As expected, New Jersey S799 passed unanimously out of the Senate Health, Family, and Senior Citizens Committee. on Thursday. It now moves to the Senate floor, but no vote has been scheduled.
To listen click on March 4 at the hearing archives page. Much of the following is based on this broadcast. Testimony starts at 42:00.
This blog contains three parts. (1) S799: rights restoration and class discrimination, dumped for victimhood, medical history and psychological “need” (2) testimony (3) a brief analysis of the proceedings.
S799: RIGHTS RESTORATION AND CLASS DISCRIMINATION DUMPED FOR VICTIMHOOD, MEDICAL HISTORY AND PSYCHOLOGICAL “NEED”
Bastardette and Bastard Nation do not support S799 and are actively working to defeat it for the right reasons.
S799 is restrictive, discriminatory, creates a new, special and temporary ”right” for “birthparents,” and exempts the state’s adopted adults from equal protection and treatment regarding the release of the government-generated public record of their births.
In the last few years, in the attempt to break down the door guarded by the New Jersey Catholic Conference, New Jersey Right to Life, the National Council for Adoption, adoption lawyers, various rightwing “family” organizations, and a handful of closeted “birthparents,” NJ Care and their bill sponsors have introduced restrictive bills that leave selected groups of adoptees spinning down a black hole. The current S799 includes two restrictive provisions:
*A 12- month open enrollment period, starting after the Department of Health releases regs for S799 implementation, that allows “birthparents,” to file disclosure vetoes before obcs, past and future, are unsealed forever, and records go viral.
* The default sealing of “safe haven” abandonee obcs, (including certs for those who remain unadopted), even though identifying information is frequently included on the them.
Both provisions invalidate S799 as a genuine birth records access bill worthy of support.
Unlike the old days when they actually pulled bad bills, promoters of S799 and other 21st century incarnations, downplay the right of all adoptees to equal access while pretending to support it. Supporters hypocritically lip-synch rights while purposefully leaving some adoptees behind to “get something passed.” They support as they did on Thursday, spurious protectionist vetoes and whinging non-existent “rights” to parental medical histories and psychological healing to get sympathy. By doing so, S799 supporters publicly deny political inequity, using arguments about individual desire, pathology and victimhood—a strategy that has never carried a clean bill, but engenders bad laws.
The crowning result of this semantic thimblerig was accomplished Thursday before the hearing. S1399, a bill that requires private adoption agencies and adoption lawyers to release non-ID confidential parental medical histories, most likely generated by biased, judgmental social workers and protected by HIPAA and other privacy regulations, to adoptees upon request, was merged with S799. The new bill is here. I don’t know if it will get a new number.
The merger changes the political meaning and intent of S799, even in its corrupted form. The merger, along with the exclusionary disclosure veto, officially abandons the restoration of political access for all (or in the case of the original S799, some) to individual anonymous nicey–nices. Arguing some kind of imaginary personal entitlement instead of re-claiming a right, New Jersey advocates have de-politicized state record s(t)ealing, continue adoption industry-government collusion and control over adopted adults and their families, and generally kiss the ass of the very power they have gone to Trenton for the last 30 years to overturn.
The S1399 provisions ostensibly are a stop-gap for the 12 month period between the open veto enrollment period and release, but it makes little sense to include non-ID release in this bill. It not only mucks up things even further with an unrelated issue, but opens the state to litigation over the distribution of confidential and perhaps falsified medicall histories to unauthorized parties. Bloggers Robin Westbrook, Sandy Young, and Mirah Riben have written about the legal and ethical implications of unauthorized release of medica histories. You may have to scroll around to find their entries.
Nobody says that medical histories are a bad thing, but they should be acquired voluntarily, not through legislative filching and intervention. I want to make clear, too, that adoption –related health, psychological, and emotional issues are very real for some adoptees, but those problems are the consequence, not the cause of government seizure and sealing of our documents. If you want to ease the consequences of adoption secrecy and sealed records you root out the rot and expose it to the light, not continue to spread it with new anonymity laws. So drop it right now! The obc includes no medical history, and nobody who gets their obc is guaranteed a medical history will follow. Adoptees are not special! Plenty of not-adopteds lack medical histories. also.
Ethical and legal issues aside, obc access, restricted or free, has serious legislative and special interest enemies in New Jersey. NJ Care believes this bill will pass, but if S799 follows the historical pattern, it will die in committee–or less likely, access sections could be amended out, leaving the anonymous medical history section in tact and passable. In either case, since S799 lobbyists seem to be carrying most of their eggs in a tattered old basket, S1399 could be resurrected. Despite legal questions, the bill could pass as a sop, short-circuiting obc access all together in New Jersey, and as word travels to other states where it would be seen as an attractive alternative to real obc access by legislators and the therapeutic crowd. Even the most reactionary adoption industrialist can support something like medical histories–as long as the source of information remains anonymous–and look like a good guy without giving up an ounce of power. We gave you this…and now you want what?
Thursday’s testimony on both sides was nausea inducing. The testimony was indicative of the failure of adoptee rights proponents in New Jersey to address, demand, and hold the line on the restoration of the right to obc access for all. It was indicative of opponent fear of loss of control over the 70-year old state-run paternalistic mostly Catholic-controlled adoption system, and of adoptee autonomy.
Most proponents testified anecdotally, on the lack of adoptee medical histories. (Carla Barbieri, Tom McGee and Kim Hanbury), with a good measure of primal wound and “identity bewilderment” proffered as secondary privations. (Peg Sturmfels,, who said she hoped the “stories” would serve as ammunition for the floor fight; Bob Hafetz.)
Personal stories can be compelling, but they need to be woven sparingly, skillfully and strategically into the political narrative. A story is simply a story that becomes whatever the teller and audience want it to be. (See Foley below) Though individual stories are relevant to the individual, policy and laws should not and cannot be based on individual experience and perceptions. But Thursday, we got a lot of personal experience, pretty much, hat in hand:
My obc will enable me to identify my “birthparents. If I can find them, they will give me, my children, and my grandchildren a medical history.
I was expecting the gratefuls to say they’d slink back under the rug when they got their medicals.
Only a couple “bright” spots shown over Trenton on Thursday: Adam Pertman from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and long time Jersey activist, Pam Hasegawa.
I will respectfully disagree with some of the people who support this legislation and say it’s all about health history, it’s not. It’s not just all about health history You can get your health history in lots of other ways. You can. It’s not all about search and reunion. It’s not. As you heard you can find your birth family today because of the Internet without any help about your birth certificate. So, it’s not about all those things. It is about equality. It is about a level playing field. I happen to be an adoptive father. I do not think my kids should grow up with different rights than all the other kids who came into their families biologically. I don’t think its right. Not a right, but a moral principle… Do we want to support adoption? I think we do. How do you support adoption when you say this is lesser? Do you support adoption when you say that adopted people have fewer rights? Does that support adoption?
Inadvertently my right to be a part of her (mother’s) privacy was taken away Now, I consider my children a part of my privacy, and I consider myself a part of, not a part from my birtparent’s privacy And my privacy is my bottom line.
Judy Foster gave solid testimony from the “birthmother” perspective, and she and Hasewawa had an impressive grasp of the state’s sealed records history.
The only problem with this good testimony (and the very rights friendly comments many committee members made during the hearing) is that the witnesses were there to support a bad anti-adoptee bill., when they should have been on the other side of the aisle, for other reasons. with the Catholic Conference and Quad A hacks. Orwell would understand.
Thursday’s opponents included adoption and religious hacks, anti-aborts, lawyers, and a bully. Unfortunately, Bastard Nation was unable to send anyone to testify, though we submitted our letter of opposition to the committee.
Pat Brannigan, from the New Jersey Catholic Conference (remember him? here) testified against S799 claiming that sealed records promote adoption, and like cops, I guess, serve and protect “the adoption triangle.” He failed to explain, however how they serve and protect the state’s adult adopted class—or articulate how they serve and protect the adoption business to which he is so intimately connected. He also failed to mention the drubbing he took last year when moms across the country took him up on his offer to tell their closet-hiding stories and letter bombed him, instead, with kind requests to shut the hell up and let them speak for themselves. Of course, Brannigan, like a good adoption industrialist, supports “mutual consent” and medical history access, which he claims already exists, but could be toughened up to be more adoptee-useful. Brannigan’s testimony and an op-ed on a similar bill is here.
New Jersey attorney Jeannine Fay Mood, testified that the S799 is not about rights. “No one has absolute rights in this issue…only competing interests.” Nobody asked Mood why then, every not-adopted person can get their true, unaltered birth certificate no questions asked for a few dollars, and adoptees can’t.
Mood, of course, supports “mutual consent” and non-ID medical history access. Picking up the proponent medical history argument, she testified (as did other opponents) that “medical need” and “psychological need” are “good cause” for unsealing records in New Jersey. This, of course, is laughable, but shows how the medical/psych need excuse boomerangs. If you want medical history, we’ll get it for you—no names attached. Now go away.
Mood also read 2 letters from closeted “birthmothers” who “don’t want their confidentiality compromised” and 1 from a do-bee adult ‘adopted child” calling on lawmakers to not make the “emotional decision” to relinquish more difficult by removing one’s right to confidentiality.” Deborah Jacobs from the ACLU could not attend the hearing but submitted testimony. NCFA didn’t attend either.
Always one to hyper bloviate, Crazy Marie Tasy, from NJ Right to Life, taking a day off from saving stem cells , spewed her usual spiel that anything less than state control of the intimate (mutual consent via government mediation) would shut down adoption. Her testimony was particularly amusing since she was wedged between those two anti-adoption powerhouses, Brenda Biry (New Jersey Spence-Chapin) and Adam Pertman ( Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute). It was even funnier when she attempted to source , with unnamed EBD material, her claim that “it is wrong to assume that birthmothers want to be contacted.” When it was his turn, Pertman was quick to reply, “context is all” and elaborated on what Tasy didn’t say.
Tasy saved her best lines for last:
We believe the bill is extremely harmful to the institution of adoption. Adoptions would not be possible without birthmothers, and we believe the state should be encouraging adoption, not putting more roadblocks in the way which would discourage women in choosing adoption.
In other words, “We must protect the institution of adoption”… from the beneficiaries of adoption.”
BTW, she supports anonymous medical history distribution.
Media whore Philip Foley, the blustering husband of uncloseted “birthmother” and professional crackpot Kathrine Hoy Foley also opposed, in the name his “anonymous” wife in particular, and “senior women” in general. The Foleys‘ “story” grows like Pinocchio’s nose.
The Foleys are suing NJ DYFS for releasing identifying information about Mrs. Foley to her adult daughter aka The Adoptee, who then contacted her. “The Adoptee” who has an Internet presence, has a very different and documented story. Lawyer, Matthew Weisburg, representing another woman who’s name was released without authorization by NJ Catholic Charities, testified claiming that the daughter in that case, (referred to as a “biological child”) knocked on her mother’s door “in the middle of the night.” To the committee’s credit, they gave Foley and Weisburg short shrift, suggesting the lawyer can’t even read the bill he’s objecting to. They sounded liked they’ve dealt with Misters Foley and Weisburg before.
Katherine Hoy Foley, no matter what her husband pretends, is anything but anonymous. Through the miracle of the Internet and her pathological adoptee-hating webpage, Woman in Hiding, Mrs. Foley teaches closeted “birthmothers” (she refers to herself as a “biological source” and admits she hated her daughter in utero) how to protect their secrets and families and to arm themselves against the bastard banging on the door. Mrs. Foley views adoptees as little leg humpers. She advises “hiding women” to refuse medical history requests, not out of medical privacy concerns, but because the information will just encourage “the adoptee” to hang out and dirty up their lives. So sensitive about her own “privacy” and personal secrets, Mrs. Foley has no compunction about revealing her own niece’s gang rape on the pages of her website. Anyone with people tracking ability can identify the teenager in a matter of minutes.
At this point, there is little difference between “open records reformists” and their opposition. Through they appear to have different goals, they both have internalized the Bastard/Adoptee as The Other, the product of sweaty sex and unpantsed parents, undeserving of equal treatment, respect, and dignity. Every year, like Democrats and Republicans they act out their kabuki in legislatures across the country.
Reformists and opposition meet at the same spot: the premise that bastards are different. We should be—or if not, at least act like we are: grateful, happy, satisfied, humble, conciliatory, non-controversial, quiet, respectful, and not too demanding. To them, any problem we have, though created through the statutory nature of our political identities, are personal in nature. They are problems caused not by institutional and government secrecy, but by individual circumstances and pathologies that are curable through therapy and counseling, not through political discourse and action. It is a very American approach.
The opposition is hardcore and easy to interpret. Though reasons vary, they do not want adoptees to have their birth certificates or other pre-adoptive ID except (if at all) under narrow circumstances proscribed by government. They lay out their arguments, and remain as true to them as they are to their schools.
Our “friends” are soft and malleable. Wishing to appear undemanding, they compromise, perhaps not too willingly, but well, for a chance to get something for some. Failing to use successful strategies, like asking for what you actually want, instead of what you might get and taking even less, and pulling the plug when you don’t get it, they are frustrated by their lack of success, even when they throw the baby and the tub out with the bathwater. They blame others for their perpetual failure (See BB Church’s new animation. Put a fork in me, I’m done with it for his take on that.)
This leads to debacles such as S799 where NJ Care, and other bill advocates are eager to flush some adoptees down a black hole, to “get a bill passed.”
Those “some adoptees” were invisible during Thursday’s rah-rah witness parade. The testimony, even in its diluted form, was so “inclusive” that casual listeners could have easily thought that S799 is a full access bill for all, not one that maintains the status quo of state control and industry favoritism. I nearly forgot it myself!
NJ Care and friends can’t just give rousing testimony in support of “equal access for all adult adoptees,” while at the same time sponsoring a greatly flawed bill that doesn’t deliver the goods. Even their pleas for false entitlements such as medical histories backfire on them.
Clearly, reformists, whether they actually believe it or not, willingly concede specious opposition claims of “implied promises” and secrecy promoted by the Bishops, Marie Tasy, and the Foleys in the hope of getting something passed. By doing so , they discredit own their integrity and repudiate any claim they have as adoptee rights activists.
If this were 100 years ago and they were pushing a woman suffrage law that permitted a husband to veto the wife’s franchise if he speculated that voting might cause an unpleasant domestic situation, they’d have been run out of town on a greased rail
Consider this the greased rail.