Deja Vu All Over Again–Sneaky Sara Feigenholtz Part 2: Illinois HB 5428 and The Odor of Mendacity

There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity… You can smell it. It smells like death.……Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof


This is Part 2 of what has now, due to length, become three parts originally only one blog: Deja Vu All Over Again-Sneaky Sara Feigenholtz, Part 1: HB 5428 State Secret. Please read that entry first to put Part 2 in context.

For further context go to my 2008 Illinois Warning! Trainwreck ahead for records rights and Illinois and That train keeps a rollin’–more pile-a-crap legislation. (I wrote more about Illinois in 2008, which you can find in a search, but those are the major pieces). Much of what I wrote then is relevant to the current situation in Illinois. Not much has changed except the bill number.


Illinois HB 5428 is a “new and improved” version of HB 4623 and older similar registry/confidential intermediary bills that Rep. Sara Feigenholtz has been flogging for 15 years. All have met with universal opposition from adoptee rights and adoption reform organizations in Illinois and throughout the country either from the onset or due to rights stripping amendments added later. Though she is a “reunited” adoptee and claims to be on the side of bastards, Feigenholtz has consistently taken the side of the National Council for Adoption and other bastardphobics.

Rather than advocating the clear adoptee right to the original birth certificate (obc) and identity she claims to hold dear to her heart, Feigenholtz promotes universally the loathed state- run “mutual consent voluntary registry” scam traditionally supported by NCFA. Claiming to make an end run around “conservatives” Feigenholtz advocates the NCFA meme of parental anonymity and non-existent special rights for “birthparents” –all in the name of getting “something” passed. That Illinois Citizens for Life and other social conservatives, despite the end run, oppose obc access, goes over her head. When real bastard activists call her out, Feigenholtz feigns surprise and hurt, and responds like we are too stupid to appreciate her delicate “position” as a legislator.

Recently Feigenholtz told St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Kathleen Foody:

No matter what the circumstances (of the birth) are, we see that they never wanted protection from their offspring,” But this bill respects the minority of birth mothers who choose to keep their identities secret, so it’s the most perfectly balanced bill possible.

But, since courts have ruled that parents have no right to anonymity from their own offspring, then Feigenholtz’s argument for anonymity is spurious. Maybe she should transfer from the Chicago School of Machine Politics to the University of Chicago Law School where her old friend Barrack Obama taught.

A couple years ago, in an attempt to bulk up her database and appear adoptee-friendly to get support for her fake rights HB 4623, Feigenholtz set up an “adoption”contact link on her official tax-payer supported legislative website. There she asked, and continues to ask, adoptees and those interested in adoptee rights to send input. Many have done so and are still waiting for a reply. Feigenholtz ignores them.

In December 2008 I attended the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute “conclave” on adoptee rights and obc access in New York City. Feigenholtz and Melisha Mitchell, introduced as her “assistant,” participated through phone conference. During the course of the meeting, Feigenholz admitted that she hadn’t answered the very adoptees she solicited on her webpage, making the astounding claim that she was “looking into a grant” to hire someone to answer her email! Feigenholtz, did, however, find the money to hit up her ignored bastard database for campaign funds during her unsuccessful 2009 run for Rahm Emmanuels’s House seat

HB 5428 was undoubtedly written by Melisha Mitchell who as far as we know, has written all or most of Feigenholtz’s other “access” bills. Mitchell has never written a sentence she couldn’t convolute and jibberize. Here’s a tortured 14 line one sentence sample (p 34-35 printer friendly version):

If the Registry has confirmed that a requesting adult adopted or surrendered person or the parent of a requesting adult child of a deceased adopted or surrendered person or the husband or wife of a requesting surviving spouse was not the object of a Denial of Information Exchange filed by a birth parent on or before December 31, 2010, and that no birth parent named on the original birth certificate has filed a Birth Parent Preference Form where Option E was selected prior to the receipt of a Request for a Non-Certified Copy of an Original Birth Certificate, the Registry shall provide the adult adopted or surrendered person or his or her surviving adult child or surviving spouse with an unaltered non-certified birth certificate.

Mitchell runs the White Oak Foundation, a putative non-profit search company that according to its webpage does free and at-cost adoption searches. Despite her long record of writing and promoting bills whose object is in direct conflict with the American Adoption Congress’ policies, Mitchell was, until recently, the AAC Illinois State Rep. Why she remained in the fold until a few weeks ago, associating the AAC with her tom-foolery and really bad bills is one of those AdoptionLand mysteries we can only ponder. I have been assured by the AAC that she no longer represents the organization in any capacity, despite her reported sign-in last week, at the Senate hearing. (see “respond” link above). Her name does not appear on the organization website.

Two years ago, after meeting opposition for HB 4623 from every direction, Mitchell presumably in the guise of a “search expert” sent out a mass mailing (no longer online) claiming that 80-85% of all Illinois adoptees already know the names of their “birthparents.” In another mass mailing she claimed that opponents to the Feigenhohltz bill were nothing more than “right to life” organizations and unnamed “obscure internet entities. Those “obscure internet entities” included Illinois Open, Bastard Nation, Illinois Adoption Reform Coalition, Ethica, A Day for Adoptee Rights, BJ Lifton, Carol Schaefer, Sandra White Hawk, Maine State Senator Paula Benoit, and New Hampshire State Representative Janet Allen. That letter is not on the White Oak website, but can be found on

The Voice of Hypocrisy
Feigenholtz, Mitchell, and the White Oak Foundation have been involved in Chicagoland adoption politics for as long as I can remember–predating the formation of Bastard Nation. As long as I’ve been around they have been pimping the registry “alternative” to records access, claiming that the Illinois state government isn’t ready to restore the obc right it rescinded from adoptees in 1945.

Incredibly, Melisha Mitchell while writing and promoting registry bills in Illinois has been claiming she doesn’t support them.

Take her article “Mutual Consent Voluntary Registries: An Exercise in Patience–and Failure” published in the January/February 1999 Adoptive Families Magazine, written with input from Barbara Busharis. Pam Hasegawa and AAC’s then-president and Mitchell mentor, Jane Nast. The article is not on the Adoptive Families website, but can be found on the White Oak Foundation webpage in text and pdf form. (I guess Mitchell thinks nobody will notice the dissonance.) The article is based on AAC MCVR state surveys made in 1993, 1996, and 1998 which showed not only an incredibly low rate of successful matches but an overwhelming dislike by adoptees and their families for state-run “family reunion” registries and state-involvement in personal relationship building. Out the gate, Mitchell, like those who oppose her today, calls state-run mutual consent registries “cumbersome bureaucratic band-aids” and “passe.”

Ironically, in view of the 80-page HB 5428 monster with its multiple consent/veto levels and “medical exchange” forms, she and Feigenholtz are currently pushing, Mitchell writes:

The often-complicated registration procedures are impractical for elderly or seriously ill adoptees and birth parents. Registries don’t work well for adoptees who are unaware they were adopted–or for birth parents who have been told their child is deceased. And to make matters worse, behind the scenes, legislators and registry administrations, who, like most NCFA-member agencies, were not as keen on facilitating search and reunion as those actually affected by these laws, began making the kind of budgetary and protocol decisions that would doom all but two of these state registries to single-digit reunion rates.

Mitchell makes much of adoption reform’s rejection of state-run registries, comparing their unpopularity with genuinely popular and successful voluntary non-governmental registries such as those run by ALMA and ISRR. She actually admits what HB5428 opponents argue: that state-run registries, were enacted and continue to be pushed to halt activist legislation to unseal obcs; that is, registries are inimical to adoptees, their families of origin, civil rights, and the free flow of information:

The paradox is grounded in the raison d’etre for MCVR’s, historically which was NOT to facilitate the reunion process for searching adoptees and birth parents, but rather to stall the progress of the original access-to-records bill, the Model State Adoption Act.

Mitchell also complains that states “build[ing] pernicious provisions” into their registry statutes, such as New York, which:

limits registrations to adoptee who were born AND adopted in the Empire State, leaving those born in New York but adopted out-of-state in registry limbo.

HB 5428, in fact, retains already in-place provisions that limit registry clientele to those born and adopted in Illinois, barring those who were born in other states and adopted in Illinois. Anita Field and Triona Guidry have both written about their registry/CI experiences with the Illinois Adoption Reunion and Medical Exchange which in part involve interstate adoption registry problems. Field’s mid-1990s experience with Illinois-Indiana is recalled in The Cheese Stands Alone. Guidry’s early 2000s Illinois-Ohio registry nightmare appears in Caveat Emptor on Confidential Intermediary Programs and Case Closed! Another Adoptee Becomes a Confidential Intermediary Statistic.

Incredibly, Mitchell criticizes the Indiana Adoption Medical History Registry (IAMHR), while now pushing the very similar Illinois Adoption Reunion and Medical Exchange. She points out that the Indiana registry is a “backdoor” for the already “reunited” to get their obcs, with no fundamental change in the law (my emphasis):

While some of the unique “perks” which were added to the Indiana registry in 1993 might be considered steps in the right direction (particularly its emphasis on the exchange of medical information and a provision that allows all adoptees who are matched with their birth parents via the registry to access copies of their original birth certifiicates and other adoption files), these innovations may be skewing, rather than actually improving, the registry’s reunion statistics. It appears that some adoptees and birth parents are flocking to the IAMHR not to find one another, but to use the registry’s back-door access to birth records to obtain their original birth certificates—after they’ve been reunited. And, too, when you consider that the focus of the Indiana registry is on the exchange of vital medical data, its 13% success rate begins to take on disappointing proportions. For someone who’s dying of a mysterious, genetically-linked disease, odds this slim, combined with a total absence of search assistance, can ring like a death knell. So, even Indiana’s better-than-average results (some 9,000 new applications and over 1500 matches since 1993) are not necessarily a sign that the times are a’changin’ quite yet.

Way before 1999, the adoption-industry-lobby-created reunion registry system, designed to hold off obc access, was rejected across the board by adoptee rights and adoption reform advocates. Everybody knew that “reunion” registries and state CI’s with their industry/state multi-layered bureaucracy and purposeful incompetence were Bastard Control. That they were created as a barricade between adoptees and their birth certificates and whatever they wanted to do with them when they got them.

Today, registries are still rejected and hated for the same reasons. Yet, today,–2010–in Illinois we have HB 5428, expanding registry power over people who don’t want it. The bill is written and pushed by a professional searcher who in 1999 claimed-or at least acted like–she opposed registries. It is sponsored by a reunited Big Sister who thinks she owns “adoption” in Illinois (she even has her very own Adoption Reform committee in the Illinois House) and can impose state supervision over adopted people and their families of origin through “special rights” a pile of wonky paperwork, secret bills, and stacked hearings–all in the name of benevolent “adoptee rights.” Glory be to Sara Feigenholtz!

Well, this isn’t “adoptee rights.” It’s adoptee wrongs.

Why was this not OK in 1999 and it is OK now? Why was this passe 11 years ago, and “progressive” now? Why are self-proclaimed adoptee rights proponents carrying the adoption industry’s water?

Part 3 will discuss Feigenholtz’s small circle of friends and attempt to suss out some things.

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2 Replies to “Deja Vu All Over Again–Sneaky Sara Feigenholtz Part 2: Illinois HB 5428 and The Odor of Mendacity”

  1. OK. That’s it. According to debate on the floor the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has pledged “support” (whatever that means), to the 5428 bill PR campaign if it passes. Gee, why not NCFA, too?

  2. There are several things about this bill that I have a problem with, but not necessarily the same things you do.

    One of the things that bother me is in “Sect. 18.5 Liability”, they specifically include everyone who will be exempted from liability in this bill, with one noteable exception…the mothers. Clearly they are concerned about there being liability attached to this action.

    Secondly, there is what amounts to a disclosure veto(Denial of Information Exchange, Page 9, line 26) in there and that I have a problem with, as it sets a bad precedent when the mothers are included in bills to receive equally identifying information.

    The part about the fine is supposed to be ONLY for the CI’s which is not clearly stated in there, and should be MORE clear, I feel. If it is not clear to US, it will be something that can be misused against us, in the future.

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