Thursday, July 3, 2014

The right to know your origins in an inalienable right

The authors of the Declaration of Independence identified certain rights granted by our creator. These natural rights are inalienable--they can't be taken away by governments. Among them, the authors wrote, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It's not an exhaustive list. The Supreme Court has expanded it to include the right to decide on the upbringing of our children, the right to marry the person of our choosing, and the right to make our own reproductive decisions. Surely the right to know where you came from should fall within this list. 

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?"

Jane
The New York legislature is still stuck in the archaic thinking that led to the 1979 decision, and consequently, though the group in New York has been lobbying for change for decades, the sealed-records legislation of the 1930s still stands.

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
Thinking about how attitudes and beliefs can change brought me back to the signing of the Civil Rights Act fifty years ago today. I was thrilled because I had seen so much racism and discrimination growing up in Chicago. That summer in 1964 was a glorious time for me, I had (or so I thought) a fairy tale romance with an exciting older man. Later he become my surrendered daughter's father and proved himself a scoundrel. The Civil Right Bill, though, has lasted and its impact cannot be overstated. It's hard for younger Americans to realize how ingrained racism and discrimination was in the United States, not only in the segregated south, but in the north as well. Racism was everywhere, in housing, employment, hotels, on television, in the movies; it was an integral part of our culture just as adoption is today. Opponents of the Civil Right Act said "the bill can't do anything because you can't change public opinion." How wrong they were.

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.


FROM FMF:
Natural parents have the natural right to nurture their children
How to F-- up adoptee 'rights'

26 comments :

  1. I DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS! We as birth mothers have RIGHTS TOO and if we so choose to make ourselves known or not to the adoptee that is our perogitive and OUR right too! We gave up our rights etc. to said adoptee and we have the right to stand behind that decision n matter what!

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    1. It doesn't matter whether you agree or disagree, Anon, all the courts which have considered the issue have sided for the adoptee. You gave up your right to be your child's parent but your child did not give up his right to know his original identity.

      You ought to look yourself in the mirror and figure out why you're so angry and why you want to inflict pain on the innocent being your brought into the world!

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    2. Anonymous, you don't speak for me.

      I was never promised anonymity. I would never have wanted it.
      I always wanted to know where my son was, and for him to know me.

      I simply wasn't given that choice due to the closed adoption system.
      My son wasn't given that choice either.

      Do not speak for me.

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    3. No one should be denied their ancestry simply because it might embarrass someone. Everyone has the right to know who they are.

      “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.”- U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) about the proposed Model Adoption Act of 1980.

      This is basically the same decision as the court held in Oregon. But beyond what courts hold, denying the truth of one's origins to that person is a gross abrogation of that person's right to live as a free man.

      Anon, though it may be difficult, I hope you find the charity in your heart to tell others about your secret son or daughter. You will probably find more compassion than you expect. We have all been through the act of telling, and come out the other side stronger.

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    4. well sort of everyone is wrong the courts can decide all they want to however being the fact that these are just prima facie laws, and the fact that we are being treated as alien prisoners of war, being, Coerced by 1 million lawyers of the Bar Association, pretending to be a government, operating under the general orders of the lieber code, title 50 of the US Code, which were actually never ratified, under a 14th amendment that was actually never ratified as prr Congressional Record, and as for Congressional Record we are still under the Bankruptcy Act of 1933, the rule of law nor those who are agent all that law, which are private copyrighted intellectual material, we are a nation that creates Debt. animation who refused to allow those to use their inherent right, also operating under the situs trust, as our courts pertain to situs district, under the situs corporate charter, is how they transfer wealth. this pretend government who is really a corporation, has misled our nation and stolen our children at birth using their ancient Babylonian techniques you didn't tell that to the mothers, that they have given away their children. this is not only perjury but it is felony by deception of language on every front. every document created for you for the people is a document that creates debt. ladies and gentlemen they try to tell you that you are supposed to take care of yourself yet they own you when you register the child at birth just like you register a car or any other property that you own you are actually registering the spoils of war. the government owns us, and our property as per the situs trust, and what they do is packaged everything into a nice little securities in bundles via the use of dummy trust account and sell you the world. this information is located if you look up the words Cestui Que Vie trust, under positive law, under rights, chapter 100: under canon law. our nation a worker bee work under a foreign entity and relinquish their rights when they pledge their of office
      do not let them fool you when they say the rule of law is law it is not it is a ruleand they are making up the rules as they go along they can change the rules at any instance to make you believe that it is locked because they say that they are the authority and you are the pauper or rather the slave.those agents are all members of the bar all the way to the Chief Justice and they are listed as alien enemy property custodians their second name is a lawyer.

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    5. Anon 9:31, are you drunk?

      Signed, Mrs. "1 Million Lawyers"

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    6. Yes, I think so! I can't make heads nor tails out of that post !!!

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    7. I think your " birthmother " at 11:33 is a fraud.......

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  2. Thanks for writing this piece Jane. Summarizing the TN and OR higher court rulings was one of the things that helped Colorado legislators understand the proper legal "balance of interests." Once most people read/hear it, the lights come on: Though adoption is generally an option available to a birth/first parent, they do not have a fundamental right to have their child adopted (because someone else must consent to the adoption). Therefore, they cannot have a correlative fundamental right to have their child adopted under circumstances that guarantee their anonymity from their own offspring. Sometimes adoptions disrupt, causing the OBC to once again become the child's identity document. Courts have always had the "right" to open an adoption file (however infrequently it may happen) without the consent of any party to the adoption. Any adoption worker who told a birth/first parent that they could never be found or contacted did them a tremendous disservice. Many moms in our group have said words to this effect: "The pain of carrying my secret for forty years was much, much greater than any embarrassment that came from telling it." Thanks to all the mothers who've shown so much courage to advocate for the well-being of their surrendered children. It made all the difference in Colorado. And by the way, as of July 1, birth/first parents who relinquished in CO can now obtain a copy of the OBC they signed. Other relinquishment records become available to parents August 7. See our website for more details!

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    1. Thanks Rich,
      Yes, we need to repeat: this over and over: signing a consent does not guarantee adoption and thus the sealing of the birth certificate.

      I understand the new CO law also allows adoptees access to portions of their court adoption file without a court order. Is this correct?

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    2. Yes. As of July 1, 2014, upon request and proof of identification, adult adoptees, adoptive parents of minor adoptees, custodial grandparents of minor adoptees, descendants of the adoptee and certain other eligible parties (with the adult adoptee's consent, or if the sought party is deceased), have direct access to copies of the amended birth certificate, original birth certificate, final decree of adoption, final order of relinquishment and/or order terminating parental rights, and social/medical history. For certain time periods (particularly adoptions finalized between 7/1/67 and 8/31/99), the State Registrar must wait until 1/1/16 to release OBCs, but other courts and state agencies have begun releasing these other documents, which are included in the statutory definition of "adoption records."

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  3. Jane, this is a great post, filled with common sense. As I was reading I said to myself: if only we can get the legislators to read this, it might open their eyes.

    Then I read the first comment.

    Anon: you proclaim "I have rights, I have rights !!" I have the right not be make myself known...etc. Then you tell us you gave up your rights when you relinquished. Do you even know what you are saying?

    This is what adoption reform is up against. Everyone, especially in NY, seems to believe the first mother is hiding and has the right to privacy. It doesn't matter that adoptees and first mothers are finding each other every day. It doesn't matter that all sorts of "private" information is posted on social media, seen by everyone on the planet. It doesn't matter that DNA is matching people and helping even black market adoptees find their families. Apparently, none of this matters, because the powers that be think our archaic laws will provide privacy that was never promised to a first mother to begin with.

    How do we make people who have no idea what they are talking about see common sense? This has been going on for 18 years. Not too many of us have another 18 years to devote to it. It's like talking to a brick wall.

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  4. Above anonymous. You have the right not to parent. That right was exercised and the child was relingquished. Finished. That does not mean I lose my right to know where I came from. It does not mean my children lose that right too.

    Adoptees cannot be asked to compensate for another's lack of character strengths in dealing with another's life choices.

    I encourage you, and all with similar views, to watch the YouTube video on being in the closet at the bottom of
    http://www.adoptionbirthmothers.com/thinking-more-about-the-birthmother-closet/

    All a closet is is a hard conversation. We all have these in life and adoptees and their children must not lose their heritage and self knowledge because one lacks these character strengths .

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    1. Ajja - actually, I think that knowing where you come from is fine.... but there is a point when it has to be mutual. And I did not have a lack of character strengths... but an abundance of them. I think that you need to realize that sometimes it wasn't our lack of strength, but our lack of support.... thank you.

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  5. @anon, no, you do not have the right to deny another person his or her right to know his birth origin. My heart aches for your child knowing that he or she has a mother like you. And kindly refrain from using the pronoun "we." I'm a first mother and know firsthand that mothers like you are, fortunately, extremely rare.

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    1. Gail, I am shooting off a virtual Roman candle to celebrate your comment, especially the last sentence.

      Happy fiftieth birthday, Civil Rights Act!! And many more!

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  6. Sexual privacy??? we all have SEXUAL privacy while we are taking birth control, have an abortion but once another human being is born its not about sexual privacy anymore. Its about the rights of the human that was created and their ability to KNOW who they can from, who their ancestors were and most important what their true medical history is. you see, once you bring a person into this world another branch is added to the family tree and that has NOTHING to do with you having sex except for the fact that sex makes babies...but your privacy is busted once you give birth. Adoption does not and should not change that. the blood coursing through their bodies does not change just because they are adopted they are still a biological member of your family...like it or not. all you see is a "kid butting" against your rights. Sorry sweet cheeks...but I am middle-aged with children and grandchildren of my own. Have not been a kid for a long time and I will tell you my "rights" to my information are important...but what is more important is my children and grandchildren's RIGHTS to their information and being the mother and grandmother I am ...I will fight you for them to get what decisions they information need to be whole and have ALL the information they can get to have the power to make their own decisions about their lives based upon their biological information. Guess what else, its not anyone else's business to decide what is important for me and them to know, it is ours! BECAUSE someone gave birth to us..no other reason. what society thinks, what any of the mothers think is not the point..the point is that the adopted people and their descendants get the information they need to make informed choices about their own lives. NOT some woman's sexual privacy.

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    1. Hi This the first time I have ever found a site like this and I am so Happy to have found
      you. I am a birth mother I did not give up my child. She was taken from me by CPS.She was about 9 months when this nightmare begin.She was almost 2 1/2 when
      when to my parental rights away. I have know idea if she adopted or not. Until today I did not know she could not by law find me.I thought I was the one who could not find her. Dawn Marie was born July 13,1969 at Mease Hospital in Dunedin Fl.Her birthday is coming again ,she will be 44ys old.My story of what happened of why
      she was taken I will explain at another time it is still as painful now as when it took place so for now all I want is my daughter or me to be able to have the right to find each other. I believe she should have the right to find me. Every time I search I come
      to a dead end. If she could get her OBC she would find me. I have lived in the same neighborhood since 1969.She has sister that has been looking for her also. If anyone can help me I will give more information.

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  7. I wonder if Anon was one of the Judges in the Alma v. Mellon case. That would explain the reaction.

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  8. I really like the conclusion drawn here:

    http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1129&context=wmjowl

    stronger weight should be given to the adoptee's needs than to
    those of the birth parents, for the parents had a choice in the
    original adoption that the adoptee was not given - the option
    of anonymity. The birth parents freely contracted away their
    right to know who their child is, but the adoptee's rights were
    signed away for him by his adoptive parents and the state.

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    1. Thanks for this link. What you quote is so true. I have always said that the adoptee is the only party that had no hand in the decision making. As infants, life decisions were made for us by our first mother, possibly her parents, and by our adoptive parents. The little, blank slate of a baby was passed around from one adult to another like a sack of potatoes. Then the little baby grew up. And what a mess it has become!

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    2. I replied to this earlier, but my reply did not show up! Thanks for the link. I agree with the entire paper.

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    3. As a minor and a mother at the age of almost seventeen I had little freedom to contract any contracts in 66. It was the ONLY contract a minor was allowed as our babies weren't allowed to have contact only at birth. I told my son after finding him I never had a lawyer, a judge, a courtroom to go before instead my rights,,,as a minor in my hospital bed paid for by my step thing..were to sign upon awakening from a 2 am delivery...social worker was a pariah...getting my baby for the next adopter. I had no alternative in the those days I could have ran off and been a hippy or became another pregnant young woman to provide a baby for an adopter. My son wasn't an orphan and very much wanted by me...but it was inevitable no welfare, no jobs, a young adult woman could barely get utilites established...in an apt much less live on her own. Doomed for adoption machine...

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  9. It's all so maddening, especially since the claims of the "right of mothers for privacy" have been disproved by actual evidence, such as Elizabeth J. Samuels's "Surrender and Subordination: Birth Mothers and Adoption Law Reform" paper.

    One thing I consistently fail to see acknowledged by the anti-open records folk is the fact that records don't seal at relinquishment, but at the finalization of an adoption. If I'd never been adopted, and grown up in foster care, I'd still have my OBC and all my records. How can they argue "rights of mothers for privacy" in light of this? And the fact that records seal upon the finalization of an adoption should tell them just who sealed records were really for.

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  10. Hi Lori,

    Relationships are mutual, but that was not my point. I am referring to those who prevent me from accessing my OBC and learning from where I came because of their own personal fears. That's an overreach. Knowing my roots is extremely important to me and my kids.
    Those who are against this and who redact their names from my document (which again is mine not theirs) lack character strengths .
    I am not connecting "lack of character strengths" with relinquishment. Adoptees should not be prevented from our OBCs because we are in someone's closet, that was my point.
    I am familiar with your many posts and you absolutely have an abundance of character and that is not what I am criticizing. It's the actions of those who prevent me from accessing what is mine, in addition to those that assume adoptees will act harmfully with this info who I have issue with. I truly apologize if I came off as insulting to your situation because I find you to be one that has shown such strength when faced with such disrespectful and treatment.

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  11. Thanks for this wonderful post, Jane. I enjoyed reading it ... and the comments. Such insight, knowledge, and common sense. Thank you again. -daughter of a NJ adoptee

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