Late Thursday night I learned that Pennsylvania HB 162, a clean bill to restore the right of OBC access to Pennsylvania adoptees, may be in trouble. Last October the bill passed the House 197-0 and seemed to have pretty clear sailing in the Senate where a committee vote is scheduled for March 18. Suddenly the Catholic Bishops, ACLU, and a cranky clerk of courts, heretofore asleep at the wheel, noticed that adoptees are poised to appear uninvited and unannounced on the doorstep of cowering but brave birthparents across the state, and something had to be done to stop this travesty.
Next day I learned that the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Organization for Women (PA-NOW) and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR).\ had joined the ranks of parental reputation savers. As a long-time (now former) NOW member, chapter officer and newsletter editor, and the co-founder of a local rape crisis center, I’m irked.
I haven’t read any of the submitted testimony yet, but I can imagine the arguments, Regurgitated fakey facts and hysteria about abortion and discredited “promises of birthparent anonymity ” Importantly, for the first time in about 15 years when California NOW decided that OBC access was a threat to women’s safety, we have PA-NOW and CPAR implying that: the adoptee rights movement, OBC access, and adoptees ourselves promote violence against women. We promote rape culture.
I want to write about this grotesque implication at length, but until I have the actual testimony to post and analyze here, I will judiciously hold my tongue and keyboard–with great difficulty.
HB 162 is not a Bastard Nation bill, so we have not been intimately involved in the campaign, though some of our members, I believe, have been active. After hearing about the impending clusterfuck of the busybodies, though, I contacted a few friends inside and out of the adoptee rights movement to see if we could do something about this potential harm.
One of them is my friend, Bastard Nation Founding Foundling and Irish Bastard Goddess extraordinaire Mari Tatlow Steed, who lives in Philadelphia and was involved in BN’s own effort a few years ago to re-open Pennsylvania OBC’s. Mari whipped up an eloquent message to PA-NOW and CPAR, under the signature of The Philomena Project and (Irish) Adoption Rights Alliance, asking them to reconsider their opposition. She pointed out that nearly 100 Pennsylvania adoptees were trafficked to the state by the Catholic Church. Curiously, the trafficking of Irish adoptees is frowned upon in liberal feminist circles; it’s only the domestic bastard brand that scares them. You can read Mari’s posts here:
I’ve thrown some other irons in the fire and I’ll post my own letters to PA-Now and PCAR soon, so we’ll see what happens.
In the meantime…
As long-time readers know, I am highly critical of white liberal bourgeois feminism (for a lot of reasons), but for blogging purposes, have limited discussion to the treatment–especially by NOW– of adoptees, first parents, and NOW’s apparent vicarious support for anonymous baby dumping . (I am leaving discussion of PCAR out because I am not familiar with the organization.)
In 2006 I wrote an open letter to the NOW National board regarding “safe haven” laws and by extension, liberal feminist treatment of first mothers and adoptees. National NOW’s then president Kim Gandy seemed to know me. A couple years earlier, as a Columbus-NOW officer I attended the national conference in Nashville. During check-in Gandy introduced herself to me saying she knew all about me. I have no idea what she knew about me or why. But on the off chance that I was on her A-List I thought I’d try to get her attention with my letter.. Of course, I never received a reply, but I didn’t expect one.
In my open letter I outlined the misogynist treatment that first mothers have received from liberal feminists in general–and NOW in particular–in which first mothers are viewed as nothing more than incubators for privileged white feminists. Nobody held a gun to your head, ya know!
In the letter, which I published here under the title An Open Letter to NOW :Is Maria Elena Salinas a Friend to Women?, I wrote:
Adoption is not a reproductive right. Adoption involves a born, separate live person with fundamental rights. But under some twisted branded definition of “choice” NOW and other so-called progressive organizations seem to consider surrender and the legal act of adoption just another consumer option for women. The adopted are viewed as not much better than a coffee table or a cute kitty to be passed around to whoever wants us. Our surrendering mothers are viewed as handmaids, popping out sprog for privileged women who want children and can‘t have them…
reminding the board:
…NOW has been one of the leaders in the redefinition of “family.” NOW and other “liberal” pro-rights organizations have fought for the right of families to define themselves, yet draws the line at birthmothers and adopted persons. The perception of feminists in general, and of NOW in particular due to its history, as elitiest and classist supporters of the transfer of babies from the “unworthy” to the “worthy” runs through birthparent political and support groups. As I said, the local NOW chapters “get it. But the road needs repaired, bridges need rebuilt through a serious revist by National.
Some local NOW chapters, including my own, in fact, have done just that, revisited, built bridges, and support adoptee and first mother rights. Unfortunately, national and most local chapters, as far as I know, have never taken on the issue, remaining hostile to us as a class, and giving feminism in general a big black eye. I once received an email from a member of NJ-NOW who first questioned if I were a “real feminist” and then warned me that I should just shut up and be glad my birthmother didn’t toss me in a dumpster or abort me.
HB 162 was a great opportunity for PA-NOW to bridge and revisit liberal feminism’s segregation of first mothers PA-NOW could have sent the message that adoptee and first mother rights are on its table. Instead they chose to claim that secret, coerced adoptions and sealed birth certificates empower women. The claimed to speak for women they didn’t know. PA-NOW’s opposition to the restoration of OBC access dismisses first mothers as walking wombs- for- rent and the children they surrender (coerced or willingly) to adoption as dangerous porch-pissing pests out for revenge.
NOW is out of touch.
Ironically, the rights of adoptees and first mothers have strong feminist support outside of NOW and its privileged cocoon of institutionalized feminism. where sisterhood is viewed as a dystopian process for professional and privileged women to become mothers through the generous “donations” of a handmaid underclass–domestic and Third World– unable or unworthy to rear their own children.. Motherhood for NOW and its white liberal feminist base is reduced to “choice.”
It’s increasingly hard to find adoption scholars, writers, bloggers, and activists who do not write or work from some kind of feminist prospective (degrees vary–and no I don’t mean Elizabeth Bartholet!) ) critical of the adoption industrial complex that colonizes pregnant women and first mothers and rejects the right of all adopted people to automatically access their own original identity documents, and history.
Adopta Feminist and feminist influenced bloggers such as myself, Claud D’Arcy, Lorraine Dusky, Jane Edwards, John Raible, Amanda Transue Woolston, the Lost Daughters anthologists, Jane Trenka, Jaelyn Kim, Baby Love Child, Jen Hatfield, Mirah Riben, Vonn, Lisa Marie Rollins, BB Church, Michael Allen, Potter, Trace DeMeyer, Daniel Ibn Zayd, (and many more) reach thousands of readers each week dissecting adoption in terms of class, gender, sex, race, economics, culture, neo-colonialism, imperialism, and globalization. My own view is that current US adoption practice adoption is the marriage of the worse aspects of capitalism and socialism.
Here’s a very partial list of recent essays on adoption-is-a -feminist issue that support adoptee rights, expose the exploitation of mothers, and promote adoption openness. (I have emphasized Reality Check since it a major feminist outlet for reproductive justice discussion, including adoption.)
- Philomena Reminds Us that Baby Scoop Era Affected Millions by Kathryn Joyce, Reality Check, February 3, 2014.
- Why Adoption Needs to Play a Bigger Role in the Reproductive Justice Conversation by Andrea Grimes, Reality Check, October 5, 2013
- Evidence-Based Advocacy: Poverty, Adoption, and and Inequality in Perspective by Steph Herold, and Gretchen Sisson Reality Check, May 5, 2012
- Despite Progress, Forced Adoption Practices Persist Throughout the United States by Jessica DeBalzo, Reality Check, May 12, 2012
- “Choosing Adoption”–Adoption is a Feminist Issue by Joss Shawyer, Voices in Exile
- Adoption as a Feminist Issue by Guest Brigid, Feministe, July 27, 2011.
- Adoption is a Feminist Issue by Jane Ballback, Adoption Voices Magazine May 8, 2013.
- Feminist Lens on Adoption by Katie Leo, Minnesota Women’s Press,
- Adopt-Ation: A Feminist Take on the State of the Adoption Industry by Dawn Friedman, Bitch Magazine, November 18, 2009
- Feminists and the Baby Veronica Case by Laura Briggs, Re-Gender
- Baby Veronica Again: Still a Feminist Issue by Laura Briggs, Somebody’s Children, September 1, 2013
Adoption from a feminist perspective is cutting edge academia and research especially in women’s and gender studies, history,sociology, psychology, family law, and English. Not everyone, of course, is on board, but I’ve seen a large increase in interest. The number of books on adoption from a feminist perspective is growing.
I’m posting a sampling of my favorites, but due to time constants won’t link . They are all available from amazon.com.
- Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v Wade by Rickie Solinger
- Beggars and Chosers:; How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States by Rickie Solinger,
- Shattered Bonds:: The Color of Child Welfare by Dorothy Roberts
- Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts,
- The Girls Who Went Away: The History of Women who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v Wade by Ann Fessle
- Fallen Women and Problem Girls: Unmarried Motherhood and the Professionalization of Social Work 1890-1945 by Regina G .Kunzel
- Adoption Matters: Philosophical and Feminist Essays, ed Sally Haslanger and Charlotte Witt,
- Babies without Borders by Karen Dubinsky,
- The Child Catchers : Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption by Karthryn Joyce.
- Somebody’s Children: The Politics of Transracial and Transrnational Adoption by Laura Briggs
Also the non-book work of E J Graff and Elizabeth Saumels. Kate Livingston has done some exciting, but yet unpublished work. For a pioneering deconstruction of “choice” see Choice: An Obsolete Strategy by Lauren Sabina Kniesly.
I’ve belabored the point, but I wanted to show that current adoption literature, both academic and popular,.clearly exposes the multi-billion dollar a year adoption industrial complex of private business and commercial interests, government, church, therapists,and social engineers that have stripped adopted adults (and children) of their rights and mothers and fathers of their children.This literature isn’t hidden in dark nooks in the halls of ivy. It is accessible on the internet, libraries TV, radio, and newspapers. Nearly every day some local, state, or international adoption scandal pokes up its head. There is no excuse to not know that corrupt secret adoption is rampant; its glue is sealed records and hidden families.
It is therefore puzzling why NOW and other institutionalized liberal feminists and their lobbies that should be outraged at adoptionist activities, steered by anti-woman forces, aren’t.
Some will argue that feminism suffers from an over-enthusiasm for abortion even though many feminist issues focus on mother and child.That doesn’t mean that in the early days of the Second Wave that first mothers who attempted to link their own reproductive exploitation to the larger issue of patriarchy and to those women who proposed to smash it, aren’t correct in their assessment. Forty years ago, abortion rights were in the forefront, and I think there was a real problem dealing with women who “chose” motherhood through unintended and unwanted pregnancy–when the rest of us were fighting for the right to not mother or to mother on our own terms.. The whole market campaign of “choice” echos that idea and now poisons abortion rights, bleeding that poison into adoption reform. In retrospect, both sets were arguing for female social and bodily autonomy–to breed or not to breed–without the interference of state, church, or social engineers. Superficially, pro-aborts won, but abortion restrictions have returned bodily ownership to the state. First mothers and adoptees lost. their identities and their relationships with each, if any, are mediated and owned by the same state. Ironically, many of today’s corporate feminist honchos, who reject first mothers as equals in oppression, are well-to-do adoptive mothers protecting their turf and oppressing other women in defense of those other women’s “privacy.”
Ultimately though, the problem goes much deeper than adoption issues. Institutionalized feminism leads from a white middle class perspective that patronizes or ignores women of color, working class women, trans women, and anyone who differs in experience. Like bastards. Recent tweets from women of color regarding the lean in movement are hilarious. Strangely (but maybe not) liberal corpo feminists have no idea how disregarded and downright hated they are by the rest of us as they climb their way into the American Dream.
Now we have the sight of PA-NOW sliding into bed with the racists and sexists of the adoption industry, abuser misogynists in the Catholic Church, and the state they oppose in theory, all in the name of feminism, which frankly, I don’t think they know a thing about. With all the writing I’ve done on this blog today, I don’t know a damn thing we can do about it. I don’t think they even care.
Join me on Twitter DBastardette