TV's 'Doctors' looks at sterilizing drug addicts to prevent opioid-dependent newborns

The daytime TV show The Doctors, which has tackled subjects like using breast milk for bug bites, the pros and cons of human microchipping, and diet dangers, on Monday looked at a topic that raised a painful chapter in American medical history: Should people who abuse drugs and alcohol be sterilized so as not to visit their problems on the next generation?

“The problem is, the addicts, they are not the only victims,” said Travis Stork, one of the show’s medical hosts, talking about children born into addiction. “How far is too far when it comes to a solution?”

The show, which can be seen on CBS3-TV locally, has been airing segments on the opioid crisis. The segment’s guest, Barbara Harris, heads Project Prevention, a group which “offers drug addicts and alcoholics cash incentives to use long-term birth control or get sterilized.”

“To me, it’s common sense,” Harris said on the program. “There’s no logical, rational reason as to why somebody strung out on drugs or alcohol should conceive a child.”

Harris started the North Carolina nonprofit 21 years ago with her husband after adopting four foster children all born to the same drug-addicted mother. Harris said she saw how the children suffered and wanted to help prevent their pain from happening to other newborns. Harris told the television audience that so far about 7,000 women have accepted either birth control or sterilization services from the organization, which relies on private donors. Of those that chose to be sterilized, all had children prior to the procedure.

When asked if sterilizing people went too far, Harris said she didn’t think there was a “too far” to try and prevent child abuse.

“I don’t think there is anything you can do that is too much,” she replied.

Another guest, attorney Areva Martin, who is also a child’s-rights advocate, raised the issue of how the “sordid history” of forced sterilizations targeted women of color, the poor, and those with disabilities.

During the 1920s and ’30s the eugenics movement, the practice of selective breeding, led to the forced sterilization of about 64,000 poor, disabled, and people of color in the United States.

“We don’t force anyone to do anything,” responded Harris, who added that the group has paid many more white women than it has those of color. Men have also been paid to be sterilized, she said.

Scott Blacker, spokesman at the Livengrin Foundation, a 51-year-old inpatient addiction treatment center in Bucks County, said he had never heard of this approach, which does not have anything to do with conventional addiction treatment.

“It is not something we would ever participate in,” said Blacker “At Livengrin we want people to get sober, find recovery, live their lives and get the treatment they need.”

In 2007, Harris planned a trip through Philadelphia looking for “clients,” the Daily News reported.

At the time, the NAACP and the ACLU called the cause bigoted and barbaric, and complained that the money would be better spent on substance-abuse treatment.