Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Asshat of the Week---Illinois Rep. Sara Feigenholtz

As many of my long-time blog friends know, I not only advocate for those who have disabilities, but for the restoration of equal civil rights as citizens in this country to adult adoptees. This is going to be a little long, so if you don't want to invest yourself, back out now! :-)

I'm an adoptee and have been in reunion for about 8 years. You can read a letter to my birth mother here.

I'm not interested in having a debate with those who think they know the history and legalities of adoption in this country, but here is a crash course on it for those who aren't familiar with it.

Relinquishment of a child and the adoption of a child are two separate legal acts. Once the birth parents relinquish their rights to a child, they no longer have any say in ANYTHING about the child at all. Ever. They have NO MORE rights over the child. If the child languishes in foster care until they age out of the system and is never adopted, they will receive their full records, including their original birth certificate with all of their birth information. There is no expectation of privacy on behalf of the birth parents, and there never was, legally.

There has never been in any state at any time a document produced that guarantees a birth parent anonymity from any of their offspring. Once they relinquished their rights, that was it. That was and almost until now, the law across the land.

Records started being closed to outsiders AFTER an adoption was finalized around the late 40's or so in many states, mostly because of the shame of infertility, illegitimacy and basically to protect the new adoptive family from those pesky birthmothers who might show up on their doorsteps for Sunday dinner.

Adoptees were then issued a new and falsified government document that stated that our adoptive parents ACTUALLY gave birth to us. And our original birth certificates were locked away, meant never to be seen again.

Therein lies one of many things that are wrong with closed adoption. I didn't spring into life the day my adoption was final---almost a year after my birth. To quote adoptee activist Abigail Lovett, "I existed before that."

Since then, adoption in this country has become a multi-billion dollar industry. The industry has a vested interest in keeping the cash cow going. They are afraid that if records are open to adult adoptees that women will choose abortion instead of adoption. Published studies from reputable institutions have already disproved that. States that have open records have an equal or lesser rate of abortion than closed records states. Not more. Don't believe it? Show me reputable studies, not anecdotal quotes from industry shills. I bet mine will trump yours.

But mostly the industry (including the Catholic Church) is afraid that systematic abuses from the past will come to light if records are opened. There is a lot more about the "baby scoop era", etc that I'm not going to get into here.

Unlike today, where there is mostly open adoption of domestic infants (where the adoptive and birth parents have met each other and maintain some sort of contact), the era where I was adopted from (late 1940's to early 1970's) is full of secrets and lies.

My birthmother was told that there was a family waiting for me. My prospective parents were "both psychologists" and waiting to take me home from the hospital. She thought I'd have free therapy for life. ;-)

Instead, I was placed in foster care for a few months. My eventual parents---who had requested a boy---were called and asked if they'd be willing to take a girl. The "pedigree" that my parents were furnished with from the agency said that I was of Irish and German descent.

In reality, my birth family is Scottish, English with a little French thrown in. But who would ever know?

I was born in a closed record state. I've already found my birth family, and I didn't need my original birth certificate to do it. Thousands of adoptees and birth families are finding each other every year without the benefit of open records.

But today, even if I walked into court in the jurisdiction where I was adopted with both of my mothers---adoptive and biological by my side---to ask for my birth records, I would be denied.


Because the law says that as an adoptee, I am forever a child and need to be protected from my own personal information. It doesn't matter that I own my own home, own other property and a business, pay taxes, carpool, can own a licensed gun, am married, have children, am allowed to drink, could join the military if my butt wasn't so big and am allowed to vote.

In the eyes of the state, I will forever be a child.

Every other citizen in the U.S. is allowed access to their own original record of their birth. But not adult adoptees. This is not a reunion issue----many adoptees have no wish to reunite and a large number of us don't need our sealed records to find our birth families. It's a civil rights issue. Why are some citizens more equal in this country than others? Why are you more "special" than me? Why does the state get to decide?

The opposition to open records (those vested with the "cash cow" or in hiding the industry's shameful past) now claim that if adoptees were granted their birth records, it would violate the privacy of birth parents. They want to give birth parents a new legal right they NEVER had before---one over another adult citizen of this country.

Enter Illinois Representative Sara Feigenholtz, who sponsored a bill that, as blogger Bastardette writes, "has eviscerated adoptee civil rights in the state." It has turned adult adoptees into two separate classes of citizen---the haves and the have nots. It has given birth parents NEW rights over the children they relinquished all rights to decades ago.

Currently 8 states have open records to adult adoptees. Kansas and Alaska have never closed their records, and the other states have opened theirs in the last 10-12 years or so. Those states certainly haven't imploded with the horror of restoring rights to its citizens. Most of the countries in the industrialized world have opened records to their citizens and they haven't been blown off the map.

Adoptee activist Lori Jeske from Washington State wrote to Rep. Feigenholtz at her state contact email address expressing her dismay that a fellow Democrat wouldn't stand up for the rights of ALL the citizens of Illinois.

This was Feigenholtz's response, reprinted with Jeske's permission.

---- Original Message -----
To: Lori Jeske
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2010 10:00 PM
Subject: Re: HB 5428

Thank you so much for your kind remarks about HB 5428.

We will pay for your travel and housing expenses if you will come here and start working on a new bill that completes the effort so that all adoptees get their obc. Are you ready to move to Illinois and sacrifice your life to work for adoption reform for the next fifteen years in the frigid winter tundra of Illinois?

Would you consider giving Representative Feigenholtz the key to your (delusional) Eutopian world where all ungrateful bastards think it's easy to pass a bill that makes everyone happy AND CAN ACTUALLY PASS ? Pass a law? what a concept !!

Many Illinois born 65+ year old adoptees will get their birth certificates BEFORE THEY DIE--- very soon.

We will tell them that you would prefer to throw good under the bus while waiting for perfect and that you think they should wait a little longer.

Good luck in Washington state with your efforts. We can hear the unsealing now.......


This is why you, Representative Sara Feigenholtz are this week's Asshat.

You're such a professional and a real class act.


P.S. It's U-T-O-P-I-A-N. Snap.


debra said...

Seriously??? I mean SERIOUSLY? That's just plain crazy thinking.

Unknown said...

That's shocking! I hope this post comes back to haunt her when she stands for re-election, because, frankly, she shouldn't be in public office if she thinks it's acceptable to send an email like that to a member of the public.

Brenda said...

Gaaahhh, is this woman for real??? Is she crazy???

Anonymous said...

My mind is reeling--I never knew SO much of this. I had no idea! How awful! How nonsensical! How wrong!

Amy McDonald said...

I think the ass hat of the week should also come with an optional( as in you decided who wins it) prize for them to win, (which they must fly to some nutural point all Atilla's fans can get to) of gettin as many feet that show up kicking her ass wearing hat!!!!! gah this is dusgusting


Pennagal said...

I wrote accepting the job offer. Housing and travel for 15 years to work for a clean bill. I can do that.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe a professional would send out such a nasty, unprofessional letter. My husband was adopted when he was 3 days old and we will never know who his birth parents were. I can't believe someone would be so flip about something that is so personal and hurtful. I wonder if anyone in the media has seen this letter?

Beth said...

Again, like the insurance companies, it’s not about common sense, fairness or doing what is right – it’s all about the money.

Yes, Sara Feigenholtz is an Asshat – and her response is appalling.

karatemom said...

yup ..totally identify with the entire post.
especially the part of the awaiting family "mine were doctors" NOT..and all that jazz ..big pack of selling a used car..or something..

I came to find out my birth father had been paying child support for me as my birth mother and father were not together ..i was reliquished without his knowledge..when he found out he contacted childrens aid to get me back which he was told my adoption was finalized and nothing could be done ..when in fact I had just been put on a trial with the family ..after having been in foster care for well over a year..

so many many rights taken away..grrrrrr

anyway..great post as usual :)

Von said...

Thanks for this post, hope it reaches many.
We've been lucky enough to have our rights here in Australia for 40ish years and I've never known it to come back and bite anyone,ever.
The effrontry of it all amazes, shocks and is quite unbelievable, sadly though it's real and will hold back so many by denying them their rights.
As an aside, my adopters were told my mother was a doctor and a talented pianist.It's a long story but she wasn't, just an ordinary, terrified, misled woman who had her life ruined and suffered the whole of it.

Jennifer Leeland said...

Wow. Her asshattary is only surpassed by her heavy handed sarcasm and bad spelling.
Nice. *sarcasm*

Rootietoot said...

RE: the letter
I'm verklempt.

(a brief pause whilst my Southern sensibilities recover from such rudeness)

I did not know any of that, about adoptees and closed records and such. I'm kind of completely outside of that realm, and never gave it any thought really. It seems logical to me that any adult would be able to have records of any sort that pertains to them.

Charlie said...

It's the same old s**t, isn't it Mom.

To Janet and your comment: the "media", and I use that word very loosely, doesn't give a damn. Adoption is way too complex for them to understand, and the action photos are lousy.

Sara Feigenholtz sounds like she would make a good running mate for Sarah Palin—and that is in no way a joke.

Mary said...

That email response should get her fired.

Carolc said...

Marley, thanks for again clearly and succinctly explaining basic civil rights for adoptees. So many people don't understand the simplicity of what those of us who support open access bills are asking for.
I find it so frustrating when sponsors and objectors insist upon dragging in all kinds of extraneous other issues that smudge these bills beyond recognition.

As a first mom, I am well aware that more often than not mothers were coerced out of their children; the but this is not the time or place to hide behind the never promised privacy issue.

And as you again explained; we lost our right to make ANY decisions about our children once we surrendered - however illegally they obtained our signature; it's a done deal.

I am always appalled at the stupidity of people who continue to insist that mother's issues should be a part of this.
And I find it especially odd that Adoptee Sara feels the need to protect those of us who didn't ask for anonymity in the first place! Between the contact veto and some of the other ridiculous stipulations such as assessing fines on searchers, HB 5428 has nothing to do with the real issue of civil rights for all adoptees in Illinois.

Carolc said...

Atilla, my apologies for addressing you as Marley, in my response to your most excellent blog! Sometimes middle age isn't pretty...

Attila the Mom said...

No worries, Carol. :-) It's a honor to be mistaken for the fabulous Mz. Marley! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog!

Chris H said...

Amazing that she seems to have gotten away with such a rude, ignorant email!
Well done YA TART, excellent post.
ha ha ha!

Chris H said...

OH and my Husband was adopted as an infant, and found his birth mother when he was an adult... our adoption records were opened many years ago...which is great.
Nowdays adoptions in NZ are Open.

Jeanie said...

There's a special circle of hell reserved for that Asshat.

halforphan56 said...

Great post! Excellant points in your assessment of the issues of adoptees' civil rights. And, yes, I have contacted a local TV News station about this. Sara's comments should not be coming from an elected official, let alone the general public. It is this mindset that keeps sterotypes in place and progress to move beyond them so difficult. Thanks for the comment onmy blogpost about this! Others welcome, too...

Heather said...

Being an adoptee AND a birthmother my feelings on this issue are pretty strong. I think that everyone has a right to know who they are and where they came from.

I was adopted 40 years ago in the times of very closed adoptions. I placed my daughter for adoption in 1988 in a very closed adoption also.

My birthmother found me when I was 26 and I was so happy. I didn't even know how to start looking for her even though I had wanted to find her for as long as I could remember.

I found my daughter when she was 19 by a fluke. We don't have contact. She isn't ready. That is a whole other topic.

I loved your "letter to my birthmother" post. Everything you said was so spot on on how I felt when I found my birthmother. this comment really doesn't have much to say about this specific post....sorry.

You're awesome though....just wanted you to know.

Valerie Marie said...

Great post!