$topping Drug-Addicted Babies

Denise has been a drug addict for years. Last year, she finally took action - not to get off drugs - but to stop having babies, CBS This Morning Senior Correspondent Hattie Kauffman reports.

One by one, Denise lost parental rights to all four of her children.

"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't beat myself up over it, you know," she says.

Finally, Denise found a solution. She saw an advertisement offering $200 to addicts willing to be sterilized or to get long-term birth control through a program called C.R.A.C.K., or Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity.

Denise opted for long-term birth control in the form of a Norplant synthetic hormone implant. The Norplant prevents pregnancy for five years.

Whenever Denise refers another addict to the C.R.A.C.K. program, she gets $50.

"It's not okay to give birth to five, six, seven, eight or nine babies that you can't take care of. It's not okay," says C.R.A.C.K. founder Barbara Harris.

Harris started the program over a year ago from her southern California home. This June, she has launched the program in other cities. Signs and billboards offering money to drug addicts are going up in Minneapolis, Florida, and Chicago.

More than 50 women have accepted the money, and of that number, 40 chose sterilization. But critics question whether addicts are able to make that choice.

"If it's irreversible, then I think you've got a problem, because you're offering people money to do something they may come to regret, but can't change," says Art Caplan, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania.

But Harris's goal is to stop addicted mothers from bringing addicted children they can't take care of into the world.

"Yes, a lot of people say [drug addicts] don't have the frame of mind to make that decision, so why do they have the frame of mind to bring a baby into this world?" she asks.

Although some critics suggest the money from C.R.A.C.K. gives women a way to pay for more drugs, Harris says how they spend the $200 is their choice.

"I mean, these people are spending welfare money and food stamp money every day to buy drugs and the government doesn't monitor where they're spending the money, so why should we have to?" Harris says.

Drug addicted babies suffer an array of problems, from prematurity to long-term developmental disabilities. Often, one birth is followed by another.

The statistics from just 53 women in Harris's program is staggering:

Between them, they had a total of 396 pregnancies. Of those, there were:

  • 150 abortions
  • 16 stillborn
  • 21 that died after birth of complications
  • 163 who survived and who are now in foster care.

  • Harris's crusade began when she and her husband took in a foster child.

    "We found out when we got her that she was the fifth baby born to one drug addicted mother," Harris recalls of her first foster child. "Four months after we go her, we got a phone call saying the mother had given birth to a baby boy. The following year we got another phone call saying the mother had given birth to her seventh baby."

    In all, Harris adopted four of the woman's eight drug-addicted infants.

    "It was very frustrating to know that this woman was allowed to visit the hospital yearly and drop off a damaged baby and just walk away," Harris says. "She didn't even get a slap on the hand."

    Harris was inspired to take action, creating her non-profit agency that gives money to addicts who prove they've taken the necessary steps. The money comes from private donations. Radio host Dr. Laura Schlesinger donated $5,000.

    "The compassion needs to be for the innocent children," Dr. Schlesinger says. "These women are making a choice to use drugs. The children are making no such choice to be born into this horror."

    C.R.A.C.K.'s offer doesn't only extend to women. The program is also available to men, offering them $200 to get a vasectomy. So far, there have been no takers.