Friday, June 18, 2010

Incremental Legislation

One of the biggest areas of contention among and between adoption reformers is that while we all favor unrestricted access of adoptees to their own original birth certificate - with no vetoes or other give-backs to placate an alleged right of privacy of birth parents - we are often faced with a decsion of whether to allow a bill go through that is less than perfect or pul it and wait for perfection.

Those who favor accepting than perfection under certain circumstances, believe that they can continue to campaign to make it better.

Others argue that once a law is passed that's it. It will never be changed to go further.

That argument is as baseless as the argument that restoring adoptees right will increase abortions.

Speaking of abortion, it's one of the prime examples of incremental legislation.
"In a study conducted by Michael J. New, assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama, abortion rates among minor girls aged 13-17 dropped 23% when laws limiting access to Medicaid funding were introduced. Parental notification laws caused a 16% drop in abortion rates among the same age group.

"Published by the Heritage Foundation, the study examines the impact of four types of incremental pro-life legislation on minor abortion rates: parental involvement requirements, restrictions on Medicaid funding, informed consent laws, and bans on partial-birth abortion." See full study here.
Smoking bans

In 1975, the US state of Minnesota enacted the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act, making it the first state to ban smoking in most public spaces.

At first, restaurants were required to have No Smoking sections, and bars were exempt from the Act. As of 1 October 2007, Minnesota enacted a ban on smoking in all restaurants and bars statewide, called the Freedom to Breathe Act of 2007.

New York, New Jersey and other states have passed similar laws in similar order, one step at a time.

As of October 2009, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, 71% of the U.S. population lives under a ban on smoking in "workplaces, and/or restaurants, and/or bars, by either a state, commonwealth, or local law," though only 41.2% live under bans in all workplaces and restaurants and bars. A smoking ban (either state, county, or local) has been enacted covering all bars and restaurants in each of the 60 most populated cities in the United States except these 16: Arlington, Atlanta, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Memphis, Miami, Las Vegas, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Tampa, Tulsa, and Virginia Beach.

As of May 2010, 26 states have enacted statewide bans on smoking in all enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas (effective July 1, 2010), Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin (effective July 5, 2010). Source and exceptions here.

Likewise sales of cigarettes to minors was enacted in many states prior to the federal government banning  television advertising for cigarettes in 1970.  In November 2003, tobacco companies and magazine publishers agreed to cease the placement of advertisements in school library editions of four magazines with a large group of young readers.

Age restrictions for sale of cigarettes was fought as unconstitutional initially but an age limit of 18 exists in all  U.S.states since 1994.

Civil Rights

Sen. Edward Kennedy, "over the course of almost a half-century in the Senate, Kennedy would lead the fight for enactment of a truly astonishing list of civil rights laws" beginning in1965 with the abolition of the poll tax. "He did not always accomplish what he wanted on the first try, often accepting an incremental step forward, then returning to finish the job years or even decades later."  Source.
Timelines of all civil rights legislation is available here, here, here, and here.

I am not suggesting that we intentionally attempt to create equality for adoptees one step at a time, or that we introduce or easily accept compromises...I am merely deconstructing the hyperbolic argument that it is impossible for it to occur that way.

We need to recognize that in some situations it will be a choice between no adoptees getting any rights for another generation or allowing the vast majority to get it now and continue to work to  remove restrictions.

The U.S. is a complex mix of states and people with a variety of strongly held beliefs on abortion, gay rights, gun rights, etc. We cannot expect a one size fit all solution will work in Tennessee and in California or New York. What flies in Indiana may not work in Texas. 

NJ is a prime example. Grassroots volunteers have seen legislation get as far as committee and be killed for thirty years. Opposition there is stronger than elsewhere with the ACLU and the bar Association openly and vocally opposing along with the cast of regulars: Catholic Charities, Right to Life, and NCFA. With such strong and long lasting opposition that legislators have bought hook line and sinker, compromise that leaves both sides less than happy is the only way any bill is ever goign to get passed. And even with all the comprises it may nor, as we have a pro-life republican Governor and no money in the budget for the nonsense the bill calls for, e.g. contact preferences and medical forms to be completed by those mothers not wanting contact or to be named within  12-month time period they have to request it...and also collecting and reporting data.

If you're gonna play the game, boy
You gotta learn to play it right

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em

Or: You can't always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you sometimes get most of it...

Compromise is the name of the game in politics and law. Anytime people disagree to the point the issue winds up being settled in court, neither party will be fully satisfied with the judge's decision because it it will be a compromise.

We need to know that incremental legislation IS possible! It happens all the time especially with major social changes and issues which have strong lobbies opposing them.

I hope you will support the less than perfect bill in NJ by writing to Governor Christie.

In less than 250 words, tell him you hope he signs the Adoptees' Birthright Bill (SCS799/1399) into law.  

In the first sentence, identify your interest/involvement in adoption and mention the name of the bill or the number. Or both. 

In another paragraph, give ONE reason you want it to become law and feel free to state that you feel it does not go far enough but is a STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION toward unrestricted equality for adoptees.

In your last sentence or paragraph, state the urgency of passing this bill now before any more adoptees and birth family members go to their graves not knowing.  Be sure to include your name and full mailing address.

Preferably send it by snail mail to:
Governor Chris Christie, P.O. Box 001The State House, Trenton, NJ 08625-0001
send it electronically:
Subject: children and families
Sub-topic: adoption and foster care On behalf of adoptees and birth parents thank you for lending your support.


Gaye Tannenbaum said...

I've been watching this debate for the past five years and I completely agree with you. If advocates had been fighting for, say, five years and had little or no progress to show for it, I could see the argument that "we'll pull this bad bill and come back next year". This fight has been going on for thirty years. "Next year" has become "in another four or seven years when those in power have been replaced".

Marriage equality is another example of legal change by steps. First there was the right to civil unions and registered domestic partnerships - things which didn't even exist but had to be created so that a class of people COULD have "almost" marriage. Then more people saw that the sky didn't fall because gays and lesbians were living together with the blessing of the state and *gasp* even raising children together.

That said - certain legislation should not be supported, even as a "compromise". Where that line is depends on what you're unwilling to stomach. Prospective only? Mandatory counseling? Tiered access (aka the black hole)?

One problem that adoptees face is that changing our state of residence has no effect on our rights (or lack of rights). If anything, we are now in the position of NOT having representation in the state which decides what we are (or are not) entitled to.

Want marriage equality? You can always move to one of the growing number of states that allow, or recognize same-sex marriage. An adoptee born in New York still does not have OBC access even as a resident of Kansas.

BD said...

But marriage equality has nothing to do with the state making a private agreement with an individual to withhold the public records of third party. There is a huge difference.

Mirah Riben said...

No, Marley, no other issue is exactly the same as our issue and none involve access to vs. withholding public documents e.g. birth certificates.

But the principle of how rights EVOLVE is the same.

And the smoking in public is a perfect example of rights of one group of people - smokers - being pitted against the rights of others - no-smokers with a huge, powerful moneyed lobby on one side.

Marriage equality is an important example because it involves public perception and religious beliefs....and a huge COMPROMISE: civil union which is analogous to MUTUAL CONSENT REGISTRIES -- "the" compromise we fought for decades to get to where we are now.

Shea Grimm said...

Rights do not "evolve". And no amount of quoting from Kenny Rogers songs or conflating smoking bans and civil rights (??) can change the fact that this piece fails utterly on both an intellectual and political level. You previously have chastised a birthmother for expressing an opinion about the NJ bill because she is not an adoptee and has been "found" (as if that's relevant to any discussion of adoptee rights). Well, Mirah, right back at ya. I know you think us adoptees should just be happy with what we can get and shut up about it, but you know, this isn't about you. As much as the enemies of adoptee rights and you have in common these days, nothing strikes me more than your patronizing nonsense that we adoptees should just be happy being on the bus at all (some of us anyway, who live in the right states, and have our birthmommies permission), never mind that it's at the back. And you have the nerve to demand that others be respectful?

Oh, and congrats on the conversion to a 'civil rights are states rights' point of view! Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, and Bill Pierce would be proud of you.

BD said...

Smoking "rights" is hardly in the same league as identity rights. Smoking is not a substantive right. I'm not sure marriage is, but I'm sure peopvle who want to commit themselves to slaery see it as such. All marriages should be civil unions--if that. The state in fact, should have nothing to do with marriage. It's a contract.

Mirah Riben said...


1. You state that civil rights to do not evolve, with nothing to backup that claim.

It is described exactly that way by educators, historians and others:
The Evolution of Civil Rights at

The Evolution of a Revolution: "From Jim Crow to Civil Rights to Black Liberation ?"

Summary of the Evolution of Civil Rights and Federal Fair Housing Law

Evolution of Civil Rights by: Tammy S. Jones
Grade Level: High School

Books on the subject include:

From Political Society to Economic Society: The Evolution of Civil Rights in China Kate Xiao Zhou

Sovereign Evolution: Manifest Destiny from "Civil Rights" to "Sovereign Rights"
By Ezrah Aharone

We Shall Overcome: A History of Civil Rights and the Law described as: "Viewing the evolution of civil rights through the lens of legal history, ..."

To name just a few examples...

2. You claim that my blog post "fails utterly on both an intellectual and political level" and then immediately change the subject to "patronizing nonsense" - which is just that NONSENSE...without any backup for your criticism.

You "fear" once passed a law can never be changed, strengthened or made to go further. You have never offered anything to substantiate that fear.

I have provided numerous illustrations that illustrate clearly that it can and does happen just that way. If you have a cogent intellectual or political argument to indicate that laws cannot ever be made to go further, please…the floor is yours.

Saying that legislation does not evolve incrementally - as you, et al. have done for years - does not make it so, nor does pointing to the differences between EXAMPLES and the case at hand. They bear enough similarity to make a point of the way in which laws are made and CAN BE CHANGED and STRENGTHENED and go FURTHER at a later date.

The fact that smoking is different form obtaining and OBC - a fact stupid, dumb me was totally unaware of until Marley pointed it out – is not the issue.

IF the current NJ bill could be withdrawn -- which I believe would be up to the sponsor of the bill not NJCARE, even if they withdrew support of it -- but IF it were withdrawn...what do perceive as possibilities? Next year magically a clean bill would get passed though even compromised bills have failed for 30 years? In ten years? In another thirty years when many of us are long dead?

And in the meantime NO ONE has anything rather than 90+% having their OBC in the meantime while we continue to work for purity. Two different strategies. You can stick with yours in states where you find a sponsor and introduce legislation and work on it....

If you chose to reply, please stick to the issues. Pretend you're on a debate team debating whether or not incremental legislation is possible or not. I've shown that it is and now it's your turn to make an intelligent, factual argument to show it is not possible.

maryanne said...

The problem with incremental legislation in adoption reform is that legislators do not see the issue of access to birth certificates as a clear civil right unless we force them to deal with it that way by only putting forth clean bills from the start. If we accept their compromises, we really have nothing to come back with to change what is there. If we bring in medical records, agency records, reunion counseling, and other issues, we further blur the lines of clear, simple civil rights

Access to birth certificates is viewed by legislators as a balancing of conflicting rights, and compromised legislation is seen as the answer, not as a start or increment but as a suitable end to the subject. Neither side gets all they want, but everyone gets something and should go home satisfied.

No state has ever revisited and improved bad open records legislation, whether it was disclosure vetoes, as in IL, or those strange "black hole" laws as in Ohio and MA. Activist groups may say they will keep going back to fix things, but legislators are not interested and not listening. To them, adoption reform is a very minor issue, not a broad civil right. If they have given you a registry or mandatory intermediaries or vetoes or black holes, they consider the issue done with and dead. And if your group accepted and worked for the passage of those flawed laws, what do you have to complain about for the next year or 20 or 50 years?

No matter how many analogies you draw to other issues, this is how things have gone down in adoptionland, and will continue for the forseeable future. If groups want to settle for and support compromised laws, they should at least be honest that what you see is what you get for a long time, not promise to "fix" or "tweak" or revisit it in the near future. For some people, a majority of adoptees being able to get their OBC is acceptable and those who are blocked are collateral damage. I do not agree, but can respect those who are honest about it. I can't accept fairytales about "continuing to work on fixing it" once the flawed law is passed.

Mirah Riben said...

Those, like yourself, who are the most disappointed to accept the compromise should try. Obviously those who are Ok with the compromise are not going to.

But because it hasn't been done yet in other states does not mean it cannot be done...especially if clean bills get passed in other states and set some precedent. I see it as a realistic possibility, and at least 90+% will have access until that ever happens and opposed to ZERO.

There is no evidence that a clean bill has a better chance being introduced cold out of the gate than as a second step. It's all conjecture and guesses.

Ron said...

The problem with your logic, or lack thereof, Mirah, is that the compromises accepted to get that hypothetical 90% create a whole other set of presumptive rights in opposition to the rights of adoptees. These presumptive rights, for instance the right of a parent to white-out sections of the OBC or deny contact by power of law, are, in my opinion, far more egregious than the state simply denying adult adoptees access. The presumptive rights, codified into law, make it very difficult to argue in future that adoptees have any right to access. Ask Jean Strauss about the CA disclosure veto as an impediment to reform. I don't agree with her much, but I think her analysis of the DV is a huge impediment is right.

From a purely political perspective, if you create a compromise that includes 90% of a group, that means that you've narrowed down your base of support for further change to 10% of the original group. NJ folks who get their records, why should they care if someone else doesn't? What's in it for them? It's not like there was a critical mass of folks working on this issue even when 100% of NJ adoptees are denied their birth records. For all intents and purposes, the folks who get screwed by the NJ law will be SOL. They'll always be welcome at my house, though.

At the end of the day I think the truth is in the pudding. Out of all the states that have accepted compromise legislation, TN, DE,etc., how many have seen efforts to amend their laws to be more open? None, that's how many.

Personally, I would not have accepted a voting rights bill that extended voting rights to 90% of the people, I wouldn't accept a gay marriage bill that denied the right to marry arbitrarily to 10% of gay people, and I don't support a records access bill that denies access to any adult adoptee.

The main difference between the Civil Rights struggle, the gay rights movement, the disability rights movement, and just about any large civil rights movement and the adoptee rights movement is that the adoptee rights movement is teensy weensy and can't demonstrate strength. Until it does, it doesn't matter what you or I think, legislators will view our issue as a small moment in their larger agenda.

Mirah Riben said...


I totally agree with your conclusion: "it doesn't matter what you or I think, legislators will view our issue as a small moment in their larger agenda."

I have long spoken out about the lack of adoptees to go public like gays do for their rights and to stay involved after they complete their own search.

"You can't get rights so few are willing to fight for. Ask Jean Strauss about the CA disclosure veto as an impediment to reform."

That's a VETO. I know that Marley cliams that prefernece is the same as a veto, and I guess you agree, but it is not. One is a veto and one is stating oreference.

Amanda said...

Incremental legislation changes may have been appropriate or effective for other issues, but they do not apply to Adoptee Rights in my humble opinion.

Adoptee Rights is about equality. Period. The reason we are unequal in *most* states is because we do not have access to a birth certificate. We will become equal once we have the same access everyone else does. Keep in mind that obtaining equality is the primary goal, OBC access is the secondary goal by which equality MAY be attained.

And that being said, just because someone has access to an OBC does not mean they are equal. I am a TN adoptee and due to the circumstances of my birth, I (as well as my First Mother) hit every proverbial branch on the way down the big gnarly fossilized tree that is the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. I am not "equal" because I hold an OBC in my hands. While I was able to excercise a conditional right to factual birth documentation, I had to trade in my Constitutional Rights as a free person, to a fair trial, due process and just cause and submit to a State-inflicted restrainig order (placed by the State, not the First Mom) in order to do so.

I am NOT equal JUST because I hold an OBC in my hands.

And that's the issue here. Equality. What is the point of having access to an OBC if you embrace legislation that requires you to trade in other rights in order to do so? You still don't have equality...and equality is what we are after.

Keeping in mind that legislation that claims to have the "best interest of everyone at heart" often violates the rights of First Mothers to do so--something the Adoptee Rights Movement claims it does not do. My mother's right to privacy? Was violated when TN DCS inserted themselves into her life for 7 months on my "behalf" causing her heartache and stress when I should have had the right as a private, free citizen to speak to her on my own--something that would have been FAR less traumatic for her. Contact and Disclosure Vetoes are just as insulting to mothers as they are to adoptees. Should we be proud that the offspring of surrendering to mothers are being treated unequally? Is this flattering to these women?

Equal access is the ONLY option that rightfully respects both mothers and fathers AND Adult Adoptees.

I don't believe you achieve equality in increments. You're either equal or you're not. The reason I have problems arguing compromised legislation is two-fold (1) because I am one of the adoptees with the circumstances that legislators and reformers alike are quick to leave behind. and (2) because I view my adopted status as an attribute no different than race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity. When someone suggests that I should compromise on a right that belongs to me based on my adoption status, it is no different to me than if they had done so based on my gender or the color of my skin.

It's when adoptees and families of adoptees and allies of adoptees alike take hold of adoption status as an attribute and demand respect, demand the stereotypes and nonsense stop, and make adoptee marginalization worldwide and in the media unacceptable that we will truly see a change.

As for Tennessee, I started a website providing information about TN's laws because I planned on speaking with legislators about TN when inside the convention center in July. A former reformer who worked for 10-some years to get the current TN law the way that it is saw the website and emailed me concerned that my wanting to change the law wasn't respectul of all the hard work that went in to getting it the way that it is. They were also concerned that calling attention to the law would make it worse than it is now and not better and felt I should just leave it alone.

So these compromise bills that become law---we convince ourselves at the time that we'll return but has that really ever happened? Not in Adoptee Rights History.

Amanda said...

A preference is the same as a veto only if the state reads it.

If parents are permitted to submit a preference form in a sealed envelope that is not opened or read by an employee of the state and it is passed on to the adoptee and only the adoptee will know the preference--that's different. But "contact preference" where the state is responsible for knowing (and therefore having the power to enforce) a parent's preference really is indeed just a contact veto in disguise.

Even that being said, the contact preference still opens up adoptees to accusations of not respecting the preference, even if the state doesn't read the preference form which could work against the cause in the long-run.

That's just my guess. I don't have a huge problem with preference provisions that are non-legally binding but I'd rather they just put through open access and cut out the crap to begin with.

Mirah Riben said...

In 1857 The Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott case that slaves do not become free when taken into a free state, that Congress cannot bar slavery from a territory and that blacks cannot become citizens.

Did anyone then perceive that African Americans would someday have total equality to education and voting, etc. and be protected from hate crime?

And along the way this country saw the incremental oxymoron called "separate but equal" - a legal doctrine in United States Constitutional law that justified systems of segregation.

Just because no one has bothered to try to taken adoptee rights bill further, does not mean it cannot be done. Issues get revisited all the time.

So here's a Question:

Why haven't any of you who feel so strongly composed a clean bill and found a sponsor, especially those of you in NJ?

If the bill fails to be signed into law - a very real possibility - will you compose a clean bill and find a sponsor? I for one will support you in any way I can. I canthik of no one whop wouldn't support it - except of course our known opposition and the legislators of NJ who believe them over us.

Will you do it?

If not, then you are part of the problem and not part of the solution and all your belly aching is for naught.

maryanne said...

So....if this bill fails, will you, Mirah, compose a clean bill? All by yourself? If not, then stop throwing that at other people. The last commenter stated she was born in TN, why would she be composing a Jersey bill? I do not doubt that NJCARE will be back with something if this fails, hopefully something about real equality and real adoptee birthrights.

The NJ bill has a disclosure veto as well as a contact preference. They are two separate things. The disclosure veto means that the birthmother is given the right to request that her name and address be whited out on the OBC, that her identity NOT be disclosed to her child.

She is also given the right to file a contact preference, with the choices of direct contact, intermediary contact, or no contact. It as assumed anyone who files a disclosure veto has already voted for no contact, since the adoptee will not have the information to make a contact.

Filing any of these is contingent on returning a completed medical history form. If the form is not returned, the veto is not enforced, nor the contact preference recorded. Sounds a little like extortion, no? And as Amanda and Ron stated, passing a bill with these features establishes a right to birthmothers to veto release of information that does not exist now, but will if this law passes. That is a serious and bad precedent.

Finally, you had asked for facts about incremental legislation. It is a fact, not a speculation, that not one piece of bad adoption records legislation has EVER been revisited and made clean. NONE. And some bad legislation has been in place for years, like Ohio, and TN was around 15 years ago I think. These things are not getting fixed, so nobody should advertise that they will be. It is very unlikely.

Mirah Riben said...

For the umpteenth plus one time:

1. I have never claimed the bill was good. In fact I have used the words lousy and stinks in ref to this legislation and stated many times there are things about it I dislike....some I greatly dislike.

2. I said very specifically that those OPPOSED to it should propose a clean bill. I am not opposing it, much as I dislike it because of the the state of NJ and its history on this legislation.

I am not opposing but am stating the parts of the bill I am opposed to. That is my position and has been, and I've repeated it over and over.

3. I also specifically said, "especially those who oppose and live in NJ."

AND I said I will SUPPORT any SUCH legislation. I also said I can think of no one who would not support it - expect our opposition and the legislators who believe them over I have just about duplicated my previous comment. I hope it is clearer, perhaps, this time around.

4. As for "not one piece of bad adoption records legislation has EVER been revisited and made clean" I also have already replied to that: Because it's never been tried does not mean it cannot be done. It just means no one has ever tried.

For all the complaining BN does about not having clean bills, have they ever INTRODUCED one? Not according to their own website.

Though I am a HUGE proponent of EQUALITY and have written several articles on the subject (one for the BN quarterly) I also stated from the onset of this discussion, in a previous post, that i am not and never have been a legislative person. My two books are on the EFFECTS of adoption and on PREVENTION of unnecessary adoptions because of the harm of separating families. My focus in adoption is clear from the very name of my blog and the quotes in the header.

Therefore I am not in the position to introduce legislation and devote my life to its passage and I know it. That is also why I am opposed to opposing the hard work of those who have devoted their lives to it. Amanda, with all due respect (and you know I have great respect for you) I think you are too young to appreciate the THIRTY years legislation this has been being fought in NJ...and that it never got through even with comprises because the opposition is so string. it is ridiculous to believe a clean bill would get to first base given its known history in this state and the climate that has not changed one iota.

I usually remain fairly silent about legislative issues except to ALWAYS write letters stating that mothers never asked for or were promised anonymity or confidentiality form their own children.

What got me speaking out about this is 1) I live in Nj and have more than 35 years; and, 2) the VICIOUS and personal attacks being made against those individuals who have worked so hard for so long.

Those opposed to impure bills will never change their mind. I have also stated many times that I think that is GOOD! We need a fierce strong unequivocal voice for our true goal. Without we'd never get anything. We'd likely be still fighting against mutual consent state registries, for goodness sake.

What I would like to see is more support from BN and less tearing down of people. Tear down the bills. Speak out against what is wrong with the bills but keep it less personal, please.

Put your money where your mouth is and help introduce some clean bills instead.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to say this for the umpteenth time:

Adoptee Rights ARE human rights. Human Rights are NOT compromisable. Period.

BD said...

What are you talking about, Mirah? Who do you think did M58? Wayne Carp wrote an entire book about it. Who do you you think did Alabama? David Ansardi was on our ExeCom at the time. The other leaders of the coalition were BN.

As for nobody trying to change bad laws, that's been going on in Ohio for decades. The latest two attempts were in 1996 and 2008. In 1996, restoral was gutted and replaced with a prospective veto and records remained sealed between 1964-1996. In 2008 the bill was gutted and recreated as a pro-adoption, anti-abortion bill. Bastard Nation worked on that with a lot of other people. You an thank Ohio RTL for both of those guttings.

maryanne said...

I understand you object to the word "deformer", and see it as a personal attack. I do not. I think it an apt general description of those in any state who push this kind of bill. My original piece on Bastardette was directed at Illinois and the bad legislation there. Marley can speak for BN, but I am speaking for myself.
Yes, I include those supporting the NJ Bill as deformers as a group, but that is not personal. It is a political opinion. It goes for any state where this kind of bill comes up. It has nothing to do with how hard anyone has worked, or their sincerity and devotion to what they see as their goal.

You are the one going on about the NJ group and the 30 years they have spent. I have spent at least 20 of those years with them, working hard, so I have paid my dues and certainly do have a right to criticize the direction they have taken. I do not hate or disrespect the people in this group, but think they are wrong and setting bad precedent with the current bill.

I do not see the NJCARE people coming to this blog or others that I read carrying on like you are about this, or the term "deformer" They seem to be taking care of their own business as they see fit, as it should be.

You go on about respect but show very little to anyone who disagrees with you about anything. It is a two way street.

Mirah Riben said...

Thanks for that info Marley. I did not know that and no one has mentioned it until now...

So, BN worked on a bill that got passed with restrictions in it. IT HAPPENS! Does that make BN "deformers" because a bill they worked on got passed with restrictions in it? NO! It means you did your best and the legislators did what they wanted despite your efforts. It is the legislators that get to vote on the bills, not us.

And they had just RTL in opposition! Piece of cake compared to what we have in NJ!

Mirah Riben said...

You don't see that you've been disrespectful and neither do I. I have given EVERYONE fair opportunity to state their views, have I not?

These are very heated issues with strong opinions. People's rights and very lives are at stake.

I truly understand the human rights equality issue. Truly I do with all my heart and soul.
I believe in such purity that even the so-called cleanest of bills is still BULLSHIT because none have included no falsified BCs going forward...AND they should allow all parties named on the OBC access! THAT is real equal access. ALL else is a compromise.

And yet - even though no bill has ever been proposed that includes access for all parties named on the OBC - I still support the rights of adoptees. I'm not that selfish that I would oppose legislation because it is not really equal for all parties separated by adoption.

Other issues of "purity" - and I have expressed these issues to BN as well - is language that speak to the rights to access for "adult" adoptees when some states allow anyone with four bucks and ID access to their birth certificates!

I don't see how denying ALL adoptees access - as the so-called "purest" are fighting for - is preferable - except on principle. To me it is analogous to the slaves having said: "We'd rather stay enslaved until we are set free AND have the right to vote and attend schools, all at the same time." Had they said that I am sure slave owners would have more than glad to oblige! The slaves would have stuck to their principles - and their shackles, except perhaps for the fact that there were abolitionists fighting for them - something we do not have the luxury of.

I know that some do not like my analogies. These are my feelings and some adoptees do compare themselves to indentured servants who have been bought and sold for a price and had their names changed.

Adoption SUCKS! If it didn't we wouldn't be having any of these discussions. Adoption and falsified birth certificates S-U-C-K big time and should be abolished totally (the falsified BCs).

We continue every day to perpetrate this fraud on adoptees who are sentenced - AT BEST - to wait 18 years and most will wait a lifetime, if ever, to be set free of the bondage of their false BC. How may more will wind up in mental hospitals, prison or dead before we stop unnecessary separations and humanize the necessary ones by not destroying one's identity and heritage issuing false BCs in order to provide safe, alternative care that is allegedly "in the child's best interest"?

These are the issues of far more concern to me.

My only real concern legislatively is when they lie about my alleged rights. I will continue to focus on that.

Too bad all states don't have ballot initiatives - and too bad it is such a difficult and costly process where it does exist. I am fairly confident that most would vote in favor of unrestricted access for adoptees. Citizens are less apt to be swayed by lobbyists that law makers. But in the end - as in the beginning - it all comes down to $$. Money talks. It buys kids and it buys politicians, lawmakers and votes that keep the flow of those kids under wraps.

And that is where I chose to focus my energies at the real enemies: the money-makers. I just wanted to point out that change CAN and does happen incrementally. Is it easy? NO! But neither is getting a pure bill through in one shot!

Jean Strauss said...

I have always felt, despite interpretations to the contrary, that clean bills are the goal of access legislation. But reality must prevail. Compromise is sometimes the only avenue to legislative change.

Folks have brought up statutes in CA which wrought havoc with our legislation last year. The California Disclosure Veto, initiated in 1984, absolutely hampered our ability to pursue access legislations - but this was because it was made law BEFORE retroactive unsealing was accomplished. If it occurs in NJ, it will be concurrent at best.

I agree with anyone who argues that this should be a last resort, and that it codifies a promise of confidentiality that never existed before. But I think its important to consider this aspect of the situation: shouldn't we far prefer a birthparent making this decision versus the state making it? In other words, if a birthparent files a no consent form, or a disclosure veto, at the very least its a private communication, however limited, between the individuals directly involved rather than state bureaucrats making that decision for them. I realize that this doesn't take into account the issue of human rights. But if my birthmother had said 'I want no contact', I think I would have preferred that to some clerk telling me I had no right to information about myself.

I firmly believe that in New Jersey, holding to the moral high ground of the human rights debate will result in continued sealed records. Another thirty years of talk will not change the situation. The battle has been waged for so long - there's a lot known about what won't fly. I thought you elegantly stated the issue, Mirah, with your blog on incremental legislation.

Are the limitations within the NJ bill what anyone wants? Of course not. But it will provide access to a vast majority, and I think a majority that far exceeds 90%. If NJ passes this bill (and the governor may well veto it, making all this discussion moot) it will be by far the largest state in the Union to reverse sealed records laws.

I also appreciated your point, Mirah, that every state is different. What worked in Oregon or New Hampshire will not work in California - or New Jersey. There are legislators in NJ who totally get it - yet who also understand the complicated process that they must cope with to try to change the system. A clean bill (which trust me, appeals to us all) is, I think its safe to say, not achievable. In 30 years (THIRTY YEARS!) not one record has been opened in NJ. Its not because people haven't been trying. Folks like Pam Hasegawa and Judy Foster and many others have sacrificed a great deal over that time. At the very least, don't they deserve the support of those who believe in reform? Waiting for a 'Maine' miracle here is to me, a failure to understand what its taken to get this far. Legislative reform is a process, an imperfect process. I think we can succeed if ALL who are interested in reform lay down swords and pay attention to the reality of the situation.

That's my two cents worth. And after a year of inflaming opinions across the country regarding California legislation, I'm not trying to do the same here. I stand in awe of the patience and effort that's been made by the folks of NJ-CARE. I would hope that all reformers stand up for these folks. What they've achieved is truly heroic.

Mirah Riben said...

The only true PURE bill is one that repeals the sealing of the OBC in the first place retroactively and pr-actively...strike that language from the adoptions statues. Or via a class action suits that sues the state for fraud. far as the mantra that none of us are free until all of us free, I agree wholeheartedly. That's why I support FEDERAL legislation that bans states from falsifying birth records.

Going state by state leaves FAR MORE behind than it helps! How can anyone bemoan 90% versus 1 or 10% when all of those born in 40 of 50 are totally left out of the equation?

And YES, I am well aware of the Ancient ALMA filed attempt but believe it is a new era and worth second try....IF there was any cohesiveness in this "movement."

Mirah Riben said...

Thanks Jean. For anyone who does not know Jean, see

Look - most adults have a choice to some extent to their state of residence. If marriage is not legal for you in one state, you have the option to move. You can choose a blue or res state; one that has tighter or looser gun control; one that has more executions or not.

But adoptees cannot change the state they were born in. That is why federal legislation is the oNLY WAY to right this inequity.

And who would not support a federal ban on falsifying birth certificates - even if it is just pro-active? Well, of course are usual enemies will fight it, but I mean among ourselves...every adoptee and every mother in every state would support such an effort.

A class action suit could start in any state and move up to THE supreme court. THAT has NEVER been tried!

Jean Strauss said...

The one thing to keep in mind about federal legislation is that the last thing that anyone would want to have happen is to restrict access in those states that are unfettered. A federal law will supercede a state law. If the reform movement shifts to a national focus, let's be sure to not do something that limits Kansas, Oregon, NH and Maine. Going state by state is arduous - but it doesn't affect the states that are doing it right... I'd be interested in a discussion on what possible downsides, if any, there might be to a national ban on falsifying birth records...

Mirah Riben said...

What I am suggesting is to make all states equal to Kansas and Alaska where the records were never sealed - repeal restrictions to access - revert back to pre-1940s.

Make it unlawful for any state to withhold a persons' true original birth certificate from them, and unlawful to issue a false birth certificate that changes the place or date of birth or the names of the PARENTS OF BIRTH.

THAT is the only true, pure equality!

AND...if it's done via class action suit that reaches the Supreme Court - all you have to deal with agreeing are the SC judges! They are more likely to stick to FACTS than to believe the BS being sold by RTL and NCFA...

As I said, I believe it's damn well worth a TRY since it has never been tried before.

The worse that can happen in a class action suit is bringing publicity to the issue, as I see it. Bring the issue into the public eye, perhaps more than a bill winding it's way through committees, and each person on each committee adding yet another restriction to placate some constituent, lobbyist or imaginary mother.

maryanne said...

If a case went all the way to the Supreme Court to open records federally and was struck down, it could indeed wipe out open records laws already on the books in a few states. If the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, nothing would happen, as with the ALMA suit in the 70s that did not get beyond NY State courts. But a win for the opponents of open records in the US Supreme Court could work like Roe v. Wade, wiping out state laws on the subject.We would either win big or lose big. At least that is what I heard, but I think we need some constitutional lawyers to comment on this issue.

Mirah Riben said...

Obviously an attorney is the first step. I am not certain that the scenarios you are you are describing are applicable to a class action reaching that level.

But I tell you what, if I was an adoptee at the end of my rope in my search, I'd sure find out!

Aristo said...

The solution presents itself. Maryanne, BD, and Ron can write a bill they like and get it passed.

Mirah Riben said...


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