Last edited 6/15/10.
I met up the group around 12:30. Some had been there since 11am. At 1pm we headed upstairs to the hearing room where we waiting another hour not knowing if the adoption bill would be heard first, or the bill to remove the word "retarded" from all NJ statues and replace it with persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
They got to go first and I listened with compassion, thinking of my nephew who lives in independent housing, and my cousin who I am guardian of, as the advocates spoke of the pain being called the "R word" has caused them...but also with a tiny tinge of envy because their cause had no opposition. There point was well made: it's not about being PC, it's about respect.
They had a video presentation and made the point that throughout history, language has bene used to oppress, stigmatize and marginalize.
And then our turn came. Understand that this is three decades that Pam Hasagawa has liked the campaign with bills getting as far as committees or through one house, and then dies. Over and over and over again, year after year. Decade after decade. Compromises made and still killed.
Social workers, adoptees. adoptive parents. birth parents all testified in favor of allowing adoptees access to their own birth certificate (imagine that!). The committee was knowledgeable, especially the chair, bur almost form the beginning one Assemblyman repeated at every opportunity that he preferred an "opt-in" clause to the contact "opt-out" option - already a compromise no one in favor of the bill wanted.
Then came the usual opposition: Other social workers ,agency and crisis pregnancy workers, NJ ACLU (who someone pointed out did not seem to understand the mission of the national ACLU), Right to Life, Catholic Charities, NCFA.
This was followed by another round of supporters of the bill. OK, I admit to being biased, but the grassroots folk were far more prepared - Pam and Larry brought charts and graphs -and knew their material and were able to answer any question. The opponents, however, sounded like hired hacks who had no clue. it was comical.
Adam Pertman was great.
The NJ Medical Society testified in favor; the Bar Association against.
The well informed chairwoman has a copy of NJ relinquishment form and asked over and over of each of the opponents: "What can you show me that indicates that mothers were promised confidentiality when I have in my hand a NJ relinquishment form and it says that they give up all rights for the minority years of their child." Over and over she pointed this pit and asked them to respond and of course they couldn't except to say it's an "expectation."
But far more painful than hearing the paid hacks was the lineup of adoptees and birthparents - thanked by the ACLU and Right to Life ladies - who testified against the bill..."to protect birth mothers."
Over and over the same thing...the assemblymen saying: "We know it's a very small minority, but we are still concerned about protecting their right to privacy."
It was draining. I was the last to testify and after the vote we left at 7:30pm!! But what drained me was the energy it took NOT to punch out the ACLU lady....and I am NOT a violent person, honest!
Oh, yes, note that absent were those who defame those who work so hard. I didn't see MaryAnne or Marley, or any representive of BN sitting there for more than six hours, from 1 to 7:30. They didn't do all the preparations: making charts and writing testimony, getting there, waiting to be called. The chronic complainers did none of that, as usual.
I did get to see a very old dear friend, Betty Allen who at 81 is still seeking her birth certificate and reminisced about the great songs she used to write and sing at rallies.
Four Republican assemblymen - including Mr. opt-in - abstained.
"The measure was approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee by a 6-0 vote with four abstentions. It now advances to the full Assembly. It has already passed the state Senate."
Someone more knowledgeable with this procedure than I said it was the first abstentions he had heard in years...but better than a no. And so it passed the committee! Their reasons were that they favored access but the bill needed more work - which in their opinion equated to more "protections" for birth parents rights (gag) and also concerns about no funds in the state budgets to advertise an opt-in or opt-out provision.
Next step is the full Assembly and then our republican pro-life Governor has to sign it.
How YOU can help
If you live in NJ...or are a birthmother from any state - PLEASE start now writing letters to the governor and telling him you were never promised anonymity and never expected it. You can email him here or: Office of the Governor PO BOX 001. Trenton, NJ 08625-0001.
My full critique of the bill, and details of what I DISLIKE in it, are in a March 26 post.
And here is a link to the news report on the Assembly's passage of the bill: "N.J. Assembly committee approves bill unsealing adoptees' birth records."
"The hearing drew scores of people who supported and opposed it in a five hour meeting."
The article details some of what tried my endurance:
"Susan Williamson of Woodbridge said she was testifying on behalf of her adopted daughter, a college student who doesn’t want to look for her birth parents. Her daughters feels "honoring her biological mother’s right to privacy is the very least she can do for the gift of life,’’ she said.
I was like - so don't look for her, but why testify against the bill?!