Do you want the good news first? That would be Maine opening its records today so that adopted persons can have access to their original birth records.
But the good news comes with the bad. The Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram can't leave a good thing alone because...well, we mothers were promised anonymity, so sayeth their uninformed editorial board.
Well, I wasn't. Neither were the vast majority of us. I was told it was anonymity or: "I can't help you--that is the law." I had no choice. In some states, I have heard, social workers did verbally promise anonymity but as far as I know, no one has been able to come up with surrender papers explicitly stating the mother was "promised" anonymity. And such a "promise" does not carry with it the force of law. So that canard is just that: a lie. But the vast majority of us were not promised anything, We were told we had no choice but to accept forced anonymity.
Yet their editorial states: "Birth parents, who were promised anonymity when they gave children up for adoption, will no longer have their privacy protected." It goes on in that Oh my vein, how can we protect these women in the closet? It makes the adoptees who worked to get the bill passed seem like bad people who did not give a hoot about the legions of women in the closet, and that no birth mothers were involved in the passing of the law. Well, the editorial is just plain wrong.
The very legislator behind the bill--Bobbie Beavers--is a birth mother. And she and the group who worked for open records presented many many voices from birth mothers. At one point in this fight, I sent emails to dozens of legislators in Maine--and I know I wasn't the only one. Yet because of the persistent feeling that the vast majority of birth mothers are hiding behind their veils of anonymity--along with birth fathers who do not want to be identified--records are still sealed in 41 states to a greater or lesser degree.
Yet in Oregon, which has been collecting statistics on those who ask for their records and those who file a "no-contact" preference, fewer than one percent of first parents have done so. As of last May, 9,366 had requested their original birth records; 9020 were given, and 84 people had filed no-contact preferences. Do the math. That's .08 percent.
Add your comment to this uninformed editorial in Maine using this link and let it be considered for publication in the newspaper, so please leave your phone number.
If that didn't rain on your parade, today's New York Times continues the negative drumbeat today with a piece from an adoptee who is happy to live her life in "mystery." Ellen Ullman, whose op-ed is titled My Secret Life, writes about the aesthetic pleasure of not knowing her heritage. "I have mysterious origins," she writes. "The trend is towards openness, a growing 'right' to know. I am not against this trend, I simply want to give no-knowing its due."
Now what would that be? So this fiction writer can continue to construct the fantasy that her father is a "king" and her mother a "queen," as she states? She even goes on to say that she probably spent twenty years in a profession for which she is not suited because computer scientists run up and down her adoptive family's line. Yet she's certain, because of her proclivity for writing, that her "natural" parents were also writers. But, Ms. Ullman, most people are not comfortable being square pegs hammered into round holes in order to fit. And does it not bother you when you go to the doctor and have no familial medical history?
Ullman's decision to deny her natural curiousity is a great moral failure of courage to live an examined life. I quite honestly can not understand these people. To know the truth about oneself is the beginning of awareness. While she is comfortable with her "mysterious origins," it would seem that the issue does not quite leave her alone: Her forthcoming novel is titled By Blood.
It is because of voice like hers that our fight to open records to all adopted people, whether they want to know their heritage or not, is mired in this current quagmire. Let your voice be heard. I'll write, but voices from adopted people are what's needed here.
Write--please write--to firstname.lastname@example.org and post a copy here. --lorraine