William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal


Bruce A. Thyer


This Article describes the origins and current operation of Project Prevention, a privately-funded program that provides a payment of $300 to substance abusers who obtain long-term birth control. This practice is intended as a means to prevent the conception of babies to mothers who are prone to expose their developing child to toxic levels of alcohol or other drugs during pregnancy, likely to be unable to care for their child once born, and at risk for having their child removed from their custody by the state and placed in foster care or an adoptive home. Children born to such mothers are at a high risk for developmental disadvantages and incur a high cost to society, which all too often has to provide medical or custodial care for them. Substance-abusing men who enroll in Project Prevention and obtain a verified vasectomy receive a similar payment. Thus far, Project Prevention has enrolled over 5,000 clients and paid out over $1 million in incentives. Some critics of Project Prevention have raised objections to this program; this Article describes and responds to a number of these objections. The Article concludes that this circumscribed program is highly effective and ethical, and provides a needed preventive service. In this manner, it emulates much larger-scale initiatives funded by the federal government, which have paid for the costs of long-term birth control, including sterilization, for indigent people. The federal government has long-provided financial inducements through foreign aid programs for the poor of other countries to obtain long-term birth control, also including sterilization. Therefore, any criticisms of Project Prevention must also be extended to existing, analogous federally funded programs.