Many people have lauded C.R.A.C.K. (Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity), also known as Project Prevention, as a sensible and socially responsible program. This program offers $200 for current and former drug users to get sterilized or to use certain long-acting birth control methods. It was founded by Barbara Harris, a committed individual who believes sincerely in what she is doing.
Many people, however, have also challenged this program as a violation of informed consent, as exploitive, coercive, racist and as a form of eugenic population control. A few have addressed the question of whether the program creates a valid contract under standard contract law principles. Still others have argued that at its core, this program invites people to sell their reproductive capacity, and that like the sale of organs, sex, and children, selling the ability to reproduce should be outlawed as a matter of public policy.
While NAPW addresses many of these arguments, our work focuses more broadly on the question of whether or not people concerned with the problems C.R.A.C.K. purports to address, including drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies, child welfare, and public health should support it. NAPW takes seriously what the C.R.A.C.K. program says and what it does, closely examining the data it relies on, the rhetoric it uses, and the influence it is having and is likely to have in the future.
NAPW's examination of the program makes clear that, far from providing a useful response to problems associated with drug use and pregnancy, C.R.A.C.K. instead acts as a dangerous vector for medical misinformation and political propaganda that has significant implications for the rights of all Americans. Under the guise of openness, voluntary choice, and personal empowerment, C.R.A.C.K. not only promotes a vicious image of all drug users, it has won significant support for a program and an ideology that is at the core of civil rights violations and eugenic population control efforts.
As NAPW's law review article on the program documents, much of what C.R.A.C.K. says about its clients is untrue or unsupported. Instead of research, legitimate data, and honest inquiries, C.R.A.C.K. too often presents anecdotes, false information, and horrific images depicting bad women who not only do not deserve to have children, but also do not deserve any form of compassion or support. As Assata Zerai and Rae Banks argue, this kind of "dehumanizing discourse" has a significant influence on public policy responses.
Those who support C.R.A.C.K. are not simply helping to pay the two hundred dollar incentive, they are also contributing to extensive outreach and an ideologically-based public education campaign. C.R.A.C.K. maintains a website, has had a billboard campaign, distributes flyers by hand and mail, and produces significant media coverage through well organized and well funded press conferences and press releases. In 1999, C.R.A.C.K. was the "focus of thirty television interviews, four magazine articles and several newspaper articles." Through these public events, C.R.A.C.K. promotes a vision of pregnant women with health problems as "child abusers," portrays healthy children as damaged, and fosters stereotypes, prejudice, and medical misinformation. As a result, C.R.A.C.K. undermines, rather than promotes, the welfare of children and caring communities. For these reasons, NAPW believes that those truly committed to the well-being of children and families must oppose the C.R.A.C.K. program.
In November of this year Hartford Courant Commentator, Helen Ubiñas contacted NAPW about Barbara Harris and her latest efforts in Connecticut. NAPW was able to provide this thinking journalist with extensive background information about the program and the letter on the "crack baby" myth from the leading researchers in the field. Below is her unusually good commentary and two letters to the editor. One is by NAPW Executive Director Lynn Paltrow and the other letter is by NAPW ally Mary Barr.
NAPW's Wyndi Anderson and Lynn Paltrow continue to ensure that Project Prevention's (founded as C.R.A.CK. --Children Require A Caring Kommunity) misinformation about pregnant women and drug users does not go unchallenged.
Project Prevention: How C.R.A.C.K.
Promotes Dangerous Propaganda And
Undermines The Health And Well Being Of
Children And Families
NAPW Press Release, PRESS RELEASE, October 7, 2002
National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) released an open letter to Barbara Harris, executive director of Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity (C.R.A.C.K.) and Project Prevention, condemning a misleading statement by the organization regarding methadone treatment during pregnancy. The open letter was signed by more than 100 doctors, methadone treatment experts, and advocates, including Dr. Lynn Singer of Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Wendy Chavkin of Columbia University, the Institute for Health and Recovery, the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, and the National Women's Health Institute.
NAPW's open letter to Ms. Harris urges C.R.A.C.K. to withdraw their letter and to advise the individuals and clinics who received it of the misleading nature of its implications about methadone treatment during pregnancy.