root - Posted on 01 January 2000

POOR Magazine columnist Ka Ponda investigates the implications of Barbara Harris' C.R.A.C.K.campaign on poor mothers.

by KaPonda

I am the mysterious product of a love supreme, nestled snugly within the creative bowels of femininity. My progressive footprints rest in the womb of humanity, as rhythmical contractions, driven by pants of excitement, prepare me for an uncertain future. A future, in an ideal life, that would open its gates as I am thrust forth from within. But I am wary also, because the grim reaper of prenatal existence, Barbara Harris, has waged a vicious war against impoverished mothers, denying them of their vested privilege of motherhood, and declaring me persona non grata.

Barbara Harris of Anaheim, conceived her campaign against poor, pregnant women in 1977, after having experienced problems with adoption. Traces of crack cocaine were discovered in the systems of her adopted children. She subsequently formed an organization, Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity (C.R.A.C.K.), based on the theory that the sterilization of poor women who use drugs would prevent birth defects in newborn babies. Ms. Harris launched an aggressive ideology, dubbed Project Prevention, which she proposed to offer poor women who use drugs approximately $200.00 to undergo any of a number of birth control procedures.

According to Ms. Harris, Project Prevent would eliminate excessive amounts of annual pregnancies among women who use drugs. She states, also, that her organization would prevent the numerous abortions and abandoned children. Furthermore, Ms. Harris states that Project Prevent would ease the burden of the foster care system. And, of course, her plan would create a decrease in drug-saturated births.

Barbara Harris has mobilized nationwide support for her campaign by making use of popular prejudices. Her destructive propaganda has incited hatred toward poor women in America at an economically critical period for women, as Congress has mandated states to transition them from welfare to employment.

The perfect child has neither been conceived nor born. Therefore, it is mean-spirited and insensitive of Ms. Harris to declare war on infants of a certain group of women because she discovered traces of cocaine in her children's systems. Researchers at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have stated in the book Your Child, "The unborn child has the capacity to sense the harm in utero, and that the workings of any baby's mind are, and will remain, inscrutable." It follows that the development of a child is much the same from one child to the next. But the way the child makes his way in life varies according to his education, environment and support structure.

According to a recent survey, nine out of 10 women are loyal and remain closely attached to their partners, as opposed to one out of 10 men who demonstrate that same faithful commitment. This statistic suggest a strong probability that many of the women who forfeit their reproductive virtues for Ms. Harris' quick cash will not only regret it themselves, but its impact will affect their partners to whom they choose to remain loyal.

There have been solutions already provided to address the concerns that Ms. Harris have raised. As Hillary Rodham Clinton noted during her visit to Kampala, Uganda on March 28, 1977, "Women constitute 70 percent of the world's poor. Based on research and first-hand personal observation by many people involved in government and politicsäaround the world, the single most important investment any nation can the education of girls and women."

Organizations such as the Women's Economic Agenda Project (WEAP), Planned Parenthood, and even the Catholic Church have recommended investing dollars into programs that offer healthcare and drug prevention education to economically disadvantaged women. A recent finding by researchers has shown that every dollar spent on the front end of education and drug programs saves seven dollars on the other end. According to the chartbook, Health, United States, 1998, "A healthy pregnancy is directly associated with a women's healthcare education level."

To deny this is absurd. Ms. Harris should consider redirecting her economic focus by offering those same women a $200.00 cash incentive to attend some type of rigorous, intensive workshop over a two-week period. The overwhelming evidence proves that this approach would cause a drastic reduction in annual pregnancies and child abandonment. This is, undoubtedly, a humane and moral solution which would not only eliminate any hint of divisiveness, but also afford a greater number of chronically poor women an opportunity for a structured healthcare and drug treatment education. Thus, future research would show a decrease in infant mortality, an increase in contraceptive use (if needed), and healthier babies being born to healthier women.

Ms. Harris asserts that offering cash to women who use crack cocaine would cause a decrease in drug-saturated births. There is no evidence which suggest that defective births are the exclusive result of cocaine use, alone. According to Doctor Dean Edell, we should not use tests based on drugs a determinant for any social, political, economical, ethical or spiritual decisions because it is not a perfected science. Research has discovered that drug testing varies according to an individual's race. Drugs enter the pigment of ethnic groups, differently. As the cells grow, the drugs are deposited into the pigment. Traces of cocaine may appear in a black person using cocaine, but not in a white person. So, traces of cocaine may appear, let's say, in four black infants adopted at birth by a women from Anaheim, but may not be found in white children who may have been exposed to the same amount.

Birth defects have many causes, some of which have as yet been discovered. If both parents carry the defective sickle-cell gene, the baby would probably inherit the Sickle-Cell Anemia disease. Structural heart defects is the most common type of birth defect, which costs an average of $250,000 to treat. Chromosome abnormalities (including Down Syndrome) occurs with regular frequency, which requires an average of $451,000 to treat. Neural Tube Defects, including Spinal Bifida and Anencephaly, is also a birth defect which needs close scrutiny, which costs $294,000 to treat. In addition, there are many others that need careful scrutiny. Neither Ms. Harris, nor anyone else should arbitrarily single out any one group of women for what amounts to a breach human rights.

The breach had occurred. The cascade of water alerted me that the hour had arrived that would bequeath upon me the mantle of life, and usher me through the portal of reality. It is an event in which everyone involved will remember. Its success will determine who I am and what I can become.....


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