TO: National Advocates for Pregnant Women

Yesterday morning, sober 14 years, 11 months, and five days, I read a very disturbing article in the New York Times. It was about an organization which pays alcoholics and drug addicts, sober or not, money if they agree to be sterilized. According to this group, the costs for those psychologically and physically harmed by being born to or raised by such persons is just too finally expensive for society to have to endure. Thus, according to them, because I too am the child of a drug addict and an alcoholic, the world would be better off if my conception and subsequent birth, as well as that of my siblings and my parents (each with an alcoholic parent) had been prevented.

While I too was hit with the genetic disposition to addiction and became a terrible alcoholic, that is hardly all that I am. I worked my way through UC Santa Cruz as a janitor, gaining a B.A. in History and East Asian Studies in 1981 with College Honors. I did graduate work in Chinese literature at UCLA and Fudan University in China. I then went to UC Davis for law school, where I published an article on Chinese business law in an ABA journal, and graduated in 1987. After four stints in detox, I got sober in 1988, and thereafter passed the bar.

I cannot deny that funds were expended to assist me in recovering from alcoholism, and in recovering from some of the unpleasant side effects of being raised by parents with a similar disability. But since that time I have paid several hundred thousand dollars in taxes to support public works and given thousands away to private charity. I have represented AIDS Project Los Angeles before the California Supreme Court, am a board member of the Blanche Fischer Foundation in Oregon (promoting the abilities of people with disabilities), and worked as a volunteer Catholic Chaplain at Men's Central Jail. My life is a joy to me, and the hardships I experienced from my wrongful existence (in the eyes of Project Prevention) have helped me to know things I never would have known otherwise, and to assist others with the same and different disabilities.

My father, who also would never have been born if Project Prevention had its way, raised six children, all of them contributing members of society. The main lasting effect being part of the "litters" (Project Prevention's founder's description) of addicted parents seems to be a desire to make some extra difference. One sister is a fundraiser for a homeless organization, a brother is a nurse (also recovering). My mother died in October, from heart trouble caused in part by years of amphetamine use. Do I remember terrible times from their addictions? Yes. But I also remember the fishing trips with Dad, how hard he tried to get and stay sober, and how supportive he was of me when I managed to achieve that goal. I remember my mother reading to me and acting like it was normal for me to expect to go to college, when neither she nor my dad had. I remember their love, over and above all.

To advocate eugenics which would have denied my parents' conception because their parents were also troubled by addiction is so awful I cannot even find a word adequate to describe it. I think of the others who have not only survived their parent's addiction disability, but gone on to do great things - which all would never have happened if Project Prevention had its way and managed to sterilize their alcoholic/addict parent. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Marlon Brando, John Steinbeck (yes - no Grapes of Wrath, no East of Eden); Jacqueline Kennedy, Congressman Ted Kennedy, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), Bill Cosby, Dorothy Parker (gave all her money to the NAACP), Frank McCourt (Angela's Ashes).

Alcoholism and drug addiction are nasty. But so are many other diseases and disabilities. To try to rid the world by sterilizing the disabled because their children might use up tax dollars would deny the world a great many wonderful people. And that's the problem with eugenics - it denies existence based on one genetic trait, without regard to all the other traits.

The future plays itself out in all its misery and all its glory, sometimes on the same day and certainly in every lifetime, because we all deserve to exist and be given the chance to develop despite, and sometimes because of, our disabilities.

Please keep working against this horrible group.

Sherril Nell Babcock

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