“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,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:
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.”
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.
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.