Share on Facebook  |  More Articles

Published Wednesday July 8th, 2009 at 12:34am

Original Article by Jason Nark

Kathleen Hoy Foley, in her home studio in Chatsworth, favors privacyrights for birth parents. She was contacted, against her wishes, by adaughter conceived by rape whom she gave up for adoption decades ago.

In New Jersey adoption circles, the right to privacy versus the need foran identity isn't just an explosive issue of the moment: It's been apainful, simmering fire for both sides for almost 30 years.

Legislation to provide adoptees with greater access to birth recordsand their medical histories has been kicking around in the Garden Statesince 1980, adoptee-rights groups claim.

"The primary issue is a right to our own identity at birth. Thisshould not be a state secret," said Pam Hasegawa, an adoptee andspokeswoman for the New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform. "It'sreally outrageous that this bill is stalemated."

The issue has drawn celebrity adoptees such as Darryl McDaniels ofthe hip-hop group Run-DMC to the state to lobby for reform. Butpowerful opponents, including the NJ-ACLU, the New Jersey BarAssociation and the New Jersey Catholic Conference, hold influence,said state Sen. Diane Allen, a prime sponsor of the most recent bill toopen records.

"There is a large group of people who are pushing it, but there arejust as many groups pushing back," said Allen, a Burlington CountyRepublican.

The latest bill, Allen said, passed in the Senate in March 2008, butlike 2004 and 2006, failed to make it to the Assembly floor. That billwould allow birth mothers to remove their identifying information frombirth certificates before turning them over - a caveat thatadoptee-rights groups begrudgingly made to get the bill moving,Hasegawa said.

New Jersey currently requires a court order to open birth records.

Last month, numerous adoptee-rights groups and individuals from as far as Wyoming and Washington state contacted the Daily Newsresponding to an article June 23 about an Atlantic City woman who issuing New Jersey for allegedly providing her personal information tothe daughter she gave up for adoption 30 years ago after being raped.

That woman received a letter from New Jersey's Division of Youth andFamily Services in August 2008, claiming that her daughter was seekingout her identifying information. The woman, who said she becamedistraught upon reading the letter, didn't respond. Her daughter showedup at her door months later.

Some who contacted the Daily News said the woman and herattorney were simply pawns for groups who support closed records.Others, like Hasegawa, said the woman had handled it the wrong way.

"All she had to do was go down to her police station and issue a restraining order," Hasegawa said.

Matthew Weisberg, the woman's attorney, said the concept of a motherwanting no contact with a child is difficult for some to grasp, but hesaid he's been shocked at how some are willing to trivialize her painand her right to privacy.

"This whole thing has been very polarizing, to say the least," he said. "My client didn't ask for any of this to happen."

Open adoptions, in which all parties have one another's identifyinginformation from the beginning, are the norm in the U.S. today. In NewJersey, more than 10,000 people have signed up for a state registry,expressing interest in being contacted by adopted relatives.

Still, the National Council for Adoption believes that the privacyof women, even just one, who gave up children for adoption decades agounder a right or even promise to anonymity, should not be whisked awayby new legislation.

"We just hate talking about it, but it's an important issue," saidChuck Johnson, the NCFA's vice president. "We're not saying thereshould never be access to allow a relationship to develop. It justcan't be shared without people's permission. When you say that, peoplehate you."

Philip Foley and his wife, Katherine Hoy Foley, of Chatsworth,Burlington County, say they've felt public scorn for their stance onthe privacy rights of birth parents. Katherine Hoy Foley was alsocontacted, against her wishes, by a daughter conceived by rape whom shegave up for adoption decades ago.

Her husband feels the legislation discriminates against older women who didn't have the option of abortion.

"The way society and the movement is going, they are going to keepthrowing people like my wife under the bus," he said. "They want topreserve the mom and apple pie. They don't want to deal with the ugly."