Saturday, September 4, 2010

Birthmothers Right to Privacy -- An invention of the ACLU?

The American Civil Liberties Union seems bent on trampling on rights it doesn't like and inventing new rights to suit its purpose. Executive Director of the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU, Deborah Jacobs, claims that birth mothers' promise of confidentiality is not relevant to the debate surrounding the reform of  New Jersey's adoption law that would give adult adoptees the right to know their original, true identities:
“I also wanted to mention that I have never made any statements about whether birth mothers were promised confidentiality or not. I don’t think it's relevant to the debate,
just like I don’t think that whether the original intent of the law was to protect birth parents or adoptees is relevant to the debate. The fact that the law has protected birth parents' right to confidentiality [italics, ours] for decades, and that it is the standard we’ve abided by, and that some have relied upon, makes it unjust to remove the protection without consent.”
Ms. Jacobs was writing in response to the Daily Bastardette but we want to know, what right to confidentiality? Even a first year law student knows that you can't claim a “right” without citing any legal authority. I posted the following:

Deborah Jacobs' statement that a birthmother has the "right to confidentiality" has no legal basis. Nothing in the US constitution or the constitution of any state says birthmothers have the right to keep their children's birth certificate sealed. The US constitution protects against "unreasonable searches and seizures" by the government, which the Supreme Court has interpreted to include the right to make reproductive decisions free of government control.

In giving adult adoptees their birth certificates, the government is not searching or seizing anyone or anything. Giving adult adoptees their birth certificates has nothing to do with reproduction unless Ms. Jacobs believes that mothers gave up their children only because mothers believed the birth certificates would be sealed. Ms. Jacobs expressly states, however, that what mothers believed or disbelieved is irrelevant.

If anybody is searching and seizing, it's adoptees. If adoptees' intrusions are unwanted, mothers can get restraining orders against them.

There is no precedent for the ACLU-NJ's legal position. All the courts which have considered whether mothers' constitutional rights were violated when state laws were changed to allow adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates answered in the negative. The US Supreme Court refused to hear the cases.

I am puzzled why the ACLU-NJ spends time and money to fight adoptee access. In Oregon, the ACLU board voted to oppose Measure 58, giving adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates but then kept its mouth shut. It did not participate in the lawsuit brought by Mormon attorneys seeking to strike down the Measure.

Ms. Jacobs also tell us:
“I do of course know birth mothers, including within my own family. … I also have a stack of letters in my office, most sent anonymously, from birth mothers thanking me for the ACLU-NJ's work on this issue, talking about their experiences with adoption, and explaining why they desperately wish to remain anonymous. They include rape and incest victims, among others. They express terror at the prospect of an unwelcome knock at the door that will force them to revisit painful personal traumas of the past.”
(I note that if they are writing to Ms. Jacobs, these women are already re-visiting their traumas.) The ACLU-NJ's deference to women who express fear that their children would contact them is troubling. The ACLU-NJ is reinforcing an anti-women culture that giving birth out of wedlock or being a victim of rape or incest is so shameful that the government must abet women in keeping it secret. The ACLU-NJ's position is a major retreat from the national ACLU's advocacy over the past half century for women's rights. The ACLU-NJ seems bent on reinstating a patriarchal system which allows men to control women's reproduction by tacitly saying that women need husbands to make their child-bearing proper.
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Lorraine here: The other point of the ACLU's position in upholding first mother rights that makes me absolutely nuts is that I did not want anonymity when I surrendered my daughter! I had been assuming all along that when my daughter turned 18 or 21, the secrecy would be over, I would be able to meet her, she would be able to contact me. When I heard that her adoption would forever sentence both of us to forced anonymity I argued so long and hard with my social worker, Mrs. Helen Mura of the Rochester NY Northaven Terrace, that she said she could not help me anymore--if I kept on insisting that I be able to know my daughter one day. What about women like me, Ms. Jacobs? 

What about my rights to not have anonymity forced on me? I had as much freedom and rights as a migrant worker who will get fired, or beaten, or raped for speaking up. I had no choice at all.

It's high time that the ACLU get its foggy head out of the sand on the issue of giving adoptees their original birth records and the key to their true identities. The ACLU, in contrast to upholding individual rights, are obstructing the freedoms and rights of a whole class of individuals. And we first mothers who want to know our children should have the right to find out where they are, who they became, what name they have today. If they do not want to have relationship with us, that's their right. But the forced secrecy of laws designed largely by adoptive parents are a gross violation of individual rights of both adoptees and first mothers. (New York's 1935 law is an example of that, as the law was written for the adoptive father, Gov. Herbert H. Lehman.)

Most state ACLUs go down the path of obstructing not only our rights, but those those of our children. They could not be more wrong on this issue, and one day will rue this stance they have taken. If you look at this purely as a contract issue, it is as if they support slavery. To read more about the ACLU's perverse positions on adoptee and birthparent rights, read ACLU Tramples Adoptee Rights & First Mother Protections.

11 comments :

  1. "Stacks of letters"? I'd love for them to produce a few! *eyeroll* I am absolutely sick of the "anonymous" MINORITY, who ALREADY have multiple avenues of legal recourse to "protect" themselves (unlisted phone numbers, Hippa laws, restraining orders, etc.) being touted as the "voice" of the MILLIONS of first parents who NEVER asked for, wanted nor expected to be exiled from our children. And what about the thousands who were promised "open" adoptions? Why are WE never mentioned in this debate? How did we EVER agree to have our children's original identities "secured by the government"? Where are the "experts" fighting for US? It is ridiculous and cruel to keep laws that benefit only a handful at the expense of MILLIONS.

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  2. Why do the ACLU and NCFA persist in perpetuating these lies -- the stereotypes that mothers are out there quaking and shivering in fear that their children lost to adoption will "track them down" and find them? Why keep fomenting this fear and dissension between first mothers and adoptees when all they have to do is reassure these supposedly shaking, frightened mothers that with a restored access law which contains a contact preference provision, all they have to do is file a "no-contact" notice and no more worries? It's so obvious that these women would have *more* protection with a no-contact provision than they do now with nothing that it's really puzzling to me why the ACLU and NCFA, among others, are fighting it at the same time claiming they are claiming to want to "protect" these mothers. This does not compute. You claim to protect on the one hand, then leave someone living in "constant fear" and wide open for contact?

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  3. I find it interesting that these people are saying we expected anonymity or secracy...why? Because not only did they ask me for a box of "things" for my daughter, to give her more roots, but I put a letter in the bottom of the box, to include my full name and ssn - I wanted to make sure she could find me. Unfortunately the adopters not only took the box, but used the information against me. Even going so far as to make my daughter fear even thinking of me and taking her first christmas outfit and putting it on one of the woman's dolls! This was an outfit that she apparently remembered wearing since she tried a number of times to retrieve it throughout her life. She had no idea that was why, until she described it to me and I, of course, knew exactly what it was!

    Saying this, does it appear I wanted anonymity? I wish people would stop frakken trying to talk for me.

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  4. Just a thought .... my son's adoptive mother is very active in the ACLU and thought searching was personally intrusive to her.

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  5. How the hell does Jacobs KNOW this stack of letters is really from BirthMothers? Are they signed with a full name? Or just a first or first and last initial? And if they are signed with a full name, has she checked these women's histories? To make sure they really gave a child up for Adoption? As Jane put it, I will add on to it-any first year law student even knows ANY one with an agenda can write a phony letter to push their cause. If these letters do even exist then the ACLU is legally obligated to PROVE these are true anonymity requests. I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out they most likely were writen by Adoption Agency owners, social workers or whacked out, control freak Mormon APs, or a corrupt Catholic priest. I mean honestly and in all reality, why the hell should we or anyone else just take Jacobs word for it? Who is she anyway to dictate who will be oppressed and who won't? She isn't a God. (And if she and the rest of the hypocrites at the ACLU, The Right To Life and the NCFA disagree then all of them can go make a mountain and prove it to me). I really think all you Mothers should file a class action lawsuit againt the ACLU and the Mormom Church. Enough is enough already.

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  6. The National Council for Adoption and those who oppose open records LOVE anonymous first mothers. In the mid-Seventies when Florence Fisher and I testified for adoptees and birth mothers to each have access to each others records and NAMES, NCFA brought one such women to the Senate hearing and of course she was allowed to address the committee. She spoke just ahead of me. She really angered me, and when I testified I attacked her anonymity, and asked those august personages up there on the dais why they would take the word of someone who could not even say her name, and if they would do that in any other circumstance. I was so angry.

    Then I went on with my testimony. When I returned to my seat, she was bent over and weeping, and two women (undoubtedly paid NCFA employees or social workers from a member adoption agency), one on each side of her, were comforting her. Call me heartless, but I was glad my reminding her of the responsibility first mothers have to the children they bear had managed to upset her so.

    I know she was in pain, but since she represents the minority and since "they" are the reason the records remain sealed, I have no sympathy for them, and no respect for the legislators who determine these "poor" women deserve some friggen protected anonymity. Hell, these women are just obstructing justice, and the legislators and adoptive parents who oppose open records are merely hiding in their hoop skirts and bloomers.

    The state never promised first/birth mothers anonymity and if it was wrongly implied, that was a mistake, an unfortunate mistake, but nonetheless, a mistake. To these women I say: times have changed; stop living behind a lie; tell your families the truth, and set yourself free.

    How the American Civil Liberties Union got into the business of "protecting" these women/identity thieves and thus trampling the rights of a whole group of people beggars belief. Something is totally rotten in the ACLU.

    Secrets only have the power to hurt you as long as they are secret.

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  7. Jane, thanks for reminding us that in Oregon challenges to the law went nowhere, and records remained open despite the kind of specious arguments that NJ ACLU is making.

    To draw an analogy from family law, divorce laws have changed a lot in the last 60 years. Remember movie star quickie divorces in Nevada or Mexico because divorce laws were stringent and required proving infidelity or other terrible fault in most states?

    What if some people got married when the laws were one way, and then they were changed? Would ACLU defend someone married in the 50s who thought that their spouse could never get away that easy because of the laws at the time, and assumed things would always stay that way? Somehow I don't think so. Laws are not about what anyone assumes, they are about what they say, as written. There is no written promise of birthmother confidentiality forever anywhere.

    Those who are quaking in fear can keep quaking no matter what the laws say, because adoptees have been routinely finding them for decades even with records sealed. Sealed records do not protect those who do not want to be found from being found and contacted anyhow. Those laws hurt adoptees without accomplishing what the ACLU says it wants, protecting the closet mommies from their own kids and from their own lies.

    I don't doubt that some of those anonymous letters are from real birthmothers in hiding, but so what? The ACLU and sealed records will not save them from adoptees determined to find them, and they would be much healthier if they started dealing with that than writing anonymous cowardly letters begging for protection that isn't there and never was.

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  8. Like the adoptees who are held hostage in Illinois (as an example of injustice), I feel completely victimized. All this talk of anonymous birthmothers and non-anonymous birthmothers and adoptees speaking out, where do I fit in? I've tried to voice the position of a half orphan trapped in a sea of illegitimates...and in a sea of single mothers who lost their infants. My mother was married and died. It was at her funeral that adoption was first discussed for me: by a Catholic priest at that: the baby needs two parents. What about the other 4 older chidlren? Didn't they need two parents? Their mother just died, so they lost their newborn sister to adoption on top of the loss of their mother.

    Where are MY rights in this discussion with the ACLU? My mother did not sign any papers of relinquishment, my father did, and no one, not one single authority figure, legisaltor, or Catholic priest, has EVER acknowledged my loss or my dead mother's loss. SHE lost her right to be named on my birth certifcate! SHE lost her right to say anything about whether or not her 5th child should be adopted out or not. Sure, she was DEAD and the dead do not matter --- apparently that is the case. WTF?!

    I am sick and tired of hearing ONLY about single mothers of loss and adoptees who were of illegitimate birth: half and full orphans are victimized by sealed and falsified birth certificates, too! And the law was written to hide illegitimacy --- the adoptee is legitimized by the new and amended birth certifcate showing two parents --- but I am not illegitimate! This does NOT apply to me or my natural mother. My natural father was NOT promised confidentiality nor privacy, but he was TOLD verbally and in writting to stay away from me and my adoptive family.

    I am so mad! Not at any of you, fellow adoptees and mothers of loss, but at the ACLU, The Right to Life, the NCFA and anyone who assumes that all adoptees are illegitimate and we need to be kept away from our own birth certifcates for our own protection and that of our poor, misguided mothers. SHIT, FUCK and all the rest. GIVE ME MY BIRTH CERTIFCATE DAMN IT!

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  9. I totally agree that Deborah and the NJ ACLA that she speaks for makes no sense at all. The fact that she dismisses the obvious, which is that there is no legal precedence,along with her opinion that mothers not asking for privacy or been promised any kind of protection from our own children, is curious.

    Wonder if someone in her anonymous pile of terrified mothers is one of the mothers she claims is in her own family? Her argument is totally irrational.

    So glad you've chosen to call her out in public.. great blog ladies!

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  10. I'll add to your last statement Lorraine.....
    STOP ABUSING YOUR CHILDREN. IT IS NOT OUR RESPONSIBILITY THAT YOU CONCEIVED US AND NEITHER YOU NOR ANY GOVERNMENT OR ORGANIZATION HAS THE RIGHT TO PUNISH AND ABUSE US DAMNIT.
    Breathe...

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  11. To all the frightened little beemommiees: BOO-FU#KING-HOO. If your kid comes a knockin' put on your big girl pants and deal with it like an adult.

    Amazing that the ACLU would support falsified identities and super-secret government documents. (But then again, the ACLU is mostly funded by the limousine liberal crowd, the ones who give liberalism a bad rep). The current system just creates an underground market in retrieving these documents, which we all know can be done since most of us have done it.

    Hey, ACLU, I have a long list of people I want protection from - politicians ringing my phone every day, charities begging for donations, door-to-door salesman, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh - just to name a few. Can you help me with that?

    Great points made by all, I second every comment already made.

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