How such a cockamamie veto power came to be tacked onto this legislation--with the assistance of a first mother! and an adoptee--is a story that Jane has told in previous blogs. In the past, we did say that a bad bill--with a veto--is better than nothing at all for nearly all individuals who wish to obtain their original birth certificates (OBCs) will be able to do so. Only a very small minority of first parents will object and file a veto.
But now the thought of such bad legislation makes us angry to contemplate. We have heard from adoptees who have been denied; we have heard from those who
might be denied; we have heard their anguish and understand their right to be equal to the rest of us. The birth-parent veto denies them that equality.
Until all adopted individuals are given the right to own their own birth information, there is no equality for any adopted individual. If someone holds veto power over the release of birth data of any adoptee, all are relegated to an inferior class of people, inferior to the rest of us who have the clear and unrestricted right to our birth data. The right to know one's heritage should be a given, not something to be asked for as a favor. It should--in a free society, it must--belong to all individuals by the very act of being born.
For in allowing one class of people the right to ipso facto deny another class--the adopted--the full freedoms of equality to know themselves as they were born, for without that knowledge no individual is truly free. Instead of a veto--whether it be in effect for one day or one year or a lifetime--a contact-preference should suffice to give those biological parents the freedom to not be contacted by their children. This has worked well in other states, as it adequately protects the first parents who wish to remain hidden from their children.
Time may be running out in Washington state to prevent the birth-parent veto from becoming law, but the legislators need to hear from us, adoptee and first parents. Below is the letter I sent the other day to the Washington senator who is responsible for the birth-parent veto, possibly at the behest of another legislator. But the veto as a compromise vitiates the intent of the bill and relegates all adoptees to the status of chattel, owned and governed by the whims and preferences of others on this most singular matter.
Please make your voice heard, for every state that passes a bill with such a veto makes it easier for another state to do so. Because these reforms are happening at such a snail's pace, and because a single legislator can hold up legislation, in the end, I believe that the best solution to equality for adoptees is a court case. In the Seventies, ALMA and Florence Fisher brought a class action lawsuit in federal court in New York City, asking the court the declare sealed-records law unconstitutional. The court ruled against ALMA and its attorney, Cyril Means, and the ruling was upheld by the appeals court in 1979. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. The court's ruling was based on the flawed idea that secrecy was neceessary to encourage adoption of abandoned and neglected children. But as we now know, opening records has no effect on adoption.
The New York court's decision is as bad as the 1857 Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court that held that African-Americans were not citizens, and thus could not sue in federal court. One day, sealed records will be relegated to the dustbin of history. Let us be part of the movement that makes that happen.--lorraine
To "comment on this bill" use the following link: link http://apps.leg.wa.gov/
This only takes a few moments. You do have to register, but it is simple. If your voice is not heard, whose will be? The video below talks about how the OBC access has worked in New Hampshire.
To hear Bastard Nation's representative talk about why the original-parent veto is a bad idea, click here. You'll love Lori Jeski explain why.
My letter to Sen. Ann Rivers, who is responsible for adding a permanent birth-parent veto to the bills giving adoptees the right to obtain their original birth certificate:
Dear Sen. Rivers:
I am a first mother like you and I am horrified at the amendment that you are tacking onto the bill that would give adoptees the right to their original birth certificates for the birth-parent veto continues the yoke of bondage that the sealed records instituted. No matter how you slice it, this amendment gives all biological parents "privacy," if they so desire it, but in doing so flagrantly tramples the rights of others. The right to know who one is, who one was at birth, surely is an inviolate right that all individuals are given simply be being born, and the state must not be party to infringing on that right.
Yes, some women--a very small number--will be freaked out by fear; some men will not want their paternity revealed; but the few must not hold in their hands the reins of freedom and equal rights for all.
Consider the words of 1980 document that experts in the then U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare wrote after holding hearings of adoptees, natural mothers, social workers, and adoptive parents throughout the country. Their Model Adoption Act stated:
“There can be no legally protected interest in keeping one’s identity secret from one’s biological offspring; parents and child are considered co-owners of the information regarding the event of birth….The birth parents’ interest in reputation is not alone deserving of constitutional protection.”
The times were not right then to allow this to pass. An adoptive father in the Senate, John Tower of Texas, vigorously fought against this provision and it was deleted from the final bill that passed. Yet adoptive parents elsewhere have fought just as vigorously for the right of their children to know their true heritage, such as Sen. Lou D’Alassandro in New Hampshire who got a bill though in 2004 with a contact-preference but without veto power. Today he talks about the fact that there have been no problems since passage. He did because it was the right thing to do. Surveys of adoptive parents show that today they are overwhelmingly in favor or the children they adopted to have the right to know their original and true heritage, including the names of their parents.
Please reconsider your stand on this measure and do not let this bill pass with the toxic veto attached. That is like passing a bill against slavery, but adding a proviso letting the slave holders decide if they are willing to let their slaves go. You are so close to Oregon, and they have had no trouble--after lengthy court battles brought by a small group of Mormons--since they have allowed the free and unfettered right of the adopted to posses their own birth certificates. Remove this veto from the bill because it is the right thing to do. Do not be party to legislation that continues to enslave a small portion of adopted individuals. Come down on the right side of history. If this passes, it will be extremely difficult to revisit this issue and remove the veto. The harm done will be permanent.
I am the author of the first memoir from a woman who relinquished a child, Birthmark, published in 1979. My daughter was born in 1966; in 1981 we reunited, and had a relationship until her death in 2007. If I can be of further assistance to you, or Ms. Orwall, whom I cc'd, please do not hesitate to call on me. I will be happy to other legislators if asked. I am attaching a link to a video about the experience of unsealing the birth certificates in New Hampshire.
The individual against unsealing the records is the former paid head of the lobby organization, National Council for Adoption, which is supported by adoption agencies. The largest single block of membership agencies are those that are part of the Mormon church. They used to be listed at the NCFA website but a quick look at the website today found that they are no longer listed there, but instead may be found in the Annual Report, and does not show the percentage of agencies from LDS, but when they were listed one page, it was readily obvious that a very large component of agency membership is the LDS (Mormon) Family Services. LDS adamantly opposes opening records for religious reasons.
OBC-access bill with 'birth mother' veto may become law
Adoptee legislator supports birth-parent veto in Washington