An adoptive mother--Texas State Sen. Donna Campbell--single handedly shot down a bill that would have given anyone adopted in that state the right to their original birth certificates, allowing for the potential to find their natural/birth/biological/first parents, and to learn of any heritable health risks. Sen. Campbell, the adoptive parent in question, pulled the bill back in May, the day it was to be voted on, without explanation.
Hours before the end of the session, the bill's author, Sen. Brandon Creighton, rallied 13 of its co-sponsors, and made a quiet plea to the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, to put the bill back on the calendar before the deadline at midnight, but to no avail.
According the Marcie Purcell of Texas Adoptee Rights, the bill had enough support to pass: "With one emotional plea, a single senator, Donna Campbell, managed to override the will of 30 other senators, public opinion, and years of work," she said. There are 31 senators in the state Senate.
The bill had passed the House in April, 138-1, and passed unanimously through a senate committee, the last stop before a vote of the full senate. What is remarkable about the bill that almost became law is that it had not veto, but the preferred contact preference, allowing those named on the birth certificate (typically only mothers) whether they wanted to be contact by the individual, through an intermediary, or not contacted at all. But at least an adopted individual would most likely have her name, restoring to them the dignity of autonomy, which sealed records denies.
Sen. Creighton said: "In the age of Facebook and social media, and the way families are coming together in spite of these boundaries, we are working to modernize the process."
When I spoke at an American Adoption Congress annual meeting some years ago, I pointed out that adoptive parents had been the greatest stumbling block to open records--then organized through the National Council for Adoption. I raised many hackles that day--I learned that the next few sessions that day were filled with talk and anger over what I said--but this kind of chicanery by adoptive parents in legislatures obviously still occurs and people need to know--in order to stop it. What happened in Texas is outrageous.
However, let me note that in New Hampshire, the individual who led the fight for a clean bill--no veto--in that state's legislature was Lou D'Alessandro, an adoptive father. He is an influential Democratic state senator, and worked hard on getting this bill passed. As it happens, I worked with him and received notes from people in the legislature after it passed.
In New York we too face an uphill and so far unsuccessful fight against a single woman, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein--who uses her considerable power in the state legislature to block any measures that would free adopted people from the iron grip of archaic adoption laws. She is not an adoptive parent. Given my recent encounter with a friend who appeared to be keeping the secret of a child she bore in France, I often think Helene Weinstein is a first/birth mother in hiding, or protecting someone else. Otherwise she is quite a liberal legislator.
How many people must die before all individuals can gain the right of self-autonomy? I've written about this so many times I'm simply going to quote here what I wrote in my recent memoir:
"Adopted individuals were never asked if stripping away their identities and histories was their choice, or in their best interests. These infants and children grow up into adults with all the rights and obligations of the rest of us, yet—due to a contract made by others—they are denied basic facts about themselves. Sealed birth records of any kind, with any restrictions that apply to the person whose record it is, codify the same kind of appalling thinking that allowed slavery to flourish in centuries past.
"Other than slavery, there is no instance in which a contract made among adults over another individual binds him once he becomes an adult. It takes from him full autonomy as a free person; it makes him subject to the whims and preferences of another, and it does so indefinitely and for all time. Anything other than full autonomy—which surely includes the right to know who one was at birth—is wrong morally, wrong legally, wrong anyway it can be interpreted.
"Courts in the past have held—and unquestionably courts in the future will find—that the mother has no constitutional right to remain anonymous from her child, and thus the state has no obligation to keep her identity secret from her offspring.
"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.-- from Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
As explained at the state website, the bill was a good one, and did not treat adoptees as second-class citizens:
"HB 984 would allow adult adoptees born in Texas or, if the adoptee was deceased, specified family members to obtain a noncertified copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate for the same fee and within the same time frame as any other noncertified birth certificate copy.
"Copies of original birth certificates under the bill would not need to be provided until July 1, 2016. Birth parents would have to complete a contact preference form and would be offered the option to complete a supplementary medical history form, both of which would be created by and submitted to the state registrar. The contact form would allow parents to authorize direct contact from the adoptee, to authorize contact through an intermediary specified by the parent, or to prohibit any contact. Completed contact preference forms and medical history forms would be provided to adoptees or to other authorized individuals. DSHS would be required to create the contact preference and medical history forms by January 1, 2016." (Since that date has passed, one assumes that a new date would have been substituted, or be immediately effective.)
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