Is Sterilizing Addicts Going Too Far?

Playing Should Addicts Be Sterilized?

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We continue with our United States of Addiction series while discussing how addiction can negatively affect the lives of kids and one project's drastic approach to dealing with the opioid epidemic.

The Doctors are joined by Barbara from Project Prevention, who offers drug addicts and alcoholics cash incentives to use long-term birth control or get sterilized. Barbara says her organization has paid over 7,000 women so far to either go on long-term birth control or undergo sterilization. "To me, it's common sense. There's no logical, rational reason as to why somebody strung out on drugs or alcohol should conceive a child," she says.

Watch: Should Addicts Make Permanent Reproduction Decisions?

Child advocate and attorney Areva Martin shares her concern that often those dealing with addiction are marginalized and disenfranchised. "In my estimation, [they are] being bribed or coerced to give up their reproductive rights," Areva says.

Barbara says the women in her program that have undergone sterilization previously had 3 to 13 child, continuing, "We don't force anyone to do anything."

Watch: Meet a Sober Mom Who Got a Second Chance with Her Family

OB/GYN Dr. Nita Landry adds, "There are other means of birth control that are as effective as having your tubes tied, but they are readily reversible... how about focusing just on long-acting reversible contraception as opposed to sterilization? Why are you sterilizing these women?" Dr. Nita expresses concern about the future of the women who are sterilized if and when they get sober.

Barabra feels it is the woman's "choice" whether they go on birth control or get sterilized, while Dr. Nita questions if people who are in the midst of dealing with addiction can make that type of decision. Barabra estimates that roughly 25 percent of the women who she has worked with choose sterilization.

Watch: Is Offering Sterilization to Addicts Wrong?

Julie from Sober Mommies joins the discussion. She is a recovering alcoholic who has been in abstinence-based recovery since 2000. Prior to getting sober, she lost custody of her daughter. After getting her addiction under control, she regained custody of her daughter and went back to school to become an alcohol an drug abuse counselor. "I'm grateful for my daughter because I believe she saved my life in many ways," she says.

While Julie commends Barabra's work providing long-term birth control she says she is "horrified" by the possibility of these women not being able to have children in the future. "Recovery happens, it happens every day... I have been in recovery for 17 years. I've gotten to rebuild my life because I had that chance," she says. 

Watch the video below for more on this heated discussion and find out what psychiatrist Dr. Domenick Sportelli suggests should happen before undergoing a sterilization procedure.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction please call the confidential and free National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP or visit their website.