UPDATED: UK Drug Addicts Being Paid Not To Have Children; Billionaire Funding
Drug addicts across the UK are being offered money to be sterilized by an American charity.
Project Prevention is offering to pay £200 to any drug user in London, Glasgow, Bristol, Leicester and parts of Wales who agrees to be operated on. The first person in the UK to accept the cash is drug addict “John” from Leicester who says he “should never be a father”. The move has been criticized by some drug Charities who work with addicts.
Project Prevention founder Barbara Harris admitted her methods amounted to “bribery”, but said it was the only way to stop babies being physically and mentally damaged by drugs during pregnancy. Drug treatment charity Addaction estimates one million children in the UK are living with parents who abuse drugs. Pregnant addicts can pass on the dependency to the unborn child, leading to organ and brain damage. Mrs Harris set up her charity in North Carolina after adopting the children of a crack addict.
Damage to children
Speaking to the BBC’s Inside Out program, she said: “The birth mother of my children obviously dabbled in all drugs and alcohol – she literally had a baby every year for eight years. I get very angry about the damage that drugs do to these children.”
After paying 3,500 addicts across the United States not to have children, she is now visiting parts of the UK blighted by drugs to encourage users to undergo “long-term birth control” for cash.
John, a 38-year-old addict from Leicester, is the first person in the UK to accept money to have a vasectomy after being involved in drugs since he was 12. He said: “It was something that I’d been thinking about for a long time. I won’t be able to support a kid; I can just about manage to support myself.”
Simon Antrobus, chief executive of Addaction, said while no-one wanted to see children brought up in a drug-using environment, there was no place for Project Prevention in the UK. “It exploits very vulnerable people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol at probably the lowest point in their lives,” he said.
The Reverend Robert Black, of Victory Outreach, which works with former addicts in east London, said he thought Project Prevention’s aims were “very devious”.
Maria Cripps, team leader at Islington’s Dovetail service which is part of Cranstoun Drug Services, said: “I think Barbara uses some very extreme examples to get her point across. It might work in America but Great Britain is a very different country.” But Reverend Martin Blakebrough, director of Camden’s Kaleidoscope Project in north London, said sterilization was “worth considering” if it was right for the individual.
A spokesperson at the British Medical Association said: “The BMA’s ethics committee does not have a view on the charity Project Prevention. As with all requests for treatment, doctors need to be confident that the individual has the capacity to make the specific decision at the time the decision is required. The BMA’s ethics committee also believes that doctors should inform patients of the benefits of reversible contraception so that the patients have more reproductive choices in the future.”
UPDATE: Right-Wing Billionaire Sponsors Sterilization For UK Drug Addicts
Last night, the UK’s BBC aired the story of a 38-year-old heroin addict called John, who became the first person in England to accept cash to be sterilized. For £200 ($320), he agreed to a vasectomy, paid for by US charity Project Prevention. The North Carolina non-profit and its founder Barbara Harris are now at the center of an ethical row, with critics in England calling her work “utterly wrong”, “immoral” and “exploitative”, posing “the risk of a slippery slope towards Nazi-style eugenics.” The charity has already paid more than 3500 American drug addicts in exchange for sterilization, and plans to move on to Australia next.
What the UK papers have failed to mention is the money man behind this controversial scheme. Far-right republican billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife — heir to the Mellon family oil and banking fortune — is one of Project Prevention’s main donors.
“I met him years ago,” Harris told Forbes last month, during research for Scaife’s Forbes 400 rich list profile. “It was an honor.”
Scaife, owner of right-leaning media outlets the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Newsmax, has a history of bankrolling conservative causes. He generally keeps a very low profile; his name hasn’t cropped up in the national press since his company briefly flirted with purchasing Newsweek magazine earlier this year.
However, last week, Vice President Joe Biden cited the Pittsburgh-based billionaire during a speech on the fundraising abilities of GOP groups, who have been vastly outspending Democrats during this election cycle. Just a handful of Republican Forbes 400 members have financed Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC. While Scaife isn’t listed as a donor, Biden is concerned that he and his fellow conservative billionaires are giving to tax exempt nonprofits. Thanks to new legislation, these groups don’t have to disclose their donor lists. Said Biden:
“You don’t know where [the money is] coming from, but you know where it’s coming from. It’s coming from some of the biggest interests – the Mellon Scaife types of the world. Folks, these guys are playing for keeps.”
Scaife didn’t respond to a request for comment from Forbes on this story.