.

"A lot of people say well, you know if you give these addicts $300, they're gonna spend it on drugs and they might do that but that's their choice, the babies don't have a choice," Project Prevention founder Barbara Harris said.

Harris knows first hand the challenges. She adopted four children from a Los Angeles addict.

"If you blame the women's right to procreate is more important than the right of the children that's she's going to destroy, to me the children are the victims, not the woman," she said.

Project Prevention is run off of donations.

And the cash isn't given right up front. Harris says when the medical procedure is done, clients must produce documentation to collect. If they cannot pay for it, Project Prevention will.

A woman who wanted to remain anonymous flew from Maui just to get a birth control implant. She has three children who are being raised by relatives.

"I think it's a smart program and it's gonna help a lot of people," she told Hawaii News Now.

But some say it's well intentioned but not well thought out.

"She probably thinks she's doing the right thing and not really looking at the long term consequences of really continuing to ostracize these women from society, instead of really trying to bring them back into society," University of Hawaii at Manoa assistant professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology Tricia Wright told Hawaii News Now.

Wright is the founder of the Path Clinic. It offers a comprehensive approach to women suffering from addictions. This includes pre-natal, post-partem, family planning as well as drug treatment services. So far, they've served about 200 women in the three years they've been open.

"Treatment does work, there's better ways of dealing with the problems than just offering money to women to be sterilized," Wright said.

Harris says they've paid more than 3,000 clients, including almost 30 men.

It has sparked some controversy about constitutional rights and racism, but Harris says they target behavior, not race.

For more information on this program, go to www.projectprevention.org

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.