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A few preliminary notes on the attempted cooptation of the adoptee rights movement by Mr. Pertman and the EBD


EBD's call for adoptee rights, dead cows, & Jennifer Aniston naked: journalism at it's finest- Not

By way of a starting point, I wanted to draw readers’ attention across to Bastardette’s latest important post.

Bastardette has blogged about the ongoing clusterfuck unfolding over on the cultic Huffington Post, all sparked by a piece written by Adam Pertman in which he co-opts the work Bastard activists have done and language they have crafted over decades now.

I’m addressing this in my own space in no small part due to the fact that the Huffington Post is not a reputable source. Additionally, as others have learned repeatedly, their comments policy is shall we say, selective about what is and is not allowed through moderation.

For example, words such as “Bastard”, as in “Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization” are apparently on the censor-list.

Funny, in that this puts the HuffPo even below the National Council For Adoption (the adoption industry lobby) who have insisted upon issuing name badges as “B*****d Nation.” Both are pathetic in this regard of course, but you know the world has gone wonky when even the organization founded upon preservation of sealed records acknowledges BN, its own open records advocating nemesis of a sort more than the often mistaken for oh so “liberal” HuffPo.

Not to worry though, Bastard Nation is in good company, the issue of how the Huffpo moderation plays out in practice is well tread territory at this point.

BN is but another added to the pile, though I must say, it’s difficult to find another shining example of a civil rights movement whose personal means of political identification, as well as an important organizational structure with a political and legislative history behind it the likes of BN has been relegated to the dustbin of ‘that which shall not be spoken of’ thereabouts. (Though skeptics of various stripes may come in a close second.)

Readers are welcome to delve into Ms. Huffington’s connection to the Movement For Spiritual Inner Awareness and the ways in which such is reflected in policy and practice at the HuffPo at their leisure, (when they’re not enjoying the celebrity tabloid irrelevancies of the site itself or being regaled with this season’s diet tips, that is.)


In any case, the bloated comment thread on this HuffPo week old piece of drek is a beast that simply will not die, expanding out over 900 comments long now.

A number of the comments sound like little more than  reheated leftovers,  a strange hybrid cross between yahoo answers (on adoption) and the trolls on  alt.adoption circa the 90’s.

Fortunately, many of those spreading disinformation, adoption legislative deform advocates, the genuinely uniformed, and Mr. Pertman himself are being both educated and taken to task, Pertman in particular for doing his best Janus imitation talking out of both sides of his head. He claims to want adoptee rights, but he’s also ok with some being left behind (for now) complete with the usual promises of ‘but we’ll come back for them later.’

Some of us have seen it all before, from the outright lies in the comments on through to Mr. Pertman’s standard lines by now. (Though years ago, before he co-opted our language, he was much more upfront about his willingness to settle for “compromises” poised to screw Bastards for decades if not lifetimes to come.)

Naturally, those standing firm for REAL adoptee rights are a number of Bastards and others throughout the comments, who have actually been in the trenches over the course of decades now, some of whom have been involved in the work of passing clean adoptee rights restoration bills, others of whom know well the disastrous consequences of half-assed legislative abominations.

So introduction aside, go read Bastardette’s piece Actions Speak Louder than Words: The Evan B. Donaldson Strikes Out on HuffPo.

Wednesday (January 12) the Huffington Post published a blog, A Civil Right: Adoptees Have a Right to Access Their Own Birth Certificates by Adam Pertman, director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. In it, Mr. Pertman calls for the restoration of the right of adoptees to their own original birth certificates.

Or does he?

As Bastardette attempted to point out in a comment that the HuffPo apparently nixed:two-faced

Actions speak louder than words. Mr. Pertman and the Donaldson, while they talk a good line, have repeatedly rejected the core principle of adoptee rights–original birth certificate (obc) access for all, by supporting, endorsing and testifying in favor of restrictive legislation that “permits” some adopted people to receive theirs obcs while leaving others behind to be stigmatized and blacklisted by their own state governments and denying them full citizen privilege vis a vis obc access.The EBD and their reformist ilk speak out of both sides of their mouths:

Left: adoptees deserve their own obcs.
Right: Except some don’t.

Left: No harm can come from obc access.
Right: “Birthmothers” must be protected from their own offspring; we support disclosure and contact vetoes and other forms of government document censorship through redaction.

Left: No legal promise or guarantee of confidentiality//privacy/ anonymity”birthparents” do not exist.
Right: We must honor promises of confidentiality/privacy/anonymity made to “birthparents.”

Left: no adult/ parent has the right to deny another adult/offspring their own obc.
Right: We support a newly created “special right” of adults/parents to do so.

The whiplash effect is unending.

Mr. Pertman appears to dig his hole deeper each time he sits at the keyboard.

A number of us have noted for quite some time now, despite whatever so called “research,” (more aptly titled position papers) the Evan B. Donaldson Institute has put out, over and over again, in public appearances working to publicize the papers Mr. Pertman himself has come off as if he hadn’t even read his own Institute’s materials.

Repeatedly he has backed away from any notion of a full restoration of adoptee human rights stance, going so far as to take an opportunity in which he was supposedly there to publicize the Institute’s call for clean bills to instead call for a national reunion registry and liken adoptees making contact by telephone with harassing telemarketers. (See my posts Adam Pertman, please shut up and Vote now for the 4th annual Demons in Adoption Awards.)

Beyond these conflicted words though, the EBD’s entanglement in the disaster in Illinois and ongoing support of the broken bills in New Jersey (see New Jersey SCS1406 (A1406/S799) ACTION ALERT and update) for example, speak far louder than words ever could.

Thus sparking a comment of my own over on the Daily Bastardette.

Speaking as Queer Bastard, I find Mr. Pertman’s utilization of attempts to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the course of the EBD’s on again off again cooptation of the pure open records stance not merely disgusting, but strangely perfectly apt, in that the “repeal” of DADT as currently being worked on stands to leave behind all Transfolk.

Anyone who thinks the broader community will come back later to clean up the mess made by passing such ‘partial equality’ measures, well, they’re delusional.

Be that the Trans community abandoned in the “pragmatic” attempt to “repeal DADT” (for some) or the black-holed Bastards, Pertman and his deformer ilk have no qualms about leaving behind under some false notion of it ‘just being for now/until we come back for you’ deform measures gut all our rights.

Any serious student of history understands, do-overs in the realm of politics are merely the promises used to temporarily placate those being jettisoned in the name of ‘getting something, anything.’

Once a bill is passed, legislators take decades before revisiting the mess they’ve made, if ever.

Speaking as an Ohio Bastard whose human rights were left behind by the Ohio “compromise” bill, I guess you could say I know a thing or two about how this plays out in practical application.

Once a bad bill passes, it’s only those who held out for full equality in the first place who still care, and still push for the real thing. It’s the Bastard Nations of this world who fight for our rights, not the Adam Pertmans/EBDs.

Perhaps Mr. Pertman would care to mount a full scale campaign “go back for” those left behind by Illinois’ “compromise” bill?

Yeah, not so much.

To the best of my knowledge, they’ve never once expended resources to actually “go back for” anyone.

Illinois Open, Bastard Nation and other “purists” (to Mr. Pertman’s reasoning) on the other hand, were not merely in the fight, they’re still there, still working in the aftermath.

Not that they can get legislators to actually listen, as after all, to the legislators’ perspective, they ‘just took care of that.’

THAT is the real legacy of shoddy bills the likes of which EBD has had a track record of supporting.

We’ve never once seen any state go back and clean up the mess “compromised” records bills have left in their wake.

Whatever Pertman’s number or percentage of left-behinds may be in any given state, we’re talking about the basic human rights of individuals being left behind in the name of political expediency.

As I said on the comment thread, there is no such thing as partial human rights.

Genuine rights are binary, you either enjoy full equality or you don’t.

He’s busily picking up any ‘tool’ he can lay his hands on before they can get away. Be that his utilization of the attempted “repeal” of Don’t ask don’t tell as he attempts to market to Queer adopter marketshare, or his co-optation of Women’s Suffrage for his own uses.

Last I checked, Mr. Pertman wasn’t hunger striking for Bastard rights and being force fed in a DC jail  (like our Feminist foremothers)… .

His very use of slavery and the civil rights struggle of African Americans is deeply troubling to many adopteed people.

More to the point, his use of such simply belies his own lack of experience in this realm, as early on some white adoptees had attempted to use such as part of their arguments. People of color and people of conscience have repeatedly had to educate about why such co-optations are simply not up for grabs.

Mr. Pertman is not merely ignorant of that history and thus attempting to reinvent that utilization, he’s doing so on behalf of a class of people he himself does not belong to. (I.e. Adoptees. Mr. Pertman is an ADOPTER.)


Equality, give or take a few expendables

Furthermore, those who have fought for and continue on in the genuine civil rights struggle are not willing to settle for promises of 95% equality and offered promises of coming back later for those left behind.

Yet that is precisely what Mr. Pertman has asked Bastards be willing to endure in the name of “compromise.” (See the full comment thread.)

I could transcribe a number of recordings, and work with even the post and comments Mr. Pertman has made on the HuffPo. Tonight I won’t. These are preliminary notes, a big picture view if you will.

Let’s be clear, this post is not the word by word deconstruction of the mess EBD and Mr. Pertman are leaving in their wake that’s another post, for some other day, perhaps even for some other blogger.

All this represents is a very minimal laying out of the track record, and a cautionary word that anyone willing to entrust the winning of any notion of their rights to the likes of such had better be willing to be considered Mr. Pertman’s mythical expendable 5% doomed to be left behind with nothing more than empty promises of ‘we’ll come back for you’ when the time comes.

Those of us who have walked a few decades in those shoes know from personal experience that isn’t good enough.

pentagonWe know better to entrust the winning of our rights to those at any other point on the adoption pentagon, be that the State, any of the other interests, or adoptive parents such as Mr. Pertman.

While there are plenty of respectful ways by which others can support the authentic adoptee civil rights movement, ultimately, it is not the role of any other interest to subsume the directly affected in their efforts to “speak for us.”


Bastard Nation: promoting adopee equality and dignity worldwide

Back in 2000, Bastard Nation invited Mr. Pertman to keynote the fourth annual conference, “Bastards on the Brick Road,” held in Seattle that year.

His speech was entitled “Opening Records, Opening Eyes: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming America

BN has invited a number of people to their conferences over the years perhaps as a means by which to dialog further. Obviously I do not speak for BN, but I would argue part of the reasoning is likely also to help those who are not Bastards themselves get to know us and understand the civil rights work BN does.

My partner Mike and I walked out in disgust, specifically due to his expressed support even back then of an accommodationist, incrementalist or compromised stance rather than expressing a willingness to support pure open records and the fundamental equality for the adoptees in that room.

When your keynote doesn’t support your equality, there is no point in applauding.

Since that point, we’ve watched Mr. Pertman and EBD over the years polling adopted people repeatedly in venues such as the EBD  and Ethica cosponsored “Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference” in Virginia back in 2007.

The final session was little more than EBD promising to make open records a key component of its agenda while collecting language soundbytes and polling basic attitudes, particularly of the adoptees in the audience.

While I’ve no doubt such was of use by way of background “research” for Mr Pertman’s soon to be revamped and re-released  new version of his book, “support” such as I’ve seen to date is little more than co-optation and then telling adoptees we should be willing to settle for “some” being left behind. Apparently his listening skills could use some work.

Bastards are more than a test market, a market share, a potential membership base to market to, and a book and speaking tour audience.

We are people, every bit as deserving of 100% equality as anyone else.

Any willingness to settle for less, or accept the tired and depoliticizing trope of being “unworthy” of full equality serves other interests, not our own.

The end of that conference signified the will of those in attendance felt restoring adoptee rights was their highest priority item. They did not however in any way shape or form endorse EBD (nor Ethica) as any sort of THE, or even A leading organization to go take point on those efforts.

(Much could also be said about who was in that room being polled, for the most part, those with the resources to be there in the first place, precisely those willing to expend funding or institutional funding to be there. Likely those also willing to expend time and resources on future efforts or products by the likes of the EBD. It was hardly representative of the Bastard population.)

When adopters work on adoptee rights as we have seen in Mr. Pertman’s case repeatedly, it’s out of his own desire to see adoption “normalized” societally, or more out of a consumer protection model by and for adopters themselves than the authentic human rights work of adopted people, representing their own interests with their own voices.

That lack of a personal Bastard perspective shows its ugly teeth each and every time Mr. Pertman, speaking as an adoptive father childes us for not being willing to settle for less than full equality. When he bemoans those who have actually accomplished open records for daring to call the compromised on their shit.

If the best Mr. Pertman and EBD have to offer are abominations of legislation like the current mess in New Jersey, they cannot and do not speak for adopted people, particularly those who have direct personal experiences of having been left behind by precisely such fatally flawed legislative efforts previously.

They may co-opt our words, but they fundamentally lack the Bastard heart and soul.

The quest for our human rights, our equality and dignity cannot be left to those who repeatedly have shown a willingness and track record of trading it away.

Two important articles from the Canadian Press in the aftermath of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act Supreme Court decision

At the end of December, the Canadian High Court ruled sections of the nation’s fertility law, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, unconstitutional and tossed regulation back to the provinces, a move that practically guarantees a patchwork quilt of regulation and ongoing travel for purposes of reproduction. A climate some, such as the the Ottawa Citizen describe thusly:

Advances in artificial procreation have outpaced Canada’s fertility laws. The result? A field of medicine that has been compared to the “Wild West,” where there are virtually no rules governing what’s legally or morally acceptable.

There have been a number of articles in the aftermath of the decision and I strongly urge readers to continue to research these developments beyond what little I’m going to focus on in this post.

For the purposes of this post, though, I’m going to draw on two articles, both published over the weekend.


First up is Fertile ground: The business of baby-making from the Ottawa Citizen.

Both of these pieces are crucial reads, I’m merely going to pull a few sections. Starting with this overview of the existing reproductive climate. (Emphasis added.)

As more Canadians are turning to science to help start a family, the country’s fertility laws have fallen behind the times, with few rules governing what’s legal or morally acceptable when it comes to artificially making babies — and what’s not.

Some fertility doctors are still routinely implanting three or more embryos into women, increasing the risk of twins, triplets or quadruplets, as well as the risk of fatal outcomes or lifelong complications among the babies that survive.

The RCMP is investigating at least two cases of alleged buying and selling of human reproductive material — sperm or eggs cells, or surrogate wombs. And women in India are bearing babies for infertile Canadian couples who are travelling abroad to circumvent the criminal ban against the hiring of surrogates in this ­country.

An Ottawa doctor and Order of Canada recipient, Dr. Norman Barwin, is also facing two civil lawsuits alleging he inseminated two women with the wrong sperm, allegations he denies; the families are seeking a court order requiring the doctor be tested “to conclusively rule out the possibility that he is the donor whose sperm was used.”

Fertility doctors are offering women the chance to bank their frozen eggs for “reproductive safekeeping,” even though many members of their own profession say egg freezing for fertility preservation is experimental and unproven.

The list of controversies continues to grow.

A sperm-injecting technique that allows once-infertile men to father a child is increasingly being used despite concerns over its safety. The adult children who were born decades ago to anonymous sperm donors are going to court to find out who their fathers are. And alarms are being raised about the growing and aggres­sive use of drugs that stimulate a woman’s ovaries to churn out more eggs than she could ever produce on her own.

The article also goes into the lack of national standards or regulation over much of the growing field. (Again emphasis added.)

As pressure mounts on the provinces to follow Quebec’s lead to fund assisted reproduction technologies, as demand for IVF grows and as couples wait longer before trying to have a family, assisted reproduction is poised to move from a niche to a mass market in Canada.

But, three days before Christmas, the country’s highest court ruled key sections of the nation’s fertility law unconstitutional — throwing efforts to regulate Canada’s fertility industry back nearly two decades. The Supreme Court of Canada ruling places much of the industry under provincial jurisdiction and control, effectively killing a scheme to regulate assisted reproduction on a national level. Critics say the absence of federal standards for clinics will lead to a patchwork approach across Canada.

Seventeen years ago, the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies pressed for legislation to govern the business of artificial conception. Seventeen years later, there are still virtually no national standards or policies to oversee a field of medicine that critics say, despite its altruistic veneer, is ultimately about the commercialization of the creation of life.

Assisted procreation “is aimed at a take-home baby. That’s what everyone is in this for,” says Margaret Somerville, founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. “But ultimately, this is a new human being. And what we have not done in any of this is put that new human being at the centre of our decision-making.”

I have written here a number of times about IVF and the growing movement of donor conceived (dc) individuals and their efforts to gain their fundamental human right of biologically based identity, such as Canadian Olivia Pratten’s lawsuit. (see Olivia Pratten’s suit to end second class citizenship for Canadian donor conceived individuals.)

(As always, I strongly urge those interested in the first hand perspectives of donor conceived people and their human rights work to begin with the Confessions of a Cryokid blog and links as an important jumping off point.)

The driving engine, of course, remains, whatever money can buy.

Despite the money changing hands, many in the field deny that they’re engaged in commercial transactions.

“In the reproductive business — which is a business — you have this very strange denial of the commercial aspect of what people are doing,” says Debora Spar, author of The Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception.

“I get it, I understand it. I think because reproductive technologies are so new people still have this knee-jerk reaction against them — they get very scared when the words ‘baby’ or ‘reproduction’ occur in the same sentence as money,” says Spar, a former professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and current president of Barnard College in New York City.

“The truth of the matter is that there is commerce going on — and it’s pretty expensive and high-priced commerce going on.”

In the U.S., “you can buy sperm, you can buy eggs — that’s really the market that has exploded — you can rent wombs and you can increasingly put together these complicated package deals, where you buy the sperm from one source, the egg from another and the surrogate mother.”

Canada’s Supreme Court left in place prohibitions against paying for sperm or egg donors or surrogacy services — outlawed activities that carry fines of up to $500,000 or 10 years in prison. But many Canadians are simply buying and importing donor sperm and eggs from the U.S. — often with the help of Canadian fertility clinics — or traveling abroad for surrogates.

As the article points out, whatever Canadians can’t get domestically, they can buy in the United States or abroad.

Protecting the identity rights of those produced by these processes likewise, remains just another regulatory hole. (Emphasis added.)

Spar and others say more needs to be done to track any long-term health risks to babies born after assisted conception, and to the women who receive large amounts of hormones as part of their treatments. They say permanent donor records need to be kept to allow children born from sperm or egg donation to trace their genetic parents, should they wish to do so.

“We do that now for adoption after making mistakes for decades. We’re making the same mistakes with assisted reproduction in presuming that children have no interest in their genetic heritage,” Spar says.

The quote, despite bringing up the interests of donor conceived individuals still shows how little their circumstances are understood.

Beyond mere curiosity or interest in one’s genetic heritage, the ability to trace authentic identity and one’s own origins, as well as ethnicity, nationality, family, etc. is firmly in the realms of human rights. When donor conceived individuals are intentionally deprived of such, they are denied their most basic human rights.

Laskin says the “outliers” are small and the vast majority of doctors working in the country’s private fertility facilities are practising at a high standard.

But those watching say the need for oversight and regulation has never been greater.

“Otherwise you are saying to any person with a private interest in making humans, go out there and set up a business,” says Françoise Baylis, Canada research chair in bioethics and philosophy at Halifax’s Dalhousie University.

Which is globally, precisely what has already happened.

Which leads us to the second article, this one about a key technological leap in terms of human egg freezing and defrosting, as well as the pressures driving women to freeze eggs, ideally in their 20’s.

See Human-egg banking raises sticky social questions from the Vancouver Sun.

The article points out how these technologies were originally developed in the medical realm, to help women facing threats to their reproductive capacity retain the ability to bear children at a later date, yet they are now shifting towards the consumer marketplace in a broader climate of little to no regulation.

Egg freezing was born from a goal of rescuing the fertility of women undergoing treatment for cancer or other diseases that can destroy immature eggs in the ovaries and plunge women into premature menopause.

As there is little to no long term health monitoring both of the effects of the practices on the resultant offspring and on the women themselves, much of this reproductive marketplace and its long term effects exists firmly in the realm of “we don’t know.”

Tan agrees with critics that centres introducing egg freezing should initially only do it in the context of a clinical trial, and under research ethics supervision, until they can obtain “consistently good results,” and preferably publish those results in a peer-reviewed journal.

But critics also charge that the long-term effects on the eggs and resulting embryos are unknown. “The consensus of opinion is that if an egg fertilizes and it develops to an early embryo and we implant it into a uterus and it grows, everything is pretty much OK,” says Dr. Roger Pierson, a past president of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Saskatchewan. “But we don’t know how that is going to affect their long-term development. There are things that we just can’t test in animal models.” There’s also no guarantee of a baby in the end, he says.

Women need to be told what the realistic outcomes would be, Pierson says. “The reality is, we just don’t know what that is.”

“I would hate to see it used as a marketing tool, saying, ‘100 per cent of the time when we freeze your eggs you’re going to get a baby at the end of the day.’ ”

All of this, once again, raises the ongoing questions pertaining to stored genetic material and those vying for ‘ownership’/ability to utilize such years later.

While frozen unfertilized eggs are obviously different from frozen fertilized eggs, a careful study of how those pushing embryo transference (what is sold as “embryo adoption” here in the States,)  particularly those in the christian evangelical subcultures, and how they have come to view genetic material in long term storage as more a national resource than under individual ownership may over time become increasingly pertinent.

Here in the States, in Louisiana for example, they have worked to ensure that frozen embryos can legally only be thawed for purposes of implantation and potential pregnancy. They have a definite preferred outcome for the embryos and it precludes other means of disposal or donation for medical research purposes. See my previous posts In-Vitro Fertilization, “Snowflakes,” and the growing Christian Eugenic movement and Stem-Cell Veto, Snowflake kids, and Christian Eugenics.

Whether or not they would extend their religiously based objections and demand the stored material be essentially hijacked/commandeered from those who were originally the sources of the genetic material beyond fertilized eggs on into any stored material that could be utilized to produce pregnancies is an unanswered question.

The article also points out the fundamental lack of basic physiological and biological education.

Clearly, far beyond sex ed, people need a crash course in the reproductive realities of their own bodies. This lack of basic understanding of the reproductive limitations women face over the course of their reproductive lifetimes is common across many cultures and nations.

Women are born with a finite number of eggs. At birth a woman’s ovaries contain approximately one to two million oocytes — immature eggs; by puberty, the count drops to 400,000. During each menstrual cycle, about 1,000 oocytes begin to develop but only one becomes a mature egg. The others left behind die. Not only does the supply shrink but egg quality decreases over time as well, since the best eggs are used up when young, so that each egg now offers less chance of pregnancy and a higher risk of miscarriage.

By the time a woman reaches age 39, “there aren’t many (follicles) left that have got enough strength to raise their hand,” says Dr. Al Yuzpe, co-founder and co-director of the Genesis Fertility Centre of Vancouver.

“My usual response is, ‘You may not look 40, you may not feel 40 but your ovaries don’t know it,’ ” Yuzpe says. He frequently encounters women who had no idea of the limits of their fertility. “They’re not only shocked, they’re tearful, they’re angry. ‘Nobody told me that I wasn’t going to be able to get pregnant at 48.’

But when women don’t understand something as basic as pregnancy at 48 isn’t “normalcy” is it then any wonder that somewhere between adoption and reproductive technologies the unending quest for a child plays out against the backdrop of a consumer marketplace catering to precisely those consumer demands?

As for the kids produced or purchased, they’re lucky at this point, to even get a couple sentences worth of mentions even in thoughtful articles such as these.

That’s part of the problem.

Now as earlier generations of donor conceived individuals (and adoptees) reach adulthood and find their voices politically, those in any position to regulate this “wild west” would do well to listen.

Bastard Nation Action Alert: Write NJ Legislators Today; Vote NO on A1406/S799!

(Originally posted on the Bastard Nation Action Alert blog, here.)

Monday, January 03, 2011

Bastard Nation Action Alert: Write NJ Legislators Today; Vote NO on A1406/S799!

Distribute Freely




Read full text of A1406 here.
Read full text of S799 here

A1406 (companion to S799 already passed in the NJ Senate) is scheduled for a floor vote sometime in the next few weeks. Proponents of this bad bill hoped to have it on the schedule for a January 6, 2011 vote, but it’s not on the list.

Please contact Assembly members immediately and urge them to VOTE NO ON A1406/S799. (Contact information below.) If you are from or in New Jersey or have a New Jersey connection, mention it in your communication.

Be sure to put: “Vote No On Adoptee Birthright Bill “in the header

Bastard Nation’s letter to the Assembly is here.

A1406/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.


*includes a 12- month open enrollment period, starting after the Department of Health releases regs for A1406/S799 implementation, that allows “birthparents,” to file disclosure vetoes (DV) before obcs, past and future, are unsealed

*authorizes the state to replace the original birth certificat, of those subjected to the DV with a mutilated copy of the obc with all identifying information, including the address of the parent(s) at the time of birth (if it appears on the cert) deleted.

*requires “birthparents” who file a disclosure veto to submit a family history and a possibly illegal intrusive medical form to activate the veto.

*requires “birthparents” who file a “contact preference form,” which, in fact, acts as a disclosure veto, to fill out the same family history and possibly illegal intrusive medical history form to activiate the veto.

*seals by default all “safe haven” birth certificates, even though most “safe haven” babies are born in hospitals to identified mothers.

*requires adoption agencies and adoption lawyers to receive a written veto status report from the state before they can release identifying information to adoptees

*requires the state to mount an “information” campaign to inform “birthparents” of their “protection” options


Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization opposes legislation that denies any adult adoptee access to his or her own original birth records on par with all other citizens. Please let the Assembly know that this issue is not about relationships between adoptees and their “birthparents.” It is about basic human and civil rights.

Passage of bad legislation is New Jersey could easily undermine efforts of dedicated reformers who are holding the line for adoptee rights in other states.

New Jersey’s A1406/S799 is an abomination in light of the restoration of the right of original birth certificate access to all persons adopted in Oregon, Alabama, and New Hampshire, and Maine. Adult adoptees and all who support adoptee rights should stand united for unrestricted access laws and not sell out just to get a bill passed! Disclosure veto legislation is unethical and unjust!

Please e-mail the New Jersey Assembly today and urge members to VOTE NO ON A1406/S799.

(write one letter, cut and paste for all),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,

Drop a line to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie now and ask him to veto A1406/S799 if it hits his desk. Letters should be no more than 250 words. Use this template :

or contact him at:

Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625

Bastard Nation’s letter to Governor Christie is here.

NYT “Assembling the Global Baby” & “Donors With Dossiers (and Star Looks)”

I’ve spent the better part of December refocusing and spending some time with family, but I intend to get at least a couple of odds and ends up before the end of the month.

Obviously a lot has happened in my ‘absence,’ so I figured I’d put up a couple of brief posts pointing at a few things readers might have missed.

For tonight’s micro post, for example, I wanted to point readers back to a pair of articles from mid December in the New York Times.

Start with this article and video from December 10th deserving of wide readership,


Illustration by Edel Rodriguez for The Wall Street Journal

Assembling the Global Baby

…The man bringing together this disparate group is Rudy Rupak, chief executive of LLC, a California company that searches the globe to find the components for its business line. The business, in this case, is creating babies.

Mr. Rupak is a pioneer in a controversial field at the crossroads of reproductive technology and international adoption. Prospective parents put off by the rigor of traditional adoptions are bypassing that system by producing babies of their own—often using an egg donor from one country, a sperm donor from another, and a surrogate who will deliver in a third country to make what some industry participants call “a world baby.” …

and from the 11th,

Donors With Dossiers (and Star Looks)

… The reason for the expanding profiles is a drastic change in sperm bank customers over the past decade. When California Cryobank started 33 years ago, most of its clients were couples who had infertility issues. A couple often chose a sperm donor based on how closely his looks matched the husband’s, and the child was raised as the couple’s own.

Now, 60% of the bank’s clients are single women or lesbian couples. These clients will be “faced with discussing the donor in an open and direct way with their child because there’s obviously no father involved,” Mr. Brown says.

California Cryobank’s website tells clients to “learn whether your donor choices were artists, athletes, musicians, or scientists” by reading their essays and profiles “as if you were reading them to your future three-year-old. Look at their childhood photos knowing how meaningful it may be one day when your son or daughter recognizes that button nose or big brown eyes as their own.”…

Both articles address aspects of reproductive and genetic commodification and how the babies couples seek can be created, for the right price, reducing reproduction to baby-by-committee & boutique shopping experiences.

NaBloPoMo II – National Adoption Month 2010 – #NAdoptAM

(Just as at the end of last month, this is a second post in a single day, be sure to scroll down to my earlier post, How the other half lives- off adoption as well.)

This post marks 61 days straight of blogging, two NaBloPoMos back to back.

For those of you who have gotten used to hearing from me daily here for awhile, I can only say thanks for reading along and yeah, I’m about to take a break.

November 2010

This month, just like last month, I’ve done two posts on the final day so as to include this index. That’s made for 63 posts in 61 days.

Still, I can think of few things more important to do for what the industry has termed “National Adoption Month” than tell the truth, all month long about the real implications of the

  • adoption industry,
  • the baby dump laws,
  • the machinelike parental rights stripping aspects of American foster care,
  • reproductive tourism,
  • and the so called “orphan” schemes

to both kids and their families.

All I can say is that most other months I don’t blog the various bits and pieces like this in a constant stream, but these are typical of the kinds of articles and stories that cross my desk week in and week out.

There is almost nothing extraordinary about any of the circumstances in these posts.  If anything, they reflect merely among the the more interesting pieces that crossed my desk on any given day. For every post here, there were perhaps ten to twenty other not disimilar such I could just as easily chosen to blog.

Clearly some of the bigger picture pieces like my writings about NCFA’s 30th anniversary gala or on the passing of B.J. Lifton do reflect somewhat special circumstances, but writing about the foibles of the industry or any number of personalities particularly relevant to adoptees could just as easily be done almost any day of the year.

These two months worth of posts simply reflect what I normally don’t blog, in some ways a very typical two months. This is what some of the background readings related to Bastard rights work looks like day in and day out.

As for much of the other Bastard rights work, such as during most states’ legislative sessions and working legislatively, when it’s in full swing, multiple states running at once there is often little to no time to blog.

Obviously not reflected in these two months worth of posts have been the bills in NY, NJ, PA etc, and the ongoing babydump revamp expansion bills such as the ones in MA and NV. Doesn’t mean the last two months haven’t been full of those, as well.

We’ll see what I can get to in December.

Meanwhile, Bastardette has also been at it all month long, so if you haven’t already, be sure to go across and see her posts as well.

How the other half lives- off adoption

By way of a brief follow up on my two posts about the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) celebrating 30 years of working against Bastard rights:

NCFA has been kind enough to document their excesses for us.

As Bastardette pointed out, NCFA  has complied a slideshow of pictures from their 30th anniversary gala.

Go click across to NCFA’s slideshow  Bow Ties and Pearls 30th Anniversary Gala 2010 (just beware the hideous wipes between each and every photo!)

Few things can truly drive home the realities of the adoption industry’s political access and wealth quite like these photos of the opulent debauchery that went down at the Willard earlier this month.

As part of NCFA’s fundraiser to support their industry and industrial lobbying efforts, they held both a raffle and an auction, (quoting their page):

Live Auction Click here for detailed information about the live auction


Premium Raffle Ticket – Minimum $100 for a book of 5 tickets Click here for photos

  • FIRST PRIZE:  TIFFANY & CO. Pearl Necklace Stunning multi-strand pearl torsade with sterling silver clasp designed exclusively for TIFFANY & CO. by Paloma Picasso (Valued at $1,450)
  • SECOND PRIZE:  Lucien Piccard Men’s Watch Classic two-tone stainless steel timepiece features a round gold-tone bezel and white dial with diamond markers at all hour positions (Valued at $395)
  • THIRD PRIZE:  Lucien Piccard Ladies Watch Sophisticated two-tone stainless steel timepiece features a round gold-tone bezel and white dial with diamond markers at all hour positions (Valued at $325)

Raffle Ticket – $30 each or $100 for a book of 5 Click here for photos

  • Win a MADREPERLA Perlas de Mallorca Organic Pearl Necklace 20″ faux baroque pearl necklace with 18kt yellow gold tone over sterling silver lobster claw clasp and Swarovski crystal end caps.  18 creamy grey pearls are intersperesed with seven large black pearls which have undertones of blue, purple, and green (Priceless!)

Where do such funds go? Into NCFA’s adoption marketing efforts, their work to pry Guatemala back open again, their efforts to extract kids from Nepal, their work towards a national putative father’s registry, their efforts to increase tax credits for adopters, etc.

I ask you, do the adopters in that room really look like they need tax incentives for adoptions?

Who made NCFA’s gala possible?

Here’s a quick look at their sponsors:

Thank you to our 30th Anniversary Gala Sponsors

Pearl Anniversary Sponsors

Wayne and Linda Sharp

Gold Sponsors

LDS Family Services
The Paraskevaides-Papathomas Family

Silver Sponsors

Morton and Grace Bender
Bethany Christian Services
Jonathan and Donna Conway
Ralph and Lou Hill Davidson
Sandra and Elmer Doty
The Gladney Center for Adoption
Dan and Tamara Kilmurray
Brian and Renee Luwis
Robert Parker and Mona Charen
Vicki and Roger Sant
Lou and Carol Stern
Larry and Pamela Stevenson
Stan and Michelle Swim

Bronze Sponsors

Golden Phoenix Foundation
Jason and Shannon Devine
Mr. Handyman (Lee and Jennifer Allen)
National Capital Area Gladney Family Association (Cal and Sally Simmons, Stacey and Kevin Reynolds, Jane and Greg Castanias, Karen and Joel Angeles)
Jim and Delia Stroud

Special thanks to

Bernie Robbins Jewelers
JOJO Photography & Film
Tiffany & Co.

As for the rest of us? Those who us who have no choice by to live adoption every day of our lives?

This is what a Bastard Nation benefit for BN’s Terminal Illness Emergency Search Program looked like back in 1998. The TIES fund supported Bastards in desperate medical circumstances by providing volunteer search and support services to Bastards with terminal illnesses.

Note the distinct lack of crystal chandeliers and Tuxes, but no lack of Fabulous Bastards in their ever fashionable “spermburst” tees.

BN has been known to auction off a few Bastard goodies in the con suite over the course of conferences, but trust me, we’re talking T-shirts and books, not Tiffany necklaces and expensive watches.

The difference being we ARE adoption, organizing in a grassroots manner, working on behalf of our own rights.

The National Council for Adoption and their like on the other hand are more often than not those who “opt in” to adoption by purchasing a kid, and then lobbying to ensure those child extraction routes remain viable.

I know which side I proudly stand on.

Apparently, so do the likes of Walmart, LDS, Bethany, Gladney, and the wretched lot of  ’em.

Children hidden in plain sight

In this day and age, in modern America, many people believe it would be all but impossible to keep a child, let alone five children “off the books” so to speak, but sure enough, it most certainly still happens.

Yesterday’s Washington Post contained an account of precisely that having happened in York Pennsylvania, a mere hour by car from downtown Baltimore, Maryland.

Five children with no papertrail, no birth certificates, what appears to be no schooling, no medical records, nothing.

See Police: Pa. couple hid 5 children from society.

They lived outside society, hidden from the world in a squalid row house with no heat, electricity or running water. They had no birth certificates, no schooling, no immunizations or evidence of medical care – nothing whatsoever to prove their existence.

Speaking more generally, children in these extraordinary (by American standards) circumstances are among those most vulnerable to various forms of exploitation, abuse or sexual abuse, forced to labor or being passed off as something or someone’s they’re not.

Also see some of the earlier coverage, such as York couple accused of hiding 5 children in unsafe home

Police later determined that Johnson was staying at a hotel in the East York area, where they found Bowers in a room and five children, between the ages of 2-13, hiding in the bathroom, according to the documents.

Bowers identified the children as belonging to her and Johnson. She provided the names of the children, but refused to answer questions about their place of birth, education, medical treatment, or the location of Johnson, police said the documents.

Police said they searched the South Duke Street home and determined that Johnson and Bowers had lived there with the children for years with no electric or gas service, no water, no functioning toilet, and a roof that leaked.

Authorities said they also determined that none of the children were ever enrolled in a public or private school and were not formally home-schooled, nor were they ever taken to any kind of doctor or given immunizations.

It has since been determined that some of the children suffer health and vision issues and none are at their expected education levels, police said. Possible mental health issues are being investigated.

The children have been placed in protective custody. Investigators said they attempted to interview them but gained little information because the children said they were not allowed to talk about their home and family.

Because the children have no birth certificates on file, their true age and place of birth cannot be determined, police said.

Returning to the Washington Post article, now having been discovered, they are entering the system for the first time and being resettled into foster homes and possibly eventual adoptions.

Years of isolation have taken their toll on the siblings. Now living in foster homes, “some of the children suffer health and vision issues,” Ward wrote in an affidavit. “None of the children are at their expected education levels, and there are possible mental health issues.”

Since their discovery, the children have been vaccinated and the older ones have been enrolled in school.

Yet perhaps the most interesting aspect of this sad story is that this was not the first time York County and the local police had been alerted to the secret children’s existence.

York County Children and Youth Services became aware of the family through anonymous tips in 2003 and again in 2007, but police said Johnson refused to cooperate with caseworkers.

The agency got another anonymous referral in 2009, this time from someone claiming to be a family member who had seen the children. The agency contacted Johnson again, but he remained uncooperative, court documents state.

That led caseworkers to obtain a court order granting them permission to enter the dilapidated house on South Duke Street. By the time they arrived, the family had fled.

Ward said it appeared that all seven family members had lived in a single room on the second floor. He said all the utilities were shut off. Rainwater came through the leaky roof and was collected in buckets.

Police tracked the family to a hotel outside York. Johnson was gone, but Bowers opened the door, her head concealed by a dark veil. The detective found the children hiding in a bathroom, three girls and two boys. They hadn’t bathed and appeared unkempt. They left with investigators without saying a word – and refused to provide any information.

“They did say that they were not permitted to talk about the family or the living conditions,” Ward said.

The lack of cooperation from either the children or Johnson and Bowers has stymied investigators’ efforts to learn more about the family’s circumstances.

As the court case unfolds, it will be important to understand why their existence was not revealed sooner.

I’ve noted not completely dissimilar stories of kids living “off the books” in the wake of adoption disruptions, being passed off to other couples and dropping out of sight, or other children simply kept out of the system from the start.

Just as in many of the adoptee abuse articles I’ve found down through the years, neighbors were stunned to find the children had been living alongside them silently for years, never having been aware of their existence.

Parents will move into a neighborhood, but neighbors will have no idea whatsoever that there are children living in the house. No one ever sees them come or go, there are no toys in the yard, no sounds, and no evidence of their very existence perceivable from the exterior of the home.

The fact that almost no one knew about the children is even more puzzling because of the urban setting in which they lived. Neighbors say they never saw them, not even once.

Charlton Shaw, 56, a roofer who lives several doors down, said he was unaware of the children’s existence until Johnson and Bowers were arrested. “I said, holy heck, how did they do that? You never heard a sound. No kids crying, no kids coming or going,” said Shaw, who has lived on the block for 10 years. “How do you mess up the kids’ futures like that?”

Gross disputed the notion that his client was hiding her children but acknowledged the family maintained a “very close network of individuals.”

The last sentence is particularly concerning, as just with some of the adoption disruption underground networks, it appears Louann Bowers and Sinhue Johnson may have had a few trusted friends who were also aware of the children and helped maintain those walls of silence around them.

SinhueJohnsonAlso see this CNN piece, Couple faces charges of hiding 5 children from society

The children — ranging in age from 2 to 13 — have no birth certificates, no record of immunizations and no school records, having been largely kept away from society for several years, York County police Lt. Tim Utley said.

“You always have the occasion when people are living in poor conditions, but this was extreme,” Utley said. “They’re going to have to be assimilated into what’s not considered normal for them.”

The parents, Louann Bowers and Sinhue Johnson, were arrested over the summer, when the children were found.

They have been charged with five felony counts of child endangerment and are awaiting a court appearance Friday.

The Washington Post article also hints at Bower’s desire to avoid detection and this potentially being more ripple effects of her desire to stay off the radar, leading to speculation about whether or not she had faced an abusive situation or similar at some point in her past.

Bowers ran away from “a very chaotic household” when she was 16 and “didn’t want to be found,” attorney Ronald Gross said.

“I think, unfortunately, Mom’s desire to not be found by her family impacted the children’s growth,” he said. “She realizes now, `I should have done it differently.'”

The CNN piece elaborates:

Bowers ran away from home when she was 16, which may have contributed to her private adulthood, Gross said.

She gave birth to her sixth child Monday in York County prison, he added.

Sadly, it is the kids who appear to have had little to no choice in protecting Bowers’ secrecy.

The toll it has taken on them, and the years of coming to terms with these extraordinary circumstances that lie ahead for them must feel almost insurmountable obstacles for kids who appear to have never known any other way of living.

Their world is essentially gone now, and odds are, they are ill prepared for the challenges ahead of them.

Spence-Chapin, always looking to increase market share, attempts to create a Muslim adoption market

Spence-Chapin, one of the older agencies and no friend to adoptees and our civil and human rights, has always sought to open new markets to adoption, and always sought new sources of kids, globally to fulfill that manufactured “need”.

Be it their early efforts to procure South Korean kids, to tapping the expanding Gay and Lesbian adoption markets or their recent work worming their way into women’s health clinics and abortion providers (see my post, More on Spence-Chapin’s “pro-choice” adoption scheme)  Spence-Chapin has always been gladly in the middle when there’s an adoption buck to be made.

Thus their latest effort, attempting to undermine Islamic law and the kafalah system in order to pry open the American Musilm market and tap it for its own adoption business purposes.

See the blantantly mis-headlined Muslims seek to reconcile Islamic, western adoption law to find homes for orphans *(as it’s Spence -Chapin attempting to undermine Islamic law in order to market children, not Muslims themselves centered on embracing western style sealed records adoptions.)

Helene Lauffer knew Muslim children — orphaned, displaced, neglected — needed homes in the United States. She knew American Muslim families wanted to take them in.

But Lauffer, associate executive director of Spence-Chapin, one of the oldest adoption agencies in the country, couldn’t bring them together.

The problem was a gap between western and Islamic law. Traditional, closed adoption violates Islamic jurisprudence, which stresses the importance of lineage. Instead, Islam has a guardianship system called kafalah that resembles foster care, yet has no exact counterpart in western law.

Let’s be clear on that point, who’s attempting to “bring them together”?

Spence-Chapin, for a fee.

(As for “orphans,” we’ve already been over that, see Your “orphans” aren’t; the rise of the “orphan” industry based on a lie.)

But Muslims in American society are  under all the pressures in relation to fertility, lack thereof, adoption and the foster system that other Americans face, and are confronted with all the usual marketers who stand to benefit by pushing the American way of child procurement, facilitators, adoption agencies, intermediaries, psychologists, etc.

Lauffer is not alone in raising the issue. As Muslim communities become more established in the United States, pressure is building for a re-examination of Islamic law on adoption.

Refugee children from Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are being resettled here. Muslim couples who can’t conceive want to adopt, but don’t want to violate their faith’s teachings. State child welfare agencies that permanently remove Muslim children from troubled homes usually can’t find Muslim families to adopt them because of the restrictions in Islamic law.

“I get all kinds of families who come to me for fertility issues. They want to adopt and they want to adopt Muslim children and I’m thinking this is a crime that they can’t,” said Najah Bazzy, a nurse and founder of Zaman International, a humanitarian service group in Dearborn, Mich. “No one is going to convince me that Islam makes no allocation for this. Either somebody is not interpreting it right, or it needs to be reinterpreted.”

Mohammad Hamid, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of the Hamdard Center, a social service agency in the Chicago area that has many Muslims among its clients, said he regularly received requests from American Muslims for advice on how they could adopt.

“We don’t tell them it’s Islamic or un-Islamic,” said Hamid, whose non-profit does not handle adoptions. “Our job is to facilitate the process. We believe if the child can be adopted, you are saving a child.”

But leave it to Rachel Zoll, the AP reporter to wax poetic on what is or is not an ‘appropriate’ interpretation of Islam and whether or not ‘they’re doing it right’:

The prohibition against adoption would appear contrary to the Qur’an’s heavy emphasis on helping orphans. The Prophet Muhammad’s father died before his son was born, so the boy’s grandfather and uncle served as his guardians, setting an example for all Muslims to follow.

Never mind the fact that as a culture, Muslims have their own concept of which welfare, developed over time in their own contexts which looks nothing like the American system of sealed records adoptions.

However, Islamic scholars say the restrictions were actually meant to protect children, by ending abuses in pre-Islamic Arabic tribal society.

Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, said adoption in that period had more in common with slavery. Men would take in boys, then erase any tie between the child and his biological family. The goal was to gather as many fighters as possible as protection for the tribe. Orphans’ property was often stolen in the process.

As a result, Muslims were barred from treating adopted and biological children as identical in naming or inheritance, unless the adoptee was breast-fed as a baby by the adoptive mother, creating a familial bond recognized under Islamic law.

When an orphan reaches puberty, the Islamic prohibition against mixing of the sexes applies inside the home of his or her guardians. Muslim men cannot be alone with women they could potentially marry, and women must cover their hair around these men. Islamic law sets out detailed rules about who believers can and cannot marry, and an orphan taken in from another family would not automatically be considered “unmarriageable” to his siblings or guardians.

For these reasons and others, Muslim countries only rarely allow international adoption.

As if on cue, Chuck Johnson of the National Council for Adoption, an adoption industry trade lobby gives the quote:

“There hasn’t been a concerted push to open doors for Muslim orphans because the expectation would be that those efforts would fall flat,” said Chuck Johnson, chief executive of the National Council for Adoption, a policy group in Alexandria, Va.

Conveniently overlooking the fact that many American adoption agencies are explicitly christian in nature and are grounded in the practice of procuring children to be placed in homes deemed suitably christian for purposes of christian movement growth. Many have statement of faith prerequisites for would-be-adopters that would preclude children being placed with Muslim families.

That said, some would be more than willing to see the flow go the other direction, such that Muslim children would be decontextualized and placed within evangelical chistian families.

The Quar’an burning head of the evangelical christian Operation Save America, Flip Benham has flatly stated:

We have now three choices when we deal with Islam. We can be killed by them… We can kill them… Or we can convert them to Christ.

Religious conversion by means of adoption is viewed as intrinsic to that strategy, (and adoption has always held a special tactical and theological significance for OSA,) but in order for such evangelical efforts to go forward the Muslim objection to American style adoptions must be overcome.

Naturally, the best way to overcome such is to have some number of Muslims adopting Muslim children, essentially arguing there are multiple viewpoints on the interpretation of Islamic law in relation to western style adoptions. Once those floodgates are pried open, Muslim children across the board suddenly become fair game to any and all comers. Muslim and evangelical christian alike.

Advocates for a new interpretation of Islamic law are more hopeful, at least about the prospect for a different approach to the issue in the United States. Mattson argues that the flexibility in Islamic law for accommodating local cultures and customs can lead to a solution.

Ah, but a solution for whom precisely? For if those “advocates” include adoption industrialists who stand to directly profit from such, the ‘issue’ is hardly confined to one of child welfare.

“Open Adoption” (which is NOT the same as  genunine open records access) is being marketed as a ‘solution’, yet open adoptions are legally non-binding in all but a precious few states and such still does not address the core issue of access to state confiscated original birth certificates.

Open adoption, which keeps contact between the adoptee and his biological family, is seen as one potential answer. In New South Wales, Australia, child welfare officials created an outreach program to Muslims emphasizing that Australian adoptions are open and adopted children can retain their birth names. The New South Wales program is the only well-known adoption campaign targeting a Muslim minority population in a western country.

Many have had to learn the hard way that “open adoptions” are little more than yet another adoption industry marketing technique, always geared towards getting the parents to sign away their parental rights.

Spence-Chapin’s Lauffer has been working up the Islamic women angle though, obviously hoping to gain a statement in support of American style sealed records adoptions:

The Muslim women scholars Lauffer consulted in New York, who meet annually as a shura (advisory) council, tackled the complexities of modesty rules inside the home. They debated whether Muslim adoptees in the West could be considered Islamically “unmarriageable” to their siblings or guardians, since western governments classify adoptees the same as blood relatives. The shura council will soon release a statement on the issue through its organizing body, the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality..

Even gaining that elusive ‘opinions vary but some certainly support such’ is key to Spence -Chapin cracking open the market.

Catherine England, a Muslim who teaches in the Seattle area, adopted four children after she and her husband learned they could have no children of their own. One of her children is an orphan from Afghanistan. Two others are biological siblings.

“I felt that my understanding — and this is entirely my understanding — is that what is forbidden in Islam is closed adoption,” said England, who converted to Islam more than three decades ago. She consulted a Muslim scholar who she said affirmed her view that open adoption was allowed.

Lauffer hopes to hear more stories like England’s soon.

Efforts in support of these western style adoptions prey the insecurities of immigrants and their efforts to “Americanize” themselves in addition to that great American pastime of keeping up with the Jones’. “Proving” one’s “Americanization” support for all things western, while rejecting things traditionally distinct to Islamic culture takes on additional weight in light of the roles Muslims have currently been cast into in the wake of 9/11. Embracing American modes of “child welfare,” thus becomes a way to “prove” oneself as a “good Muslim” regardless of the fact that some of those pushing for just this are those who always work to pry open markets and have historically sought new sources of children for adoption.

Never one to accept other cultures have their own distinct means of approaching child welfare, Spence-Chapin offers up its one size fits all sealed records American style adoptions, leaning on American Muslims to change.

Naturally, such efforts while couched in all the usual “for the sake of the children” are far from altruistic.

Make no mistake, there’s a reason Spence-Chapin has been around for over 100 years, it has everything to do with providing children, any children, to America’s wealthy and powerful, and such “fulfilled needs” rarely come cheap.

*Now, days later, even the Washington Post has picked up the AP piece Retitling it Muslim orphans caught between Islamic, Western law. Ironic, in that is is not the so called “orphans” who are in the quandry so much as it is the adoption industry itself.

Russia and the U.S. about to enter into next round of bilateral adoption talks

Russia and the United States are about to enter into their next round of talks aimed at drafting a bilateral adoption agreement in early December.

See Russia, U.S. to discuss child adoption deal Dec. 1-3

“There is reason to hope that the negotiations will help deal with the remaining issues and ensure the early signing of an agreement,” Alina Levitskaya, director of the ministry’s Child Education and Socialization Department, said.

However, in light of some of the past history of Russian children adopted by Americans some are still deeply concerned and favor placing a freeze on the adoptions until Russian childrens’ rights are guaranteed instead.

Russian Children’s Rights Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov has said he may push for a freeze on adoptions of Russian children by U.S. citizens if Russia and the United States fail to seal an adoption agreement by early 2011.

Also see Russia, US to hold another round of talks on adoption agt which goes into a bit more detail:

Director of the department of education and socialisation of children of the Education and Science Ministry Alina Levitskaya will head the Russian delegation at the talks. According to her, “There are reasons to hope that the talks will allow us to remove the remaining disputable questions and thus ensure the earliest signing of the agreement.”

The ministry’s pres service noted that the subject under discussion will be “a number of items of the draft agreement on which the Russian side voiced critical remarks.” In particular, according to Russian experts, “the procedures of the recognition of the decision on adoption in the receiving state, getting of the citizenship of this state by the adopted child, as well as the “organisation of monitoring over the cases of conversion of adopted children, should be specified.”

Meanwhile, both Russian and US negotiators have earlier repeatedly said that they have reached understanding on the main points of the document, and the draft agreement will be signed before the end of 2010.

All of these negotiations take place within the broader context of Russian children abused and murdered by their American adopters, (See Bastardette’s memoriam page, CASES: FOREVER FAMILY– FOREVER DEAD on her blog about the Russian children, NIKTO NE ZABYT — NICHTO NE ZABYTO/Nobody is forgotten. Nothing is forgotten) and the “return to sender” case of Artyom Savelyev.

As the ITAR-TASS article pointed out:

The Russia-United States bilateral talks on a draft agreement on adoption began this spring after an incident with 7-year-old Artyom Savelyev, who in early April was sent by his American grandmother by plane from Washington to Moscow alone with a letter to the Education Ministry requesting cancellation of the adoption. The boy’s foster mother Tory Hansen said that she no longer wanted to be parent for Artyom, because the boy is unbalanced, cruel, and he has a serious psychopathic behaviour problem. Then the Russian Foreign Ministry stated in connection with the incident that “the further adoption of children in Russia by US citizens would only be possible after the conclusion of the relevant Russian-American treaty.”

Russian officials say they want more control over US adoptions of Russian children and the living conditions those children face in the United States. “We have reached agreement on all principal issues and have seen willingness to sign such an agreement,” children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov told reporters after US and Russian officials met to discuss the pact. The draft agreement is expected to be approved, and the deal should be signed within the next two months, he said in May. The return to Russia of Artyom Savelyev, who is now 8, caused some officials to demand a freeze on foreign adoptions. Russia’s parliament, however, defeated a motion to suspend adoptions to the United States, the Associated Press reported.

Astakhov confirmed that adoptions to the US have not been “legally suspended” but said they are “effectively suspended” as Russian courts will not rule on adoption cases as long as there is uncertainly about the children’s safety in that country. Under Russian law, only a presidential act or legislation passed by the parliament can freeze foreign adoptions. The new deal will make it obligatory for adoption agencies as well as adoptive parents to report on their child’s health and living conditions, and to “open the door” for social workers to check the facts reported, Astakhov said.

Savelyev’s adoptive mother refused to allow a social worker into the house less than a month before the boy was dispatched back to Russia – a visit that could have prevented the boy’s misfortunes. Russia also has accepted a US proposal to allow adoptions only through US-accredited agencies, the ombudsman said. These agencies work in compliance with the Hague Adoption Convention, to which Russia, however, is not a signatory yet. “This will be an extra guarantee that random people and random organisations will not be involved in such an important and delicate matter as adoption of Russian children in the United States,” Astakhov said.

As for relying upon the Hague accreditation, as I’ve written repeatedly, such not only does not stop abuses, but has basically no enforcement protections due to the very nature of Council of Accreditation’s limitations.

It provides the a false sense of security, but little to no actual substance.

When pregnancy provides “evidence” of having broken the terms of your parole: Jail followed by death


La’Tasha Mayes, with the New Voices Pittsburgh, leads a protest down Grant Street, to show support for the family of Amy Lynn Gillespie, who died in January after she developed pneumonia while incarcerated at the Allegheny County Jail – Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette

Amy Lynn Gillespie died in a hospital still in custody after being transferred from Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County Jail last January.

She had been hauled off to jail once it was discovered she was pregnant.

Her pregnancy was used as evidence of her having broken the conditions of her previous parole, specifically, the “no-sexual contact” conditions of the work release halfway house she was forced into.

See County sued over death of pregnant inmate*

Amy Lynn Gillespie, of Cuddy and, later, Knoxville, was jailed in December for violating the terms of her work release by becoming pregnant. Initially found to be in good health, according to the complaint filed by Downtown attorney Robert N. Peirce, she was complaining by the end of that month of difficulty breathing and discharge from her lungs.

Treated for viral influenza and denied diagnostic tests, according to the complaint, she worsened and then was transferred on Jan. 1 to UPMC Mercy. There she was found to have bacterial pneumonia, too far advanced to be successfully treated with antibiotics

As the article makes clear, Amy’s mother is now suing the county and numerous individuals and corporations healthcare had been outsourced to, all allegedly involved in her daughter’s death.

Ms. Gillespie’s legal troubles started with a pair of shoplifting convictions in 2004. In 2007, she was caught taking shampoo and steak from the Bridgeville Giant Eagle, and told the arresting officer that she did it because she was hungry. That year she was also caught stealing two $55 silver rings from Macy’s, Downtown.

In 2008, she was picked up for soliciting men on Brownsville Road. Put on probation, she was referred to the Program for Reintegration Development and Empowerment of Exploited Individuals, which offers counseling and services to women arrested for prostitution.

She didn’t comply with her probation terms and was sentenced to six to 12 months of jail or alternative housing in February 2009. Mr. Peirce said she would have been released around the beginning of this year had she not become pregnant, been jailed, and gotten sick. He said UPMC Mercy did not appear to be liable.

Named in the lawsuit are the county; jail Warden Ramon C. Rustin; the nonprofit Allegheny Correctional Health Services Inc., which provides medical care in the jail; its president, Dana Phillips; and several unnamed jail personnel.

This is not the first time ACHS has been sued.

ACHS was created by the Allegheny County Health Department in 2000 to eliminate the contracting of jail health care to private firms. It has been sued six times in federal court since the beginning of 2009.

As others have pointed out, at the core of this case are the human and reproductive rights violations.

The jail’s adequacy for women, notably those who are pregnant, has been criticized by the human rights organization New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice.

Ms. Gillespie’s story is “clearly a reproductive injustice, and it’s a human rights violation,” said LaTasha Mayes, executive director of New Voices Pittsburgh. She questioned whether a transfer to jail was an appropriate response to pregnancy.

“Ms. Gillespie should still be alive,” she said.


Yejide Kmt, of Homewood, carries her sign during a protest Downtown – Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette

This past Tuesday (November 23) a coalition of activists marched in to demand fundamental changes to the system. See Pregnant inmate’s death protested

*”For her to die having been an inmate in our jail, to [which] she was returned because she became pregnant … is totally paternalistic and insane,” said Donna Fisher, a Downtown resident and retired librarian who joined the march from the Allegheny County Courthouse to the jail.

The march was organized by New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice. Joining the effort were the Human Rights Coalition, The Birth Circle, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Women and Girls Foundation and the Women’s Law Project.

and a second article, Inmate’s death the focus of Downtown protest

Women and Girls Foundation CEO Heather Arnet said that jail Warden Ramon Rustin has worked with similar coalitions to resolve issues like the shackling of women during childbirth, which was discontinued.

She said the Gillespie lawsuit “raises so many questions about what the quality of care was while she was in jail.” She also said that the circumstances of Ms. Gillespie’s return to jail raise the question of whether no-sexual-contact conditions for work release may be inherently discriminatory, since only women display outward evidence of intercourse.

Various other bloggers have also picked the story up, gone into far more detail, and in many ways already written precisely parts of the analysis I was set to sit down to write.

See for example, Woman Jailed for Becoming Pregnant, Then Died From Lack of Medical Treatment

It’s time to stop denying people of their fundamental human rights. It’s time to stop detaining them when they’ve done nothing to materially harm anybody. It’s time to stop treating people who cause harm like they, too, deserve harm, no matter how appealing vengeance may feel. It’s time to stop treating other human beings’ bodies like property, to stop seeing health care as a privilege, to stop behaving as though we have any right whatsoever to tell other people what they can and cannot do with their own bodies and reproductive functions. Not a single case of denying a person’s right to make their own reproductive decisions is acceptable. Not a single case of prizing property over human beings is right. Not a single case of letting someone die because we thought they were a liar, or worthless, or a slut, or whatever, is okay.

We’re seeing all of these things right here, but they happen separately all the time. They’re all culpable for Amy Gillespie’s death. And if we keep the system going as it is, there will inevitably be more like her.

Also be certain to see Suit filed in death of pregnant Allegheny County Jail inmate, the article Cara from The Curvature describes thusly:

The allegations regarding how, exactly, she died are also particularly horrifying:

[The lawsuit] alleges that while Gillespie was serving a 30-day jail sentence, at least one guard ignored her request for help and the jail’s medical staff failed to diagnose her pneumonia early enough.

“Stick it out,” one guard told Gillespie when she asked for help three weeks before her death, the lawsuit states. […]

Gillespie nearly completed her original sentence for retail theft when she got pregnant, a violation of terms in her halfway house, Peirce said. She arrived in the jail Dec. 2, and though she complained to guards for weeks about breathing trouble and discharge from her lungs, she wasn’t sent to the infirmary until Dec. 29, according to the lawsuit.

The medical staff first diagnosed her problem as viral influenza. After three days, jail staff sent Gillespie to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed pneumonia and noted that the jail didn’t treat her fast enough, according to the lawsuit.

She was sedated and breathing with the help of tubes for nearly all of the two weeks she spent in the hospital before she died.

We’ll have to wait to see if all of the allegations pan out, but the fact is that they are not even remotely unusual. Claims of medical treatment being denied while in detention are extraordinarily common. Our governments routinely fail to treat detained persons humanely, and few people care because of how severely we’ve dehumanized any and all people who are in jail or prisons, and internalized the notion that they deserve whatever indignities we impose on them. No one cares because we’ve decided that “bad” people aren’t really people anymore, and that all people in jail or prison must be bad. Even if all they did to get there was get pregnant.

As mentioned above there are a number of organizations working in support of the Gillespie family and for structural change. Here are several links to use as a jumping off point:


New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice flyer

* Note, I am using some articles out of Richard Mellon Scaife’s fetal fetishist right wing rag, the  Pittsburgh Post Gazette, as that’s some of the local coverage. Linking to such should not be taken to imply I support their framing concerning “fetal death” etc.