CASH-FOR-STERILIZATION: CRACK Critics Tear Down Billboard
A billboard touting the controversial program Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity, known as CRACK, was ripped down Tuesday by angry protestors in Oakland only minutes after being posted, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Barbara Harris' controversial program, which offers drug-addicted women $200 to either undergo sterilization or use long-term birth control, has come under fire from some critics who claim that it smacks of forced sterilization and racism. The billboard read, "If You Are Addicted to Drugs -- Get Birth Control -- Get $200 cash" (Koury, San Jose Mercury News, 10/20). While Harris' plans to post other billboards in surrounding areas have been put on hold, she said that her "drive to prevent drug-exposed births will not be deterred by [the] 'mini-riot'" that erupted minutes after workers put up the billboard. Harris, who "was spit on and accused of racial genocide by the angry group," said she will start mass mailing a postcard version of the billboard to every household in Oakland. Harris has plans for two more billboards in Oakland and one in Richmond, VA, and has already advertised the program in Chicago, Fresno, Sacramento and Los Angeles. Since its launch, 85 women -- 36 white, 35 African American and 15 Hispanic -- have participated. Of the 85 women who have had a total of 386 babies, 85 of their children live with their parents, 64 died at birth and the rest live in foster homes (May, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/21). Harris said, "I'm so sick of hearing of the rights of these women. All this about what if they want more kids later on? It's not worth the chance" (San Jose Mercury News, 10/20). She added, "The billboards shouldn't offend them. The need for the billboard should offend them" (Reuters/Washington Post, 10/21).
Carolyn Milligan, an activist with the Economic Human Rights Campaign and protest organizer, said, "This is just the right wing saying again that everybody who is poor is on crack and needs to be on birth control" (San Jose Mercury News, 10/20). Protester Ethel Long-Scott, executive director of the Women's Economic Agenda Project, said, "The essence of this campaign is profound hatred against poor people. 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" (Reuters/Washington Post, 10/21). Noting that the cash incentive could be used to buy more drugs, Long-Scott said, "Giving $200 to a poor woman, especially if she is drug addicted, is a fortune" (New York Times New Service/Baltimore Sun, 10/21). Shasta-Diablo Planned Parenthood's Mitzi Sales also expressed her opposition to the program. She said, "No one likes to see babies addicted to drugs. But coerced sterilization isn't the answer to a big public health problem like substance abuse" (San Jose Mercury News, 10/20).