People outside holding protest signs saying Equal Rights for Adult Adoptees

A few weeks ago, Ohio became the sixth state to pass a so-called “Heartbeat Bill” that prohibits abortion after a “fetal heartbeat” can be heard–around the sixth week of pregnancy when most women don’t even know yet they are pregnant.

Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill” has been covered extensively, and I don’t intend to reinvent that wheel. Little has been mentioned, however, about how these bills, especially in Ohio, originated with individuals opposed to adoptee civil rights and how implementation can stymie adoptee rights and adoption reform.

“Heartbeat” and Adoption: Background

The 2019 “Heartbeat Bill,” (SB23), is not the first attempt to ban abortion in Ohio. An even more Draconian bill came in 2006 with the introduction of HB228 that would have outlawed abortion totally and criminalized anyone who performs abortions, and individuals (including husbands, parents and, in theory, even bus and cab drivers) who transport Ohio women to other states to procure abortions. My coverage of this campaign was published in the Free Press, July 2, 2006.

SB23 was the brainchild of Dr. John Willke, co-founder and former president of the National Right to Life Committee and founder of Life Issues Institute in Cincinnati, and his protegé, Cleveland native, Janet Folger (now Folger Porter), former Ohio Right to Life Legislative Director and later president of D. James Kennedy’s now defunct Center for Reclaiming America for Christin Fort Lauderdale. Folger Porter’s current project, the anti-abortion/queer/Muslim Faith2Action(F2A) is located in North Royalton, Ohio. Both organizations are cited as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. F2A is so far out there that in 2014, it was nearly put out of business when far right Christian VCY Radio canceled Folger Porter’s radio show and Christian Worldview Network dropped its association with her, both due to her increasingly loud promotion of Christian Dominionism. Recently Folger Porter acted as volunteer spokeswoman”for accused teen molester Alabama Judge Roy Moore.

I am not sure how far back the Willke-Folger Porter relationship goes, but it was definitely in place in 1996 when Folger Porter was ORTL’s Legislative Director, which back then meant that she pretty much orchestrated National's legislative agenda and actions.

That year Governor George Voinovich introduced an Omnibus Adoption and fostercare reform package. The bill included a small provision to restore the right of post-1963 Ohio adoptees to access their then-sealed-by-law own Original Birth Certificates, (OBC) without restrictions or conditions, (Pre-1964 adoptees already had full access and were untouched by the bill).

Willke, who died in 2009, and Folger Porter tied adoptee rights to abortion rights, and were ferocious opponents of the restoration of OBC and related documents access. With absolutely no evidence, because there is none, they claimed that records access for adult adoptees would cause women to run off to their local “abortitorium” to get rid of their dirty little secrets rather than live a lifetime in fear of being de-secreted by bastards on the doorstep. Willke went so far as to claim that many birthmothers were prostitutes and that the only reason a birthparent would want reunion was so somebody would bring them cookies in jail!

Although they had been well aware of the bill for months, and reportedly had been asked for input, Willke and Folger Porter remained silent until hearings began. Just before the general election of 1996, Folger Porter, using threats of election de-endorsement (reportedly without ORTL board knowledge), got the OBC provision struck from the bill. The governor’s office and clueless adoption reformists, heedless of later consequences cut a compromise deal that (1) maintained the seal on post-1963 records, (2) opened OBCs for those born after September 17, 1996 at the age of majority, but (3) offered an opt-in Disclosure Veto (DV) for birthparents to stop the state upon their request from releasing the document. Folger Porter argued for an opt-out.

Twenty years later this reformist cave-in had negative consequences for 1964-1997 adoptees when a bill passed to unseal their records. While the bill initially included access for everyone without restriction, an amendment was added that permitted birthparents to order the state to redact their names from the OBC before release, a “special right” no one else possesses. The timeframe for redaction requests was limited, but by the time it sunsetted 259 adopted persons were black-blocked.  A reported handful of post-9/17/96 OBCs--probably under 20-- remain sealed due to the deal. Ultimately, about 280 adopted Ohioans out of tens of thousands of adoptees and millions of the not adopted are denied their own birth records.

“Heartbeat” = Funded Adoption Initiatives

Abortion abolitionists complain constantly that adoption is “too difficult” and “too expensive” because ” babies are being murdered in the womb” before they can hit the market.  The truth is abortion rates have maintained and even decreased,due to greater female economic independence and the de-stigmatization of unwed motherhood, women who in the past might have considered adoption now feel no shame in single motherhood and keep their babies.  “Heartbeat” proponents hope to change that in part through punitive financial actions against abortion providers to fund adoption propaganda.

Tucked away in the “Heartbeat Bill” is a provision to charge Ohio doctors who fail to test for a fetal heartbeat before they perform an abortion with a fifth degree felony and sentence of up one year in prison and a $2000 fine. Moreover, the Ohio State Medical Board could levy a fine of $20,000 on the doctor. Those fines would go in to a special fund, overseen by a bi-partisan legislative committee yet to be established, to support fostercare and adoption “services and initiatives.”

Translation: the committee will partner with politicians, adoption industrialists, evangelical and Catholic Bible thumpers and fake clinics to create more adoption product and havoc.

Since the state’s childless and desperate hardly need to be made aware of “adoption options,” awareness will focus on convincing the hoped-for crop of forcibly-pregnant “Heartbeat” victims into the adoption spammer rather than to preserve their families.

“Heartbeat” = Adoption Business as usual

Adoption is the through-line in any forced-birth/“Heartbeat Bill” discussion, on the legislative floor or online, where verbal brawls between anti-aborts and adopted people are common with forced-birthers telling adoptees to STFU if they support abortion rights and reproductive justice.  Forced birthers routinely tell adoptees they were “unwanted” by biological parents but “wanted” by adoptive saviors.  “Gifts.” And woe to the adoptee who declares she’d prefer to have been aborted, a not uncommon comment.

Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis likes to talk about lack of newborn product for the adoption market. In 2013, testifying in support of Sub SB250, ORTL’s first foray into creating adoption legislation, by gutting – or what he called “streamlining”-- Ohio adoption law, he whined about the difficulty he and his wife experienced acquiring their own adoptees.

For too long, the choice to give new life and a new home to a child in Ohio has been slow and expensive, fraught with both red tape and fraud. In truth, adopting my son in Cleveland was much more difficult than adopting my daughter in Guatemala.

Whaaa???? Guatemala–where children were kidnapped off the street to fulfill El Norte adoption orders? Of course, it was more difficult! I used to hang out in Collinwood, and Clevelanders generally object to random child grabbing.

Gonidakis tearfully alleged that the law would curb abortion and make adoption of newborns quicker and easier–and I kid you not–keep them out of fostercare! Fostercare, as usual, was otherwise ignored or at best called “another issue.” Apparently, older living children don’t deserve the same protection and speculative forever homes as zygotes and embryos. Gonidakis and proponents fantasized that increasing tax credits for well-to-do adopters would encourage low-income pregnant women to turn in their babies.  I covered this clown-show hearing for the Free Press, December 5, 2013 and in my blog The DailyBastardette.

I don’t have access to copies of “Heartbeat Bill” testimony, but I would not be surprised if Gonidakis reprised his HB23 performance.

Not surprisingly, legislators took the same route this year as Gonidakis did in 2014.  Pushers didn’t bother to include language in “Heartbeat” for funding to support family preservation, pre- and post-natal care, counseling, financial aid for pregnant women and new mothers, kinship placement, temporary fostercare, or any related public or private assistance. The bill is silent on ethical and transparent adoption procedures (antithetical to “Heartbeat” forced pregnancy and birth mandates) that protect birthparents, children, and potential adoptive parents. Nor does it mention cleaning up CPS abuse or the state’s deplorable fostercare system. No doubt some initiative will support adoption pipeline “crisis pregnancy centers.” Columbus is the headquarters of Heartbeat International, the largest “crisis pregnancy” franchise in the world with 2,500 affiliates. Surely, it will line up at the trough.

Other States

I checked the “Heartbeat Bills” that have passed in other states, and there is no adoption language written into any of them, though obviously adoption played large in the minds of promoters and in debates.

A few days ago, Alabama passed its own version of the “Heartbeat Bill.  The bill makes performance of an abortion in the state a Class A Felony with a sentence of between 10 and 99 years in prison. Adoption language was absent, but increasing the adoptee population and agency coffers are clearly two of the legislative goals. A representative of Lifeline Children’s Services in Birmingham supported the bill in a House Health Committee hearing.  He agreed that abortion should be criminalized and assured the committee that his agency would take the resulting babies, but he forgot to mention at $25,000-$60,000 a crack for healthy white newborns. According to Lifeline’s latest 990, the agency, in 2017, generated revenue of over $7million.  The US adoption industry overall is a billion dollar a year business.

Saving adoption from the adopted

In the current political climate, adoptee rights and adoption reform are tightly tied to abortion due to the abortion abolition lobby–even though adoption and abortion have little relationship. Abortion is a decision to not be pregnant; adoption is a decision to not parent. Neither decisions are the state’s business. Abortion and adoption rates, in fact, have remained steady for decades, and about half of adoptions are stepparent. Nationwide, the number of abortions has actually decreased.

Genuine adoptee rights and adoption reform advocates define adoption reform differently from the forced-birth crowd.

Genuine adoptee rights advocates and adoption reformers de-commodify. They advocate restoration of OBC and identity rights for adoptees, accountability and transparency in the domestic and international adoption process, education about the lifelong effects of adoption on all involved, the de-classist stigmatization of adoptees, first parents and adoptive parents. They support family preservation and an overhaul of the fostercare system. Adoption for them is too easy.

Forced birthers commodify. They appropriate “adoption reform” then redefine it as the creation of more product for the market through measures such as outlawing abortion and “streamlining” newborn adoption to make it quicker, easier, and cheaper. They dismiss birthfather rights. Fostercare is rarely mentioned. While they throw around coded terms like “family values” and “natural family” (by which they mean married cis parents) they have little respect for the value of unmarried families, and promote natural family separation via adoption. They celebrate each adoption as a win-win-win situation ignoring that most adoptions are about loss. Adoption, for them, is too difficult.

As a result, abortion prohibition social media sites suffer from severe baby lust. Posters complain that the government — Democrats — roadblock adoption ease because “they want dead babies.” Adoption from jammed-up fostercare is dismissed, often in barely hidden racist and classist terms.  One poster declared she had considered a foster adoption but decided a foster kid would teach her children “bad behavior.”

Adoptees to the baby grabbers lack humanity. As fetuses and newborns, adoptees are seen as “unwanted” objects saved from abortion, irresponsible but “brave birthmothers,” and grifter sex nut fathers.  Adoptees as adults are expected to be grateful – at least you weren't aborted – and to set aside the abrogation of their civil rights for the putative rights of the unborn and unformed. 

It is easy to see where “Heartbeat” is going.


I believe that the Ohio legislative Adoption and Fostercare Committee and its funding is straight Gonidakis. It is no coincidence that he just happens to be the chair of the Ohio Medical Board designated to dole out fines to finance adoption “initiatives.” It makes sense for other “Heartbeat” states to legislate “adoption initiatives” to pass their forced-birth bills, since adoption is a bleeding-heart winner.

Shorter relinquishment times, gutting fathers’ rights, an increase in maternity homes, and coercive, soft-shaming relinquishment practices, probably under the guise of “directed counseling” are on the menu.  And the biggie: attempted contraception bans, the real goal all along.

Be on the lookout everywhere for Willke-Folger Porter-style provisions and amendments even if Folger Porter isn’t on the scene. The just-passed Georgia HB184 prosecutes medical providers who perform abortions as well as women who self-manage their abortions. Legal scholars and activists believethe law could cause police to investigate miscarriages and send Georgia doctors and women who have abortions to prison.

Adoptee rights legislation is introduced in about a dozen states each year. I fully expect a pushback in statehouses around the country waged on “ungrateful bastards” in the name of fetus saving and baby worship (I was once called a “baby killer” at the Ohio House Judiciary hearing).

Beneath forced birth rhetoric is contempt and fear for adoptees. Unlike kept offspring of unmarried parents who are now readily accepted, adoptees are symbols — dirty outliers and freaks conceived in sweaty sheets.  Our identities, under seal in most states, are imaginative, fluid props for abortion abolitionists.   We are eternally helpless infants in need of constant saving, government monitoring, and Godly guidance, but too dangerous to own our own birth records and personal histories. Heartbeaters need adoption and adoptees. Only with the adoptee body to exploit and propagandize can they continue their saviorhood campaign and their special stairway to heaven.


Marley Greiner is a member of the board of the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism and has been writing for the Free Press since 1980. She is co-founder and Executive Chair of Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization. She blogs at The Daily Bastardette