|Tina on left, daughter Katie on right|
"Jeff, there is something about my relationship to Katie, my daughter because I'm adopted. And I don't have those connections in my life, not until I had her had I felt a real connection in my life. It's a pure, unadulterated, pure love I have for her." --Tina Wesson, last night on Survivor.
When these pronouncements come out of the blue in places you don't expect them, they are great teaching moments for the public, a public that increasingly believes that adoption is simple and good and doesn't leave a great many adoptees with a hole in their hearts.
ADOPTEE ACCESS TO OBCs PASSES IN OHIO
I heard this last night just hours after we learned that a bill that clears the way for adoptees in Ohio to access their birth certificates passed both houses of the state legislature. The bill waiting for the Governor's John Kasich signature would allow approximately 400,000 adult adoptees to be able to obtain copies of their original birth certificates at age 18. This is the first time in seven attempts that an adoptee OBC access bill in Ohio has passed both chambers. The bill fills a gap in Ohio for adoptees born between 1964 and 1996, during which those adopted could not get their original birth certificates, due to the various laws governing access. Those whose adoptions were finalized before 1964 could get their OBCs without restriction; from 1964 to 1996, those records were sealed; after 1996, first parents on the birth certificate could file a non-disclosure request at the time of surrender.
The bill does have a one-year window for first parents whose names are on the birth certificate to file a veto that would redact their names, but Betsie Norris and others working on the bill felt that this was the best legislation possible at this time, and it was either concede this, or nothing. Given the experience of other states, it is likely this will affect a minute number of individuals. According to Norris, there appears to be a small and unknown number of mothers who filed non-disclosure vetoes between 1996 and the present. If results from Oregon are a harbinger of what to expect, this will be the case. Only 86 women in Oregon have requested they be not contacted (their names are released nonetheless) since the records were opened there by popular vote in 2000. Of the nearly 11,000 original birth certificates released since then, as of May, only .007 of them came with a notice that the first parents on the original birth certificate requested no contact.
MEANWHILE, IN PENNSYLVANIA
Progress is being made elsewhere too. In Pennsylvania the other day, the House unanimously passed a clean bill--no veto--that would give all adoptees there over the age of 19 the right to their original birth certificates. While non-adopted adults born in the Commonwealth can obtain their birth certificates at age 18, the extra year tacked on is clearly a slap in the face of all adopted individuals, treating them as people not equipped to have their birth certificates while they can vote and be shipped to Afghanistan in the armed forces. Pennsylvania Adoptees Rights, headed by Amanda Woolston, considers the bill to an extremely positive step in the right direction--but does not endorse it as being one of equal rights.
In New York, we are still way behind the curve. Although we have an energetic sponsor in David Weprin, and seemingly got close to getting our bill (A909) on the Assembly floor last year, once again we were thwarted by insidious forces in the legislature. A hearing that was scheduled for Monday in Manhattan on the bill is now set for January 31. Given that Monday's hearing was coming close to Christmas, this later date is probably better.
Although the cause of open records crosses party lines, personal involvement often plays a role in getting our bills passed. In Ohio, the sponsors of the bill included the sister of a first mother, Nickie Antonio (D); a post-1964 adoptee, Dave Burke (R); a sibling of an adoptee; Bill Beagle (R); and an adoptive parent, Dorothy Pelanda (R). This kind of personal connection has been critical in Maine, New Hampshire, Illinois, Oregon and elsewhere.
A final and sad twist to Survivor Tina's story: This morning when I searched for her last name, I learned that a son, a year younger than her daughter Katie, 26, died in an accident on December 3rd when a car he was riding in (without a seat belt) went off the road and crashed against a wall in Chattanooga and he was ejected. Survivor is taped months ahead of its showing on television. We do not know Tina, but we send her our sympathies and condolences.--lorraine
UPDATE: WHAT YOU CAN DO IN OHIO
If you have a Ohio connection to your adoption, either as a first parent, adoptee or adoptive parent, here is how you can help:
Contact Governor Kasich encouraging him to sign the bill!
Online: Click on the following link and fill out the required information. In the message section, be sure to include that you are contacting the office in support of Substitute Senate Bill 23.
Phone: Call (614) 466-3555. When the office answers, say you are calling in support of recently passed legislation. You will be transferred to an aide. Be sure to let the aide know you are calling in
support of Substitute Senate Bill 23. You may be asked your name and contact information, however you do have the option of remaining anonymous.
In New York: Unsealed Initiative is spearheading the lobby effort in New York, and anyone with a New York connection to adoption--first parents, adoptees, adoptive parents--should contact Joyce Bahr at firstname.lastname@example.org. We need numbers, support and financial help.
In Pennsylvania: for more information: http://www.pennsylvaniaadopteerights.org/p/contact-us.html
Philomena: A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search
You've seen the movie (or will soon), why not read the true story? See our commentary at
Philomena: A forced adoption, a lifetime quest, a longing that never waned
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