Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The Adoption Contract vis a vis Slavery, Continued
As the movement in America (both Canada and the US) is towards open records for adoptees, running a magazine story (see previous post) that is counter to that--while edgy and gives a great cover line (I Don't Want to Meet my Birth Mother!)--is also running a story that goes against the tide. The people I've encountered who are not interested in meeting their biological families are typically somewhat antagonistic towards adopted people having the right to their original birth certificates. They are not quite neutral; they seem to find the concept somewhat threatening.
Just as would running a story about the Phyllis Schlafly ladies, or the women in Boston who organized against women getting the vote (they did!) or...running an interview with a well-cared for house slave (quite possibly the offspring of the "Massa" of the house) who might voice an opinion against emancipation (and having to find housing and sustenance) would have been counterproductive to the opposite movement, the More editor's (Lesley Jane Seymour's) aggrandizing comment in a recent issue (June, 2009) about her choice to run a tough piece about why someone would not want to meet her first mother is counterproductive to adoption reform.
Sure, everyone has a right to an opinion, and so does an editor have a right to make the choice to run an story that goes against the tide. But then, so do I have the right to point out that one has to go back to slavery to find another contract between two parties that so controls the identity of a third party for that person's entire life, as per yesterday's post. Since I have been long aware that the slavery analogy seems overblown, and thus likely to weaken one's argument, that is how I make the case when writing to legislators, that is...that you have to go back to slavery to find a contract that has power over a third party who was never asked if said contract was in their best interests for their entire lifetime. If anyone has any examples of other contracts with the same kinds of binders over third parties, please let us know at First Mother Forum.
And no, adopters are not "slave owners," and as I made abundantly clear in yesterday's post, there are huge differences between the conditions of slavery and the conditions of being an adoptee. But closed-adoption contracts that have no opt-out clause for identity disclosure of the adopted individual upon reaching the age of reason have aspects of "owning" another person, no matter how you deconstruct it.
Yes, I do mean, the age of reason. Say, eight or twelve. I am talking about letting an individual choose the right to own the information of her or his birth, no restrictions, and as soon as they are old enough to ask for it. There exists no valid reason why that right ought to be limited or restricted until one is old enough to vote. Yet as we are all aware, under the current rules, that is, the current contract adoptive parents make with the state, adopted individuals do not have the legal right to make their own decisions about this most personal of matters. The state has taken this choice away from them.
Yes, the pressures of some adoptive families upon the adopted to be "loyal" to them will cloud feelings and decisions about whether to ask for that information. This would be especially true of younger individuals. But a different contract would at least offer a choice. And adoptive parents, knowing that such would be the case, would eventually come to see the curiosity about one's roots as a natural part of growing up. It would not, and should not, be seen as a sign of disloyalty to the adoptive family.
One time when my daughter spoke of having made her adoptive parents aware from a very young age that she wanted to search for me, she added that her adopted older brother's not wanting to know was a "gift" to her adoptive parents. Later he did want to know, but as far as I am aware, was unsuccessful in his search to learn his original identity. He is now in his late forties, still bound by a contract in which he had no say-so.
Of course in cases where there is no information available...there is no information available. And no contract, or emancipation, or Adoptees Bill of Rights, can fix that.
PS: Incidentally, to those who asked, More magazine's Lesley Jane Seymour, in the same editor's letter that began this discussion, revealed that she has three children; and her picture indicates she is of the age where her friends who would have gotten pregnant by mistake would most likely have had abortions. So the likelihood of her having birth mothers in her circle is small; adopted mothers, high. To judge by my own experience in the publishing world: VERY high.)