On March 31, Melisha Mitchell, putative author of Sara Feigenholtz’s notorious 77-page monster HB 4623 sent a mass mailing to AdoptionLand constituents asking for support. In this letter, Ms. Mitchell plays games with numbers, flogs the Illinois Registry, and claims that the only “real” opposition to the bill comes from “right-to-life” groups and “obscure internet entities.” The “obscure internet entities” she forgets to mention include Illinois Open, Bastard Nation, the Green Ribbons, Ethica, A Day for Adoptee Rights, BJ Lifton, Carol Schaefer, Sandra White Hawk, Maine Senator Paula Benoit, and New Hampshire Representative Janet Allen. “Obscure” indeed!

Scroll down to my entry “Illinois Adoption Reform Coalition Urges: Reject HB 4623” for the Illinois Adoption Reform letter these and other prominent adoption reformers and activists signed and sent to the Illinois Legislature and the media last week.

The Mitchell-Feigenholtz spin machine thought the rest of us would roll over. We have not and will not. Mitchell’s letter raises all sorts of questions:

  • How “simple” can a 77-page procedure be?
  • Why are some adoptees more deserving than others?
  • Why are birthparents and other relatives (!) given 5 disclosure “choices”?
  • How, ethically, can a birthparent for the cost of $40 wipe out their identity and the identity of their adult offspring?
  • How will the death of a birthparent be documented?
  • What good is a birth certificate with no names? How can it even be a “birth certificate’?
  • What role does professional searcher Mitchell and her White Oak Foundation plan to play in the lives of those “rare adoptees” who are shut out?
  • Why is HB 4623, which is clearly a reunion bill, marketed as a rights bill?
  • If opposition are just “obscure internet entities” why are Mitchell and Feigenholtz so afraid of us?

Illinois Adoption Reform will be addressing these issues and more within the next day or so. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here is the latest Mitchell letter:

Dear Friend and Fellow Adoption Triad Member:

A day that many of us have dreamed of for a long, long time has finally arrived!!! And, after helping thousands of Illinois adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents…I am now turning to all those I have assisted over the past decade, to help me make a HUGE change in Illinois adoption laws!

On March 10th of this year, State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz filed legislation that creates a simple, fee-free procedure by which an Illinois-born adoptee over the age of 21 may request a copy of his or her original birth certificate through the Illinois Bureau of Vital Statistics. The proposed bill, House Bill 4623 (aka H.B. 4623) passed out of the House Adoption Reform Committee on March 13, 2008, 8 votes to 1 (lone dissenting vote was that of an adoptive father who felt birth parents needed even more protections than they already have in the proposed bill–see below). The next big hurdle faced by H.B. 4623 is finding the 70-plus State Rep votes needed to get this bill out of the Illinois House by the end of April. Please keep reading to learn more about this exciting legislation and find out how you can be part of the most dramatic change in Illinois adoption laws in over half a century!!!!


H.B. 4623 would provide adoptees born prior to January 1, 1946, with unfettered access to their original birth certificates as soon as the law is signed by the Governor. No exceptions. No ifs, ands or buts. Surviving children of deceased adoptees who were born prior to January 1, 1946, would also be authorized to receive copies of the original birth certificates of their adopted parents once the bill becomes law.

Under H.B. 4623’s current language, adopted persons born AFTER January 1, 1946, would have to wait until April 1, 2009, to begin requesting copies of their original birth certificates. The six-month window, from October 1, 2008, to April 1, 2009, coincides with that of a widespread media campaign which is mandated under the proposed law, and would inform both adoptees and birth parents of the options available under the new law. During this six-month waiting period, birth parents who would welcome contact with their birth children and birth parents seeking anonymity would be able to convey their wishes to their birth children by signing up with the Illinois Adoption Registry. All birth parent requests for anonymity filed with the Registry would expire upon the birth parent’s death… Surviving adult children and spouses of deceased adoptees born after January 1, 1946, would also be authorized to request copies of their deceased parent’s/spouse’s original birth certificate beginning April 1, 2009.

I have posted full details on House Bill 4623’s progress thus far on the White Oak website, as well as a complete FAQ on HB 4623 (where you’ll find all of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received about the bill) and a chart showing the differences between current statute and the proposed law. Although this is not a “pure” OBC (for original birth certificate) access bill, H.B. 4623 will release 100% of the original birth certificates which were retroactively sealed in 1947, and 99% of the original birth certificates which have been sealed since then. The rare adoptees who will be the subject of birth parent “requests for anonymity” filed under this law will have the option of receiving copies of their obc’s from which only the identifying information pertaining to the anonymity-seeking birth parent has been deleted AND are likely to find updated medical background information waiting for them at the Illinois Adoption Registry (like everyone who uses the Registry, birth parents seeking to file a request for anonymity must choose between paying the $40 registration fee or providing updated medical information). Imperfect as it may be, the bill is a HUGE step forward…and, WITH YOUR HELP, will become law in Illinois!!!


DO YOU LIVE IN ILLINOIS? If you live in Illinois, call your State Representative at his or her Springfield office AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Let your State Representative know that you support House Bill 4623 and would like them to vote in favor of this all-important legislation. If you don’t know who your State Representative is, go to:
then click on the “by address” tab and fill in the required information. The person to contact will be the legislator listed as your “State Representative”. Once House Bill 4623 reaches the Senate, we’ll send you a similar request to call your State Senator, but for now the emphasis is on the State House members…

DO YOU LIVE OUTSIDE OF ILLINOIS? If you live outside of Illinois, we suggest that you call the State Representative whose district includes the hospital/town where you were born or where your birth or adoptive son or daughter was born. Let the State Representative know that you support House Bill 4623 and would like them to vote in favor of this all-important legislation. If you don’t know who is the State Representative in the area/town where you were born, go to:
then click on the “by address” tab and fill in the required information using the hospital’s address. The person to contact will be listed as the “State Representative”. Once House Bill 4623 reaches the Senate, we’ll send you a similar request to call the State Senator in the area where you were born, but for now the emphasis is on the State House members….

WHEREVER YOU LIVE: PLEASE FAX YOUR LETTERS OF SUPPORT (if you’d like more info on what to write in a letter of support, email me at [email protected]) to as soon as possible. Letters and documents faxed to us will be used in efforts to educate Springfield legislators on the widespread support for this bill…If you are a BIRTH PARENT and were not promised anonymity at the time of your child’s relinquishment, please mention this in your letter of support. If you are an ADOPTED PERSON or an ADOPTIVE PARENT and had access to the birth parent’s name via the adoption decree (aka the “final decree of adoption”), please mention this in your letter of support AND, if possible, INCLUDE A COPY OF THE ADOPTION DECREE with your fax.

Although, thus far, the most vocal opponents of House Bill 4623 have been the right-to-life movement’s paid lobbyists (who claim to know more about what was promised to birth mothers than birth mothers themselves) and obscure internet entities who have little knowledge of the laws and legislative realities that prevail in Illinois, even very marginal opponents can have very big voices!!! Without your help–and that of your friends and family members and coworkers–this law could die a premature death…


IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, LET ME KNOW…And thanks in advance for reading this long note…and helping to MAKE THIS HAPPEN!!!!

Warm regards,

Melisha Mitchell
Executive Director
The White Oak Foundation


  1. I love the picture of the mice because it is so appropriate! A lengthy bill to me is very sneaky and a way to hide what the Bill is really all about. What are this sneaky pair afraid of? It is a shame that both don’t seek other employment and let people who care about the adoptees step in so that a good bill could be introduced in IL.

  2. The Mitchell-Feigenholtz proposed bill says birth mothers may remain anonymous. Because birth mothers are found everyday even without adult adoptees having access to any of their legal records such a concept of birth mothr anonymity is quite preposterous! The M-F proposed bill also allows the state to issue the OBC in those cases where the birth mother believes she has anonymity — but the OBC would be an incomplete historical government document. Isn’t it illegal to tamper with a government record?

  3. Hi, Marley,

    Just for clarification, it’s important to understand that the Illinois Adoption Act is 77 pages, not the Feigenholtz amendment. Feigenholtz’s legislation amends the Act on approximately 15 or so pages. The proposed changes are underlined.

    It will help your readers to identify the amended language.

    David Ormsby

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