(I have corrected an error. Attorney Weisburg is not representing the Foleys. Thanks, Gaye! )

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.

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 niceynices. 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.

Adam Pertman:
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?

Pam Hasegawa:
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 unclosetedbirthmother” 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.

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  1. Thanks for the link, Marley. Glad to know that we Senior Moms are not out there on our own on this. We are all in favor of Opening the OBC for adoptees, but we don’t want to have our rights violated in the process.

    I find it hard to believe that a Bad Bill is the best we can do. Great explanation of all the specifics of this bill.

    Now, I will return to checking on the next piece of crap legislation and the one that affects me the most, the one in MO!

  2. Good information, Marley. Thanks.

    It seems to be hard for some to understand that it is state control of our private medical information that gets our knickers in a knot. That liability trail is real. Wrongful adoption suits are brought by adopters. This is nothing more than the states and agencies trying to shift the focus of these lawsuits from them to the mothers.

    It seems that many peoples’ attention just stops at the words “open records” without really reading the entire text and what it all could mean.
    We have all lived through the discrimination and trauma of adoption separation and its ramifications on both ends. None of us need any added irritations.

    I don’t understand why they cannot seem to manage a clean bill. Obviously, simplicity is not spoken in legislatese.

  3. This is my favorite part, the Adoption Professional Fee Pass Section:

    7. (New section) a. A person, firm, partnership, corporation,
    8 association or agency that has placed a child for adoption shall not
    9 be liable in any civil or criminal action for damages resulting from
    10 information provided by the State Registrar pursuant to this act.
    11 b. An employee, agent or officer of the Department of Health
    12 and Senior Services who is authorized by the Commissioner of
    13 Health and Senior Services to disclose information relating to the
    14 certification of birth pursuant to this act, shall not be liable for:
    15 (1) disclosing information based on a written, notarized request
    16 submitted in accordance with this act; and
    17 (2) any error or inaccuracy in the information that is disclosed
    18 after receipt of a written, notarized request submitted in accordancewith this act, and any consequence of that error or inaccuracy.

  4. “They support as they did on Thursday, spurious protectionist vetoes and whining 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.”

    I meant to cite this passage, also, Marley. It is so well-stated. I am so happy that there are sane people who want clean bills. Just when I lose faith in my fellow human beings, someone comes along and gives me hope that there is fair-thinking and intelligent consideration of matters at hand. Thanks!

  5. Robin–The hypocracy in these kinds of campaigns just screams at us. Why don’t they just admit what they’re doing, instead of pretending that this crap is inclusive. We have always argued that this is about birth certificates and other court documents. In Ohio, for instance pre- 1964s get the obc and decree. If you can get more from the courts, that’s better, but certainly agency files, as much as people would like them are not about them. Well, they are, but they were not the client, only the product. I used to work for a counseling agency Those records belonged only to the agency and the client, unless there was a court order. They’re liked grades under the Buckley Amendment in education.

  6. “7. (New section) a. A person, firm, partnership, corporation,
    8 association or agency that has placed a child for adoption shall not
    9 be liable in any civil or criminal action for damages resulting from
    10 information provided by the State Registrar pursuant to this act.”

    Ron… I am confused..please excuse my confusion.
    Would the ‘person’ be the natural mother/natural parent? If not, who would the ‘person’ be? I didn’t ‘place’ my newborn for adoption. I gave ‘control and authority’ of said child over to the adoption agency. I am a complete novice at legalese.

  7. Kitta here:


    I too would like to know the legal meaning of “person” who has placed a child for adoption. Does that mean the natural parent? Or does that mean a person who facilitates adoptions? Sounds to me like it could just mean a social worker.

    I believe that the agencies are deliberately pushing the liability for medical onto the natural parents, so they won’t get sued for ‘wrongful adoption.”

    Making themselves immune through legislation would mean that the adoptive parents will just sue the natural parents directly when the “product” turns out to be defective..or who just doesn’t meet their needs.(like the adopted girl in Texas whose adoptive parents sued Gladney)

    In the past, all sorts of “persons” facilitated adoptions. Well, I guess that is still true today.

  8. kitta here:

    typically in the law, when speaking of adoption or family matters, when the “person” is a natural parent or birth parent, the words that are used are “natural parent” or “birth parent”.

    I suspect that the word “person” means social worker, or possibly other facilitator.If we are talking about adoptions from the past, many of these were facilitated by doctors, ministers, nurses, and other people.

  9. I may be missing the point completely here, but Mothers do not really do the placing. They relinquish their rights to parent, but the agency or adoption professional does the placing. Isn’t this a case of identifying the individual steps accurately and not lumping them all together? Or am I completely off-base here?

    If my thinking on this is correct that this is absolutely an attempt by the industry to transfer liability away from themselves, and, by default or Deformer (to borrow Marley’s term) the only party left is us….the mothers.

  10. Kitta here:

    “They relinquish their rights to parent, but the agency or adoption professional does the placing”

    I have worked on a number of “adoption” bills, some in relinquishment law. Parents may ask that their children be placed with certain persons, but the actual authority for the placement decisions lies with the state.

    Attorneys and other licensed professionals can do child placements. The state issues licenses to authorize them.

    Courts hand down relinquishment decrees and adoption decrees. In some states, mothers do not even sign the relinquishment of parental rights. The court authority signs the decree.

    Natural parents are surrendering their children and their rights to their children. So they really cannot place them.

    It would seem, and I agree, that this portion of the NJ bill noted by Ron, is an immunity from lawsuits that the adoption facilitators have gotten amended into the bill themselves.

    The people left who will take on liability for the medical and social “information” will likely be the natural parents….when the next wave of wrongful adoption lawsuits hits.

  11. One correction – Mr. Weisberg does not represent Mrs. Foley. He represents another unnamed woman who did not send back the veto when DYFS contacted her.

    To my knowledge, while Mrs. Foley has thought of suing Catholic Charities for releasing her name, she has not since her name was on the adoption paperwork given to her daughter’s aparents. No suit has been filed and it has been 12 years since her daughter contacted her.

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