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    Incentivized sterilization gets a pass from policymakers

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    This article is part of an ongoing series from the American Association of Clinical Urologists (AACU), based on a partnership between the AACU and Urology Times. Articles are designed to provide updates on legislative processes and issues affecting urologists. We welcome your comments and suggestions about topics for future articles. Contact the AACU government affairs office at 847-517-1050 or [email protected] for more information.

    This spring, that recreational vehicle lumbering along the highway and forcing you to the road's shoulder wasn’t necessarily operated by a snowbird making his way back to the Midwest.

    Over the course of several weeks in April and May 2012, an RV driven by Barbara Harris served as a tour bus, of sorts, making myriad stops across the Southeast. Harris wasn’t promoting an album or traveling with the circus, nor was she surveying open fields to set up a tent revival.

    Harris was preaching a motivating message, however. As she drove from Charlotte to Montgomery and on to Tallahassee and Tampa, every side of her 30-foot motor home announced: "GET BIRTH CONTROL or GET STERILIZED GET $300 CASH."

    Harris runs North Carolina-based Project Prevention, a nonprofit organization that canvases inner-city neighborhoods—“drug areas” in her words—offering active drug addicts and alcoholics $300 to undergo surgical sterilization or long-term birth control. Through private donations, the IRS-approved group not only hands out the cash payment, but also covers medical costs if the addict is not eligible for Medicaid or another government program.

    The $300 payout is available to women who undergo long-term birth control procedures and also to men who receive a vasectomy. According to the Project Prevention Web site, as of May 2012, a total of 4,097 addicts/alcoholics have received the payout, 72 of whom were men.

    Harris, a committed foster parent to four drug-addicted newborns, believes this is one thing she can do to protect children from physical and mental disorders related to prenatal exposure to narcotics. Community-based groups in the cities targeted by Project Prevention oppose Harris’ approach more often than not, but the transitory nature of her activities has thus far kept policymakers from prohibiting incentivized sterilization in medical practice acts or restricting reimbursement for the procedure in public and private insurance law.

    In the Halls of Power, Project Prevention has received a "pass." It will therefore be in the operating room where Project Prevention’s solution will succeed or fail.

    Update: Valuable resources are available to urologists and their allies interested in taking action on time-sensitive legislative priorities outlined in Summer heat doesn’t cool critical issues in urology. Background information and talking points may be downloaded via the AACU Action Center.

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