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Non-profit offers cash for birth control

by Kristyn CaddellWATE 6
June 24th, 2009

Project Prevention RV

Cash for birth control may sound unusual, but it's one woman's crusade to stop drug addicts and alcoholics from giving birth.

Barbara Harris started "Project Prevention" after watching her four adopted children struggle with drug addiction at birth. Now teens, they're helping spread her message across the United States.

Parked under a downtown Knoxville overpass Wednesday night sat a 30-foot RV with bold pictures on the outside of it.

The same people who drove it here passed out flyers and talked to anyone who would listen.

"My heart is for the children. These women have a choice, but children don't," Harris explains.

The organization pays women who are drug addicts or alcoholics a one time amount of $300 to get permanent birth control.

If they choose to get long-term birth control, $300 is paid out each year they use it.

Men can also get involved and get a one time amount of $300 for having a vasectomy.

Documented proof of a drug addiction or alcohol problem is mandatory to qualify.

"We send them a form to decide what type of care is best for them. The doctor also fills out the form to verify what procedure they did and then we pay them," Harris says.

So far 3,000 women and 27 men have participated.

The RV was parked next to the Knox Area Rescue Ministries building and it triggered mixed emotions from people on the streets of downtown Knoxville.

"I am going to do it. My mom keeps telling me to get it done," says self-proclaimed alcoholic James Shortt, 52.

"Money isn't the answer. All you're doing is giving them more money to smoke more dope with," says Dean Hauck.

But Barbara Harris says that's a risk she's willing to take. "People say that to me all the time. What if they use the money for drugs? Well, that's their choice"

As the RV heads out of Knoxville, organizers say if just one person participates, the job here is done.

There's no cost to participants for whichever procedure they choose. If their insurance doesn't cover it, Project Prevention will.

The non-profit runs on donations.

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