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Program that Pays Addicts for Sterilization Expands to Europe

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The highly controversial Project Prevention, a North Carolina charity that gives cash payments to drug addicts who undergo sterilization or start on long-term birth control, is receiving a similar mixed reception as it expands into the United Kingdom.

Time magazine reported April 17 that Project Prevention founder Barbara Harris decided to form a U.K. chapter after 400 e-mails of support followed her appearance on a BBC Radio 4 program in February. The organization, which relies largely on private donations to subsidize its $300 payments to addicts, received $20,000 from an anonymous supporter to launch its U.K. effort.

Yet others are not welcoming Project Prevention into Europe. Simon Antrobus, chief executive of the London alcohol and drug treatment agency Addaction, called Project Prevention's methods “morally reprehensible and irrelevant,” adding, “Sex education and contraceptive advice is part of drug treatment work in this country. Women who use drugs can access all types of contraception for free on the National Health Service, including a number of long-term options.”

Harris does not shy away from her goal of reducing the number of drug-exposed infants and of preventing addicts from having children they are incapable of parenting. Her organization since 1997 has worked with 3,371 addicts in the U.S., and 1,253 of them have received either a tubal ligation or a vasectomy.

Harris said of addicts who have children, “Even if their babies are fortunate enough not to have mental or physical disabilities, they're placed in the foster care system and moved from home to home.”

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