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What I find as interesting as who Catholic leaders have chosen to attack is when they choose to be silent.

Written by Jeanne Flavin for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Recently, an all-Catholic coalition of 43 dioceses, hospitals, church agencies, schools and other religious-owned or operated but public entities filed a dozen separate lawsuits against the Obama administration, protesting the requirement that insurance plans covering secular employees include contraceptive services. These lawsuits follow on the heels of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' high-profile attacks on nuns and Girl Scouts.

What I find as interesting as who Catholic leaders have chosen to attack is when they choose to be silent.

I "get" that many Catholics have a moral objection to contraceptive use (though presumably this group does not include the 98 percent of sexually-active Catholic women who report ever using a contraceptive method other than natural family planning). I also concede that the selectivity of the "right to life" position is nothing new; the Church has yet to file lawsuits against Texas Governor Rick Perry and the state of Texas for their staggering stream of executions.

Still, it seems reasonable that the same Catholic officials who are incensed by the prospect of insurance coverage for contraception would take strong issue with Project Prevention, a program that pays a targeted group of women to be sterilized or use long-acting forms of contraception. A search of the Internet, however, indicates that Catholic leadership has said absolutely nothing on the matter.

Project Prevention is a national organization based in North Carolina that claims chapters in 27 states. It has a presence in the United Kingdom and Kenya and has floated plans to expand to Haiti, South Africa and Australia. Project Prevention pays $300 for women who "abuse" drugs or alcohol to undergo long-term birth control or sterilization. Project Prevention targets only the reproductive capacity of some low-income women; the organization does nothing to address women's need for comprehensive reproductive health care, effective drug treatment programs, mental health services, and social, economic and educational support. Moreover, Project Prevention encourages dangerous stereotypes about the women and their children. (This video challenges such characterizations.)

Project Prevention has garnered considerable publicity since its founding in 1997, having been featured on national television shows and in most major newspapers. Its Facebook page features status updates such as:

"Excited to write several checks to addicts this morning, but most excited that 6 [women] were under age 20" and "No better way to start my morning than writing 14 checks to addicts/alcoholics who obtained long term birth control."

Earlier this year, Project Prevention proudly celebrated a milestone, having paid 4,000 women to undergo long-term birth control and sterilization.

Despite Project Prevention's visibility, I could not find evidence that a single spokesperson of a major Catholic organization has ever weighed in on their activities.

Project Prevention was originally called Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity or "C.R.A.C.K." The old name reflects the organization's focus on crack cocaine rather than substances like alcohol, tobacco or prescription medicines that also pose a threat to fetal health but are more commonly used by white and middle-class women. Because another classy thing about Project Prevention is that more than half of its clients are racial or ethnic minorities. Mind you, founder Barbara Harris insists that Project Prevention doesn't target any particular race. As she explains:

"We target drug addicts, and that's it. Skin color doesn't matter, and we believe all babies matter, even black babies," and "If you're a drug addict, we're looking for you, and I don't care what color you are, because we don't even know what color your baby will be, because often these babies come out all different colors. They're mixed."

The heads of major Catholic organizations apparently have not seen fit to issue an official statement of any kind in the face of Project Prevention's thinly veiled racial prejudice or its promotion of contraceptive use.

Disturbing? You haven't heard the half of it. Project Prevention's recruitment strategies rely on referrals from probation offices, jails, drug treatment programs, methadone clinics and law enforcement agencies. There have been reports of workers (and others) being paid a $50 referral fee.

"Project Prevention is growing and even making inroads into state institutions," Harris has boasted. "We've had many organizations, county and state agencies come on board and start referring women to us. We have jails that allow our volunteers in to tell inmates about our program. We have drug treatment programs that are referring women to us. We have methadone clinics that have our information posted on the walls, and probation departments-just many, many agencies, in a lot of states, that are learning about us and making referrals to us."

To recap: You have an organization that for 15 years has sustained a highly-publicized campaign of paying low-income women of color who struggle with drug problems to be sterilized or subjected to long-acting birth control, and which relies on government agents for referrals and government-funded agencies to provide the contraception and sterilization services.

In light of this, we might expect Catholic leadership to be at least as vocal in their opposition to Project Prevention as they are toward the coverage of women's voluntary contraceptive use (or, say, the Girl Scouts).

Instead, we hear... crickets.

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Perhaps others, like me, find it increasingly difficult to listen to what some Catholic leaders have to say on the subject of morality when their silence on Project Prevention and many other matters of significant moral import has been nothing short of deafening.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I am usually in alignment with diaries from RH (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Villanova Rhodes

    Reality Check, but this one offers very little in the way of meaningful information or argument.

    I have never heard of Project Prevention prior to today. I suspect that the Conference of Catholic Bishops may never have heard of them either.

    You could right a very useful diary on this Project Provention group. They sound very sketchy to me. I am somone who very strongly supports Family Planning programs. I believe that is is vitally important that human population growth be minimized, less we completely destroy the Earth's ability to sustain Human populations at sustainable levels.

    However, the targeting employed by Project Prevention sounds very suspicious to me. They seem to want to sterilize the most vulnerable members of society, and I think that is abhorent.

    I would like to learn mor about this group, but you would do yourself, and your readers, a great service by delinking the references to the Catholic Bishops. Fell free to right a separate diary on that subject, but conflating the two topics only confuses the issues.

    i would also like to know why you think the Bishops' might have standing to sue the State of Texas over its capital punishment policies. Once again, I am on your side. I strongly oppose the death penalty, but I don't see much connection between the lawsuits over the womens' health access in the Affordable Care Act ad what's happening in Texas.

    Here's my take on it - the revolution will not be blogged, it has to be slogged. - Deoliver47

    by OIL GUY on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:52:53 AM PDT

    •  Hmm. I'm with Oil Guy. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OIL GUY, wilderness voice

      I'm usually a huge fan, but I'm scratching my head over this one.  First, it doesn't align with my own research about Project Prevention, either the scope or the approach.  From what I can tell, it's a small organization with virtually no fundraising apparatus started by a woman who adopted 4 crack babies from the same birth mother.  Yes, she thinks that in a compassionate society the wellbeing of children takes precidence, and yes, they do market to chronic addicts.  However, the availalable statistics don't bear out the accusation that they disproportionately target any race. Furthermore, they give participants (all of whom must voluntarily seek out the organization) the option of long acting reversible contraceptives including depro, IUD's, implants, and tubal ligation.  

      Also, the angle of inviting further intrusion from morally bankrupt authoritarians like Timothy Dolan is particularly puzzling.  

      Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.--Jacob Bronowski www.WisdomCommons.org

      by ValerieTarico on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 01:00:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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