OHIO HB 307: Streamlining or screwing? Ohio Right to Life continues its war against first parents and adoptees

Ohio-Statehouse-Wednesday morning I attended the first Ohio Senate hearing for HB307,  (analysis here) Ohio Right to Life’s “adoption reform” bill that increases substantially the rights of adoption consumers  (paps and adopters) and scuttles the rights of adoption producers (first parents) and their products  (bastards.) ORTL likes to call HB307 “streamlining.”  I call it screwing.

I have written about HB307 before here and here. My article, Ohio Right to Life’s Infant Adoption Reform Bill: Threatens birthparent rights, doles out tax credits published last year in the Columbus Free Press is a detailed description and analysis of the bill and how, if passed,  it dooms Ohio to decades of increased and continued  newborn adoption tomfoolery. HB307  is the adoption industry’s wet dream. It is apparently this year’s ORTL centerpiece legislation to stop abortion in Ohio, though the word never comes up.

The bill, which passed the House February, does the following:

  • decreases the time an adoption after finalization can be challenged  in Ohio from one year to 60 days;
  • increases the state tax credit to adopters from $1500 to $10,000  that can be spread over a  5-year period ;
  • creates a mechanism for adoption agencies and lawyers to make direct  “birthparent living expense” payments  (rent, mortgage, utilities, medical)  to service providers rather than the current practice of distributing funds collected by paps to “birthparents” to make their own payments;
  • authorizes potential Ohio adoptive parents who have passed a home study to advertise for newborns in the state and let’s women (or couples) to advertise they plan an adoption-ready newboron..  Currently only out-of-state paps can advertise here.
  • permits pre-birth relinquishment for fathers and putative fathers

and the most controversial change,  the creation of a two-tiered Putative Father Registry:

  • post-birth–decreasing  the timeframe  from 30 days to 7 days after the birth of a baby in which a man can file with the already established Ohio Putative Registry  (PFR) to guarantee his right to notice if an adoption is filed
  • pre-birth–authorizing adoption agencies and lawyers, but only with the  written consent of the mother, to inform putative father(s) that an adoption is pending, advising him to file with the PRF if he wants notice. In this case, the putative father has 30 days after receiving the letter to file with the PFR.

Rep Jim Buchy

HB307’s lead sponsor is Republican  Rep.Jim Buchy, generally considered the dumbest legislator at the statehouse. Although he’s a rabid anti-abort he publicly stated on international television,(at 24:57 mark)   that it has never occurred to him to wonder why women seek abortions. Why ORTL chose this laughing stock stumblebum to lead their charge is one of Ohio AdoptionLand’s great political mysteries. He was, however, backed by some heavy hitters, such as ORTL waterboys Lynn Wachtmann, Ron Amstutz  Matt Hoffman,  and House Speaker Bill Batchelder.

Today’s hearing  was limited to sponsors, namely  Rep Buchy, He hasn’t smartened up since House hearings, and appeared oblivous to how adoption-stupid he sounded.

In his short intro to the bill, Buchy informed the oddly titled the Civil Justice Committee  that passage of HB307 would, through its new restrictions and increased tax credit would encourage adoption and  “guarantee” that every newborn relinquished for adoption would be adopted! Nobody blinked!  I waited anxiously for Rep. Buchy to introduce figures–and pictures–of adoption agency cradles overflowing with newborns fast-tracked to orphanages, but he let me down. Please tell me, Jim I silently pleaded, how many newborns haven’t been scooped up in Ohio in the last 60 years.

Only one senator (an adoptive dad)  took Buchy to task,  suggesting not unkindly, that adoption agencies were in a better position to arrange adoptions rather than Internet hook-ups. Buchy assured him that agency and lawyer adoptions would still be the norm, but advertising between pregos and “qualified” paps is just another opportunity to make a family. He failed to mention that in some states this consumer scheme is illegal.

Pat Hamilton

Pat Hamilton

The second witness was Pat Hamilton, Quad A lawyer and the local legal counsel for Adoption by Gentle Care, the baby grubbing 2014 recipient of the Demons of Adoption Award and the defendant  in the Carri Stearns case. Committee Chair Jim Coley seemed taken aback momentarily that an outsider had shown up. Hamilton apologized for his protocol faux pas, saying he’d been led to believe he could testify today,  so Coley let him proceed “since you’re already here.”

Hamilton pretty much reiterated Buchy’s argument, but in more coherent  language, stressing how the new regulations would give “birthparents” and adopters peace of mind that their plans wouldn’t be disrupted by some pesky dad. He added (I’m not making  this  up) “babies need closure.”

Citing the pre-birth relinquishment available to fathers in HB307, a committee member reminded Hamilton that mothers in Ohio can’t legally sign relinquishment papers until 72 hours after the birth of the baby, and asked why fathers weren’t given the same opportunity under this bill . Hamilton didn’t  really give a good answer,  then  jumped down the rabbit hole assuring us all  that the pre-birth relinquishment actually benefits dads since it gives the parents time to discuss the adoption plan.  Excuse me!  They’ve already had 9 months and under current Ohio law another 30 days to discuss it.

Republican Sen. Shannon Jones has offered an alternative bill,  SB 250, which cleans up some of the putative father mess, but it’s a bad bill, too. She reportedly was HB 307’s designated original sponsor, but was booted by ORTL after she squawked about some of  ORTL’s far-out ideas and their silence on the real adoption problem in Ohio:  hundreds of available-for-adoption kids in fostercare. When  fostercare was brought up in a hearing in the House last year, Rep Buchy was momentarily dumbstruck, then awoke from is his perennial deep sleep and  replied, “That’s obviously another issue.”

SB 250 was called for a 5th hearing this morning, but no in-chambers testimony was given.The clerk noted that submitted testimony was available from Denise St.Clair, director of the Captial University School of Law Adoption Law and Policy Center, but it wasn’t read.   Buchy said he was open to parts of SB250 being consolidated into his bill.The bill should be voted on before the lession ends.(Since I haven’t studied SB250 closely,  I’m making no further comment.)

Unfortunately no video was taken of this hearing and copies of testimony were unavailable for both bills. on-site or online.  It’s probably a good thing. You’d end up throwing Legos at your computer screen.

I’ll be keeping up on this bill. If my work schedule permits I’ll attend more hearings and report back.

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