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Bid to sterilise drug addicts sparks fury

A US charity is targeting female Irish drug addicts with bribes to undergo sterilisation.

The controversial charity, run by a 57-year-old grandmother, is offering €215 a year to women who agree to be sterilised.

Project Prevention Group founder Barbara Harris has been accused of "playing God" by her critics.

She has already paid more than 1,200 American female drug addicts to be sterlised and 26 British addicts to have contraceptive coils fitted.

She has now turned her attention to Ireland and says she is looking for donations to expand into this country.



Founded

"We have heard from hundreds of people in Ireland telling us how much our offer is needed there," she said.

"We've heard from people complaining about how the addicts just keep having babies," she said. "We would pay them the equivalent of $300."

Harris explained that when a drug user has a coil fitted, the charity pays them every six months once a doctor verifies the coil is still in place.

Harris, from North Carolina, founded the charity after she adopted four out of eight children born to a crack addict mother in LA in 14 years ago.

She believes it would only take a "couple of months" to set up in Ireland with private funding.

"I am a humanitarian and I think we must stop babies being born with drug addictions", she said. "That is why I advocate long-term contraception or full sterilisation".

Her programme has been described as "horrendous" by the clinical director of Dublin's Rutland Centre drug addiction treatment clinic.

Dr Fiona Weldon, said that "addicts will do anything for money for their next fix and the thoughts of paying them to be sterilised is just appalling".

"People who suffer from addictions are not in the right frame of mind to be making decisions of this magnitude."

"We would be very interested in making this service available in Ireland," said Harris. "Anywhere suffering from the scourge of drug addiction needs a charity like this."

The charity says its mission is "to continue to reach out to addicts offering referrals to drug treatment for those interested and to get them on birth control until they can care for the children they conceive.

"We are lowering the number of children added to foster care, preventing the addicts from the guilt and pain they feel each time they give birth only to have their child taken away."

csheehy@herald.ie