Adoptees made this argument in a 1979 New York court case, Alma v. Mellon.* The federal Court of Appeals pooh-poohed the claim, contending the need to protect the adoptive family and the first mother's family trumped the adoptees' need to know their heritage. The judges made the patently absurd claim that mothers gave up their children on condition of anonymity. Does anyone believe that any first mother had a conversation which went like this: "If you don't guarantee me that my child will never, never, find me I'll just keep him?"
But elsewhere, the times they are a'changing. Access bills are beginning to catch on. This year Ohio, Colorado, and New Jersey passed legislation that allowed access with restrictions, bringing the number of states open or partially with records up to sixteen.** The truth is that adoptive families don't need protection from wayward children searching for their original families and most first mothers aren't shaking in their boots fearing their little mistake will come a'knockin. Indeed, as our enlightened adoptive mother readers tell us, they're happy their children's first mothers are in their lives. In fact, one of their chief concerns is about how hurt their children are when their first mothers don't make promised visits.
What about the often touted "right of mothers for privacy"? The old men (and women) in New York were so concerned about that "right" that they turned a good bill into a ridiculous one that we are happy to report did not make it to the floor for a vote. No court has held that mothers have a right of privacy from their children. As an appellate court in Oregon noted, giving birth is not a private event. A word of advice to open records advocates: Don't ever fall into the trap of allowing opponents to fling around the phrase "first mothers right to privacy" without pointing out that "anonymity" from their children may be their desire--but it is not their right.
It may be time to litigate adoptee natural rights again. Judges today may not be so quick to assume that secrecy is a necessary component of adoption. The case should not be filed in New York since Alma v. Mellon is precedent. California might be a good place, particularly since its northern neighbors, Oregon and Washington, allow adoptees access to their original birth certificates with no reported negative consequences. Oregon now allows adoptees access to their court records.
|Pres. Johnson signing Civil rights Bill|
How wrong they will be when all adoptees have the unobstructed right to their original birth certificates.--jane
*601 F.2d 1225
The complete list: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington.
Natural parents have the natural right to nurture their children
How to F-- up adoptee 'rights'