Barbara Harris and Project Prevention

I was driving back from London today, and had Radio 4 on. Now, I prefer to listen to 5live, but when you’re driving to London the reception is terrible, and I like to hear chat when I’m driving.

The show that was playing was called “Taking a Stand”, in which Fergal Keane (whom I have never heard of) talks to people who have unusual and outrageous views. Today he spoke to Barbara Harris.

Barbara Harris Radio 4 Interview

(I’m sorry, this is a link to the programme site, and not the interview itself. I am hoping someone will find a link to you tube, for people outside the UK)

I have never heard of Barbara Harris or Project Prevention, and at first this seemed like another crazy they had dragged out of some corner, and she was going to talk about how the inner-city crime problems will get resolved if we all catch the red admiral butterflies for two hours every Tuesday.

What I did hear was a truly astonishing woman, with an outrageous set of ideas. Well, specifically one idea. Pay drug addicts to get sterilized. At first, my set of liberal values jumped up and cried, “How dare she… These people are victims of our society… They are under the influence of a terrible drug and can’t be expected to make decisions for themselves… What happens when they come off drugs… sterilization can’t be turned back… Isn’t this close to eugenics, the idea of weeding out certain races that the nazi’s so vehemently pursued”

As I continued to listen though, the answers to the tough questions about the rights of individuals, the abuse of people under the influence, the inherent racism, the right winged sponsorship, I was slowly won over by her straightforwardness.

She is a focused woman, that much is clear, and when you see the world through her eyes, you can’t deny her points. Her argument is simple. Society has rights, and there are too many babies who have been dumped on the state, by single mothers who have taken no care to use birth control, and are totally incapable of caring for their offspring. These women have produced many babies. Some individuals have had over ten. All of which get swept into the adoption circuit, put into care homes and hostels, or orphanages where they often grow up with rejection issues and anger management problems and drug problems.

The women if, and when, they get themselves out of the drugs problems often express huge regret and guilt at having had the babies and not cared enough for them. The state has no choice but to take responsibility for them.

The drug addict has had a choice. The baby has not. As she expressed in the fascinating interview, she does have  empathy for these women, and often offers to keeps in touch with them, but her duty is to the society she lives in, and to the babies that would have been born into a hash careless environment had she not done her work. There are other people who will care for the drug addict.

I was stunned by this interview and it instantly reminded me of “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt. A truly remarkable book about statistics. And specifically his chapter on the effect of legalised abortion on crime.

In this he discusses a very direct correlation to the fall in crime figures after the Roe vs Wade case.

The truth is, I have always believed the rights of a society should outweigh the rights of an individual. That’s not to say we should ignore the rights of an individual, but for too long we have worried about these individual rights and almost forgotten how these privileges have damaged our society. You just have to look around at the protections we give our children and the way they use and abuse the system against us or the way that religious rights are used to defend racist and anti-social behaviour.

Drugs have seeped into every crack in our society, and has pushed a wave of crime further and further, tearing down our walls of social understanding and respect. We are bewildered by its impact and helpless in its aftermath. Barbara Harris is taking a stand to try to limit this tide at its source, just as Roe vs Wade did by accident in the 70’s, and I for one applaud her efforts.

~ by eggplantinspace on February 9, 2010.

47 Responses to “Barbara Harris and Project Prevention”

  1. It seems that Project Prevention is targetting people in Haiti because they’re poor – addicted or not and people with AIDS in Africa in spite of the very effective programme in place to ensure babies are born HIV Negative.

    And the website still lies about requirements for payment in UK (at least two children apparently). That’s just not true.

    If you’ll allow me I’ll post the link to the Haiti/Africa story.

  2. Actually Stuart I think I am right in saying that there is no Project Prevention UK. It is all managed now by Barbara. Unless I have missed something, which is possible. The ‘reasonableness’ in PPUK was, possibly, mine and came from a hope that we could take what I see as the good from the project and make it a collaborative and respectful organisation here. It wasn’t sanctioned by Barbara and not seen as reasonable by her. I don’t think that there is a ‘they’ for PPUK and I don’t know of anyone that is actively working for PP in the UK. However, I am now a couple of months out of date.

    • I also thought that you were much more reasonable, Sara which I hope was clear when me met last July. However Barbara Harris’ American import is a very different kettle of fish.

      As you know I have real issues with the US approach and I genuinely believe that it will not be long before we see a prosecution under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act or the Mental Capacity Act in England/Wales. Or maybe the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act, the Adult Support & Protection (Scotland) Act or the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act North of the border.

      Interestingly since there is no UK management there seems a good chance that Barbara Harris herself will find herself facing charges in a UK court.

      This is why I have done so much work to inform workers across UK of the legal situation in their respective countries. I believe that the US model is a gross over-simplification that isolates and alienates the people I have spent my career working to support.

  3. Hi Stuart, No, not involved at all. Merely interested. No-one wants to prevent births. That’s the point. Preventing DAMAGED birth is the issue. You, me, my sons, and every other involved person is always worth all intervention. I would have preferred that the babies that we are talking about are born capable of full potential. And that’s it. That is absolutely it. You know I am up for discussion on capacity. You know I would happily discuss stats, representation, press manipulation and any other subject. I don’t know Chris Brand or Jim Woodville or anything about them so can’t talk about that. I don’t know for sure that PP have the right answer. But at least they have one. And it is one that I can see some sense in. Lets talk about teenage binge drinking. Lets talk about middle class cocaine use. Lets talk about misleading govt publicity on drinking when pregnant. There is a lot in here. Let’s move on from knee jerk reaction to false press reports and unsubstantiated claims that assume the worst in everyone.

    I don’t like the image that PP are happy to allow for publicity. I don’t like the simplicity of their message. I don’t like the fact that discussion is difficult with them. But. And this is a big BUT. We have a real problem. A genuine, new, modern, unresearched problem.

    • Hi Sara,

      That’s why when you told me of your new plans (outside PP) I offered to help. That’s also why when you withdrew sterilisation in favour of long term contraception in UK I was more amenable.

      I’m all for working to improve things but not Harris’ way.

      As I said before – let me know when you’re ready with the other proposal – I may well support it.



    • Totally agree.

      PP have publicity because reporters need angles to sell newspapers. They have to be on one side or the other. So PP makes the news. PP polarises support because they want donations, and because discussion is better than doing nothing.

      You want to vilify her and her project, thats fine. I myself have not had much discussion on this page for a while. And here I am talking about it again. I’m happy about that as it gives me a chance to talk about the children again.

      But let us do that please. Let us talk about the children instead of who gets paid for what, and lets talk about the solutions instead of your way is racist.

      PP is dong something, convince me you have a better solution, convince me you can achieve it, and I am up for supporting you. Until then I will back up my PP blog.

  4. I’d welcome a serious discussion about the real issues. I just object to an organisation that would’ve prevented my own birth and distorts the facts to pretend it has a valid case. Is that so hard to understand?

    • Is it so hard to say?

      It’s the first time you have mentioned it on my blog. So I am going to presume you are happy and open to discussion over it. If this is not the case then please let me know and I’ll delete my words and yours on this.

      By the sounds of things you have a valid reason to be concerned, but there is so much more to ask. How were you brought up? Were you adopted? Did you go through the orphanage system? Were there other children going through something similar? Did they turn out as well as you? Did you live with a drug addicted mother? How did that affect your schooling? Did you have any other family support? You appear to be well schooled, how did having such a traumatic background affect you? What other personal biases do you bring to the argument?

      I haven’t lived your life, and so don’t know your experiences. Maybe we can all learn a little from what you went through.

      • Hi,

        This recent blog post outlines the details re my own existence, since you ask:

        There’s loads more here:

        This report connects PP with Woodville & Brand:

        Brand described Project Prevention as something that contributed to the eugenic cause:

        But don’t just take bookrags word for it. Have a look around his own blog:

        Faced with all that, especially the reported link between Woodville, Harris & Brand you’ll need to do considerably more to convince me than simply repeat Harris’ assertion that she had never heard of Brand until I mentioned him.  I’m afraid that looks to be about as honest as her use of statistics on the PP website.

        • Stuart,

          If there is one thing I have learnt during all this, it is that I could not convince you that Black is Black.

          You are trying to picture Barbara Harris as a racist even though she isn’t. Everyone knows she isn’t. She might be misguided, she might be plain wrong, but she is not a racist. The racist label doesn’t sit well with a woman who is married to a black man, having had black children with him, and having adopted many black babies. It simply doesn’t stand up.

          Neither is she a Nazi, trying to perform some gene manipultaion on the world. She is offering an incentive to stop unwanted babies. Your claims of her reading and plagarising ideas from Hitler are nonsensical. It just doesn’t stand up.

          Thats why I suggest you are being melodramatic.

          There are arguments against Project Prevention, but saying one of her contributors hired a guy that wrote a book is not strong enough to convince me we should let babies suffer.

          I’ll say that again, because it’s really important. Babies are suffering whilst we do nothing.

          There is a classic argument the questions if Hitler were alive and offered to give you a massive contribution for Jews around the world, would you take the money or shoot him? Most people agree that you take the money, then shoot him.

          I thank you for your link to the blogs you have written about your past, but they don’t really answer any of the perfectly relevant questions about your personal bias.
          Where was your mother in your upbringing? The women who go through Project prevention, have often had babies before and have given them up.
          Was this the case for you? Was there any other support structure, such as grandparents, uncles and aunts?
          Were you in an orphanage? Have you ever been through the rejection that these children go through?

          I appreciate that you and your family pulled through. It is to your credit, but there are many many children who are not so fortunate, who do suffer tremendously, both physically and mentally.

          Because you were fortunate, will the rest of these babies and children be fortunate.

          I have seen a discussion recently on these that argued is project prevention simply a middle-class solution to the issue of paying or not paying for poor people. To be honest, I think that’s a more valid argument against Project Prevention.

          Perhpas it is, Perhaps its easier to say we don’t want to deal with an issue that in the US is clearly a poor problem. As I mentioned before however, I still would like to see a better system put in place, one that the US is prepared to pay for.

          As for the UK, I have mentioned I believe our situation is different, I believe we are much better prepared with a strong support system and better ocial services. Whilst money continues to be invested in our NHS and support services, I believe PP will find their efforts minimalised.

          • My childhood was ‘interesting’ in this context but I’m not about to go into too much detail. The distinction shouldn’t matter though.

            Harris says she’s looking to pay any UK addict. However as you so rightly understand she is far more interested in disadvantaged people per se than suffering babies.

            But in truth I don’t think we’re so far apart. I stand by my comparison of tactics between PP and Nazis but actually I don’t call Harris a Nazi. I do think she’s right wing and I do think she’s more about social engineering (eugenics) than she admits. That’s why PP targets poor areas with a bribe that the wealthy would laugh at.

            I think from your response above that you agree with me. This is more social engineering than care for babies but ‘caring’ is a nice cover.

            If Harris had been prepared to negotiate with UK services around ethical intervention instead of doggedly demanding they support what we both agree is inappropriate in UK then I’d be more supportive – as I have made clear to Sara. It’s the ‘my way or the highway’ disregard for complexity and unethical callousness that is the real problem.

            Nobody in UK ignores this issue – we just object to a right wing organisation assuming the right to overrule UK initiatives like ‘Hidden Harm’ and lying to justify themselves.

          • In reply to Stuart.

            It’s definitely not Eugenics since no-one is dying here. Social engineering, perhaps, but social engineering is done across the world, it’s called advertising. You are making out that there is some evil being perpetrated here. It isn’t, there is simply a lady who has a solution for a problem. The effectiveness of the solution is a valid question, but no solution is not acceptable.

            In the UK, we believe the problem doesn’t require such extreme measures. Perhaps that is true. PP has changed its tune, and is becoming workable, just like any project does. As problems occur and needs are examined, the method is adapted and altered. That is a good thing. In the US, the home of PP, that is not the case, and there appear to be no solutions. PP has a job to do.

            This is not the act of a tyrant, and your accusations suggesting she is inspired by Hitler is a weak argument and simply unfair.

            My questions about your childhood are relevant, simply because it appears to me you have been a success to the UK system, and a good example of why PP will not be used in the same way as it is in the US.

            And the stubbornness of a tenacious woman desperate to do something, who has been consistantly misunderstood, abused and threatened is something you will have to put up with. Stubborn people have carried out some of the greatest achievments in our world. There is nothing wrong with stubbornness.

            It appears that right now your arguments against PP in the UK are more to do with the method they have come to their compromise, their commitment to a system that doesnt’t fit too well with the UK, rather than the fact they are here, trying to help.
            There might be better ways to help, but they are not claiming to be a panacea.
            I think it’s time you gave them a break, and maybe a little credit for at least putting their money where their mouth is.
            I haven’t seen too many other organisations pushing their adgendas in the public eye quite so hard.

          • When did I say she was inspired by Hitler? Tony Blair used the same techniques to justify going to war and he wasn’t inspired by Hitler either.

            And just because you haven’t seen any other publicised intervention doesn’t mean stuff isn’t happening. Better funding for existing services would be much better than this. If you want to support something then give your donations to ethical organisations instead, not callous manipulative ones like PP.

          • You suggested as much in your blog Project Prevention’s Cynical manipulation, a link you put earlier in the discussion.
            For some reason that link does not appear to be working anymore, for reasons I cannot imagine.

            In it you said that Hitler had used such techniques in Mein Kampf, clearly trying to connect Project Prevention’s actions with that of Nazi germany. This is clearly a massive over-exaggeration, misleading and at the very least melodramatic. To be honest, it is as least as cynical as your suggestion that PP have been. You are now suggesting that Tony Blair used it too, what an extreme plethora of characters you enjoy brandishing about when describing the techniques used by every single advertising agency in the country. Is there anyone else you want to throw in there, Pol Pot perhaps, Colonel Gadaffi or perhaps Nelson Madela? I’m getting fed up with these silly accusations.

            I never suggested other stuff isn’t happening, but if you have a gripe, why don’t you gripe to the Newspapers and TV channels who are giving Mrs Harris the airtime, why dont you find a hook for these other services to let us know more about what they do, instead of constantly suggesting PP are Nazis.

            I understand PP are at least trying to do something. I have stated in my blogs that I applaud them for trying to do something. That is fine by me. You have gone from saying they are wrong, to calling them Nazi’s just because I disagree with you.

            I think Stuart, I am very close getting to the point of not allowing you the opportunity to comment on here. Not because you don’t have valid things to say, there are interesting arguments with PP and adoption processes worthy of discussion, but because if you want to link my site to your manifesto calling Barbara Harris everything but the new Hitler. It’s silly and I am getting fed up to pandering to it.

          • As Sara knows I was much more amenable to PP when it was prepared to compromise. That’s why my blog was silent for so long on this issue.

            But they have abandoned their pretentions of reasonableness in favour of the American model again. So it’s not about how they compromised – it’s about the fact that they refuse to compromise. They are just as unethical in UK as they are in USA. But here they’re more likely to fall foul of UK law.

            That would be a very interesting case to see.

          • The link is down becausevI want to clarify – not that I will remove anything. If you check back in a day or so you’ll find an extended version.

            Until that’s done I’ve made the link ‘private’ but I’ll restore it once it’s been extended.

            Incidentally I have written to several politicians and MP’s. I have an appointment with a reporter for the Guardian next weekend and have also contacted several other newspapers as well as the BBC.

            I’m also working with several professional groups and individuals ( forgive me for not being too precise yet) and have written several ‘open letters’ that are regularly downloaded from my blog

            you see I’m not wasting my time relying solely upon your blog. Feel free to ban me if you like. I thought we were having a discussion – perhaps not.



          • I congratulate you for putting efforts in, most people don’t bother at all, but I will always maintain that any stance suggesting PP is akin to Naziism is unreasonable and fruitless. If you can stop directing people to blogs suggesting such, I am happy to talk about the real issues, but I’m not going to allow you to hijack my blog into a naziism debate, which has no relevance.

          • Fair enough. Then here are some concerns that suggest to me that it is unwise to trust Project Prevention and that suggest a callousness that is entirely inappropriate. Both relate to Alan Mitchell’s vasectomy in Leicester…

            Project Prevention’s website says that they only pay for sterilisation of people who already have children. Mitchell has none.

            Can we really trust an organisation that won’t even follow it’s own rules?

            Also they didn’t cone clean to the treating clinicians until afterward. This flies in the face of UK safeguarding principles and the Dept of Health document ‘No Secrets’.

            The secrecy unbalanced the process of arriving at ‘Best Interests’ decisions relating to vulnerable adults under the ‘Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.

            Why should we have amythingvto docwith an organisation that has such scant regard for UK law and that won’t even keep it’s own website’s promises?

            Project Prefention does not

  5. Hi Sara,

    are you involved again then?

    Can we also discuss capacity?
    And the involvement of Chris Brand & Jim woodville?
    What about manipulation of statistics?
    Yes let’s have a sensible debate instead of a histrionic and melodramatic one.



    • How many times do I have to make this point clear to you Stuart.

      Barbara Harris has never spoken to Chris Brand. She only found out about his views through people like you.

      You know at some point you have to get with the debate. Is it Inter Milan’s Football team’s fault that they have a bunch of crazy supporters who go around vandalising things. They ban them from the matches. They prosecute them whenever they can. It doesn’t stop it happening.

      Stop trying to drag people down by inference.

  6. I cannot help but join in here! Having been quiet for so long is clearly not good for me. Having spent some considerable time with pp over the past 6 months, and been on R4, BBC etc in support of them I feel entitled to add my tuppence. Firstly, it saddens me that intelligent and sensible bloggers are still discussing “PP and Sterilisation” when that is so much a spin on the truth as to be almost (and I say almost) misrepresentation. PP offers incentives to all people likely to give birth to drug and alcohol affected babies (ALL people) in order to encourage them to use contraception. That includes IUD’s, injections, implants etc. Every week 1 baby is born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (as was my son) 13 babies are born with Downs and nearly 200 with foetal alcohol brain damage (as was another of my sons) or with a serious, brain changing, addiction to drugs. Which 14 babies do we care about?

    Now, you may not like Barbara Harris. You may not like PP. You may need to vent on any number of things but I would really like to engage in some sensible debate about how we address this epidemic. Shoddy reporting does not help (the whole sterilisation stir up is mere ratings chasing) but neither does the blind repetition of it.

    Did you hear the R4 programme ‘sugaring the pill’ this week? NHS are now paying pregnant women not to smoke during pregnancy. Addicted adults are being paid to stay clean (with phenomenal success) and teenage mothers are being educated (brainwashed? eugenics? nazi-ism?) not to get pregnant again. I honestly do not understand how PP have raised such a storm amongst intelligent observers when the trends are clear, the need is obvious and the ethics murky to say the least. This is so not eugenics.

    I get it that forced sterilisation is eugenics. But this isn’t. Can we talk sensibly about a serious issue?

Leave a Reply to stuartsorensen Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: