Saturday, September 10, 2011

Adoptee (lawyer) argues for first (birth) mother's right to privacy

Lorraine
The amount of ignorance about adoptee rights can be downright staggering--even among adoptees themselves, but perhaps only among adoptees who have always had their birth certificates. At least it seemed that way to me this week.

I'm at a wake of a relative of my husband in New Jersey, and my husband's niece is also there. She is an attorney, and one of her friends who came is also an attorney has come by to pay his respects for her sake, and husband's niece knows that he is adopted and she thinks I ought to meet him. Though past experience has told me that is usually not a good idea because the most unlikely things can happen, she brings him over near the end of the evening and mentions that he's adopted and leaves. Okay, now what? But dumb me, I assumed that he had some knowledge of the NJ Adoptee Rights bill--he's an attorney and he's adopted, right?--and Gov. Christie's veto, and mention that.

He looks at me and I realize he doesn't have a clue what I am talking about.

So I tell him, and I tell him that I had been somewhat involved in this issue as I've written quite a few letters to NJ legislators and Op-eds in more than one paper there over the decades we've been at this, before we get very far into this conversation he is telling me about the Catholic Church must be behind Christie's veto and I say, Yeah, Catholic Charities in New Jersey was against, but in other dioceses in the U. S. such as in Albany, the local bishop actually came out for unsealing the records. But almost immediately he is arguing for a natural mother's (or birth mother's, dear Google) right to privacy, and I explain that the laws weren't written that way and that ONLY when a person is adopted are the original birth certificates sealed, and so legally there could have been no presumed right to "privacy" and by the way many natural mothers (like myself) NEVER wanted anonymity from their children but they had no choice when we relinquished our children, it was anonymity or nothing, but the guy is yakking a blue streak at me. About how since the anonymity was presumed you could make a good legal case for that, and about how the law MUST have been written with the "best interests" of the child in mind because that surely takes precedence, and I'm arguing that adoptees can vote, go to war, pay taxes, get married, get divorced, and he is countering about the right to presumed privacy of the birth mother and he jabbering on with words words words and he says this would make a good law review article, and somehow I mention the NJ ACLU and Deborah Jacobs and he knows her too because he's done some work for the ACLU but he really wants to talk over and at me about the "presumption of privacy" at the time of relinquishment and he's and interrupting me and not letting me finish a fucking sentence and I'm thinking WTF is this?

I mean, he was as bad as the lawyers I argued with on television back in 1979-80 when Birthmark came out and I was Most Reviled Person on adoptive parents' lists. It occurs to me that he just sees an old granny first mother from the Baby Scoop Era. And somewhere along the line I realize my blood pressure is scooting up and I'm getting pissed at this jerk--I mean, he's adopted and he's so damn busy making the case for Christie and Catholic Charities and the family-law section of the NJ Bar. WTF am I doing and why am I bothering?

WHY IS HE MAKING THE CASE FOR SEALED RECORDS?
This is worse that arguing with anti-legislators crosses my mind--they are usually more polite than this-- and I'm telling him how the laws came to be passed and that often it was adoptive parents (as in New York when the sealed-records statute was passed in 1935 at the behest of ADOPTIVE FATHER OF THREE, Gov. Herbert H. Lehman) and this guy is still talking at me and I can feel my blood pressure rising and my husband who is a few feet away is beginning to pay attention but he hasn't been able to hear the barrage of words in favor of birth mothers' privacy and against unsealing the original birth certificates of adoptees and I finally say, quite forcefully, so this guy will pay attention:

I've argued with a lot of male lawyers about this but they are usually adoptive parents. 

That shuts him up finally.

And I tell him at last that the Cornell University survey of adoptive parents shows that even they today are largely in favor of unsealing the original birth certificates.

Finally he says that the single clear reason he can see for the unrestricted access to adoptees' original birth certificates is to be able for them to get their medical histories. Well, at least he conceded that there might be a reason for OBC access, but as a pure "right"? No siree.

Ultimately, here is what I learn: He has always had his original birth certificate; at some point he found and met his natural mother, they had some sort of relationship, but she is now deceased. His biological father's name is on the birth certificate--he knows it as well as his own name and says it and I recognize it as a Polish name--and he'd like to find him but a simple search (Google, I suspect) hasn't revealed anything. I say I might be able to put him in touch with a search angel or someone who could, for a fee, find his father, and he says he would like that and he gives me his card.

Okay, I know you have questions--I've seen the Facebook comments when I mentioned this briefly last evening--but here is what I will reveal without giving away his identity as he had no idea he was talking to a writer: he is at a law school in one of the ancillary services at the school and appears not to belong to any of the various practice sections of the NJ bar.


MORE WORK TO DO
Here is what I took away from that conversation: We have a lot of work to do in New Jersey. This guy was adopted, had his own original birth certificate (it was a private adoption, he says) but he knew nothing about the issue and furthermore harangued me as he forcefully made the case for first mother privacy. Don't you ever read the paper? I was thinking--there have been a lot of stories about this in the news.

The next time I read that adoptees don't need every first mother they can find in support of reform in the ingoing battle for unsealing original birth certificates, whether or not they have the language down perfect, no matter if they are twenty-seven or seventy-two--as I did recently at another blog--I will be amused. WE need first mothers to storm Trenton and Albany! And every other state capital where the records are still sealed! We need natural mothers to speak out for giving adoptees their OBCs, but we also would like to be treated with respect while we do.  

ANYBODY WANT TO HELP
Anybody interested in helping this guy? I don't do searches, and I said I would put him in touch with someone who might be able to find his biological father. Let me know through Comments; I won't publish those who are interested in helping him, and I will email him with your contact info. BTW, please educate him along the way. --lorraine

21 comments :

  1. You know I'm here anytime I can help - letter-writing, searching, "storming" Trenton - whatever I can do.

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  2. Normally, my thoughts are to help an adoptee find since this adoptee person is a lawyer plus has his original birth cert I saw let him find on his own. Typical, of know it all lawyer type which I detest.
    I would be pissed if someone did that to me relative or not
    It is wrong.

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  3. My thought is that I would still like to help this guy--he's willing to pay so I will send him to a searcher if no one volunteers. He finally did see that the medical records issue was one that was worth letting adoptees have their OBCs. A breakthrough.

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  4. That lawyer is just defending privacy-for-its-own-sake? He did not go into the adoptees and mothers who might need that privacy to protect themselves from savage cult members, gangsters and primitive tribesmen who might be willing to kill saidmothers and adoptees to protect the family honor and to satisfy their lusts?
    Always seemed a watertight defense to me, of course, from this it follows that the mother by right of birth should retain the right to reestablish contact and give up her privacy. And as you said, that is not the way the NJ-laws work.

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  5. "Anybody interested in helping this guy? I don't do searches, and I said I would put him in touch with someone who might be able to find his biological father"

    Does he know his mother?
    Was this a step parent adoption?

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  6. I don't understand why this attorney looked for his first mother? Is she some kind of exception to the rule? If he thinks n-mothers deserve their privacy then why did he find her and why is he now interested in finding his natural father? I cannot support any adoptee who believes s/he has the right to know his/her biological heritage and then turns arounds and tries to deny others any opportunity to know theirs.

    It can only help the OBC cause to have as many first mothers as possible on our side and vocal about it.

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  7. AS far I I knew the lawyer was not a step-parent adoption. He simply said that it was a private adoption and tha his parents always had his OBC. He did concede that that only clear reason he could see for open records was medical.

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  8. I would find it interesting to know why this lawyer man felt the need to search for his natural mother and 'invade' her privacy. Yet he argues against other adult adoptees doing the same, arguing against adoptees having their OBCs, when clearly he has his. I do believe this lawyer man is a dolt and very self-centered. Does he feel by virtue of his profession, that he is more entitled, more deserving, more important than other adult adoptees? Is what I'm suspecting.

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  9. Thank you for posting this, Lorraine. Indeed, too few people know that adoptees can't get their OBC's in most states, let alone that we are fighting to change this. Meaning, the general public. It is stunning that an adoptee, especially an attorney, didn't know this. We've got to do more to educate the public, get people involved even if they don't have a personal connection with adoption. It's a civil rights issue!

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  10. He sounds kind of like a freak. I can't believe he wasn't punking you on some level. I mean maybe, but really? For realz really? Definetly sounds obnoxious and not good company

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  11. @Chris, Well, let's be reasonable, maybe his First mother had given him an invitation to come and look for her...

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  12. Infuriating! I read this and felt my BP go through the roof. It is typical, typical, for him to HAVE his but then to shut the damn door for the rest of us and to argue for privacy for a group to which he doesn't belong. He *knows* his mother, and has his fathers name? Well, killing with kindness might help win him over, but I agree with the anon that it sounds rather like a punking stunt. Was his *own* mother begging for privacy? Doesn't sound like it. Weird.

    I don't have a lot of time and patience for attorneys who enjoy arguing for argument's sake, especially when they enjoy a privilege that other people don't have. You have much more self-control than I do, Lorraine. I admire you for being so compassionate. I think I might have hit him.

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  13. Ms Margenalia:

    Trust me, my blood pressure was rising. And I thought, this is crazy!

    So far, no one has offered to search for him. He is willing to pay. Anybody got good sources in NJ? And yes, he should be charged by the hour, just like any lawyer charges.

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  14. pamhasegawa@gmail.comSeptember 12, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    If he attends a search-and-support group, like the one in Morristown which meets at the Presbyterian Church on South Street every first Saturday from 1-5 p.m., he may learn something from the birth mothers who are regulars at the group as well as get some clues on how to search for his birth father (if he has his name).

    If he reads www.nj-care.org web site, he could learn more than he obviously knows right now. He could contact any of the NJCARE leadership team listed on the web site.

    He could read Elizabeth Samuels' paper from Rutgers Law Review Winter 2001 which is at www.americanadoptioncongress.org. THAT would open his eyes to plenty of "chapter-and-verse" information confirming what you told him, Lo.

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  15. Thanks Pam: I will pass all of this on to him, and hope he can get his mind around the fact that adoptees have inviolate rights to their true identities.

    I don't understand people like him.

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  16. I don't understand him either.

    I have a lawyer friend in NJ (not connected to adoption as far as I know) and when I brought up the NJ bill (long before Christie got his hands on it) she blasted me about birthmom privacy rights.

    It must be something in the water.

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  17. It's delusional thinking in NJ and elsewhere. I think the "protect the birth mother" is a last gasp way to hang onto the idea that all adoptions turn out great, all adoptive families are happy ones, all adoptees are perfectly adjusted and are so damn happy they aren't curious--BUT allowing them the right to find their natural parents will upset that particular apple cart and all the fantasies that surround adoption, a "good thing."

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  18. re:Lorrraine's comment of 9:11 am

    Can't say that I agree with your reasoning. I think the reason there is so much talk about first mother privacy is because everyone thinks of adoption in terms of the parents (both sets) and only the parents. Everyone seems to forget that it is the child who never had any say, didn't sign any papers and is now without any connection or knowledge of his/her biological relatives. I am amazed at the many, many times I have been able to turn people around when I speak about adoption from the adoptee's perspective. It has *gasp* even worked with lawyers!

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  19. Robin: He needed to hear from an adoptee, that's for sure.

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  20. Ok, I am chuckling at the visual of a huge gang of natural mom's charging into state legislatures all over the country, demanding that their privacy NOT be respected! Beautiful picture :)

    As for Mr. Adoptee Attorney, I wonder if this windbag knows how privileged he is? How he happens to belong to the silver spoon club in our world? It's typical of the privileged to feel they are entitled to what they have, and that other less fortunates should be denied, or are less deserving. Ugh. Since he has his, he couldn't possibly understand why we want ours so badly. Perfectly mirrors other types of discrimination. I say make him pay to find Daddy, otherwise he might consider it a "hand out". Steaming in Cali.

    Great post Lorraine!

    Tamara

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  21. Hi, I would love to ask him to send for a copy of his birth cert. Then also ask him, if he thinks its ok that adoptees should have to pay to find the parent. IF we send him anywhere, we should send him to one of the most expensive places around. Lets see if he is willing to part with thousands? Many people who have money aren't willing to pay for what we think is our right to have. ttyl, Joan of nyadoptees

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