|A Simple Piece of ORIGINAL Paper denied the adopted|
Indiana yesterday passed such a bill that now only awaits Gov. Mike Pence's signature, which is a expected, as he worked with Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records, according to Pam Kroskie, president. "Today marks a tremendous victory for hundreds of thousands of people adopted in Indiana," she said, "...regardless of the year they were born. The bill covers people who were adopted from 1941 through 1993, the group that was left out of previous legislation and had no access to their original records.
A VETO BY ANY NAME IS A VETO
The same kind of veto (or permission to redact one's name) has been attached to a previously good, clean bill in Missouri. A clean bill with nearly 50 sponsors passed the Missouri House Children and Families Committee earlier this month. But Catholic Charities and Lutheran Family and Children's Services were able to muster passage of different bill, with redaction and disclosure vetoes, by the same committee. Due to the way the process works in Indiana, both bills were combined into a new bill on Feb. 18th and will now go to the floor for a full vote. There is no further opportunity for more hearings. The vote will be up or down.
BUT WAIT! 'REDACTION' ONLY MEANS THE MOTHER'S NAME
However--and this is an important however--if a mother asks for her name to be redacted, the adoptee still gets the birth certificate with everything on it except her name. That means his original name will be on the document that he gets from the state. Only if there is a father listed, and that father also asks for redaction, will be OBC be denied. Thus this will affect a minuscule number of people--if any.
We don't know whether to cheer or cry. On the one hand, hundreds of thousands of people in Indiana, and possibly Missouri, will be able to access their full, accurate, unamended birth certificates. New Jersey's law, after decades of work, ended up with the same kind of veto and will go into effect into 2017; those on the birth certificates have until then to file a veto, and Catholic Charities is acting as if the sky is going to fall when women will not be able to file their redactions and stay in the closet. (Or are they protecting the priests who might have fathered children, as their reunited mothers will tell? Just asking.) No matter what, disclosure vetoes affect very few people, as very few birth mothers file them.
As the American Adoption Congress has shown, as of 2015, fewer than 600 women requested "no contact" in the six states that opened their records since 2000, out of nearly 800,000 sealed birth certificates in those states. That is .0007, or seven-one hundredths of 1 percent! In essence, only 1 of out of every 1,429 mothers named on sealed birth certificates in those states have requested no contact. In those six states approximately 30,000 people to date have asked for their original birth certificates, and the number continues to grow. How many received a no-contact request is unknown.
LEGISLATORS ARE STUCK IN THE PAST
But. A no-contact request is disappointing, disheartening, hurtful, but not at bottom, unjust. It announces a preference, but it does not strip the right to know one's identity. I've written about this a great many times over the decades, and so I'm going to quote here from Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption:
"There is nothing fair about these vetoes. They give the individual who wishes to remain anonymous the right to deprive another knowledge about one’s being that the rest of us enjoy without asking and have always taken for granted. For those of us who know who we are—who have known since the age of reason—the enormity of this blank wall in the mental makeup of another individual is impossible to fully grasp. You were raised Jewish but maybe you were supposed to be Episcopalian. You were raised in a hot-blooded Italian family but you’re cool and less excitable. You are something else. Your mother is a poet but all you care about is politics.
These vetoes are becoming the path states are mistakenly taking as they move to unseal birth records of the adopted. Reflecting the zeitgeist of an earlier era when an out-of-wedlock birth was the cause of great scandal, these half-way measures today are chauvinistic holdovers of that time. Legislators who enact them insist they are protecting these scandalous women from—whom? Their own children.
But the laws that sealed birth certificates were never designed to give mothers anonymity. The goal was quite the opposite: The laws were written to shield the adoptive family from the natural mother’s interference. It was presumed that she would want to know what happened to her child, and adoptive parents did not want her intruding.
Despite how desperate a woman may have been to keep her baby’s birth a secret at the time, today that assumption has been subverted to allow her to hide from that child, and thus prevent his ever knowing his real identity. In effect, the state has set up a system that allows this type of identity theft, issues him fake ID papers, and offers no recourse. These new laws are not fair and equitable. These laws make a mockery of justice for all.
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.
While these veto-burdened laws perpetuate a great injustice, they do this in the name of the very few. In free states where adopted individuals may obtain their original, intact birth certificates, mothers not wishing to be contacted may file such a preference with the state, and this is passed on should their adult children request their original birth certificates.
Some may see a mother’s right to anonymity as a twisted extension of her “right to choose.” But surely that right ends with her, and does not extend to future generations. Only in a Kafkaesque hell would someone grant anyone the right to erase the past history of another and sentence him to a state of genetic ignorance. Yet that is precisely what sealed records, and those laws that allow a mother’s veto, do.
It is not a hidden mass of natural mothers demanding such a twisted interpretation of fairness when states attempt to correct the wrongs of the past. Instead it is legislators listening to the ghosts of the past. It is adoption agencies and their agents, adoption attorneys—even search companies—who perpetuate the image of the vulnerable, fearful woman at the time of her greatest anguish, and place her in the present now, needing protection from her own flesh and blood. But she is a straw woman created by an industry fearful of change and of being discovered to have been wrong all these years.
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."
In New York, the effort to push for clean legislation has been stalled again and again by a single woman--Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, Democrat of Brooklyn. In all other respects, she is quite liberal. I have come to believe that she is hiding someone--either herself or a friend--who wishes to remain anonymous from her child. Knowing how other mothers in the closet and fathers fearful of disclosure have reacted, this is the only explanation I can come up with for Weinstein's inexplicable and unyielding denial of rights.--lorraineHOUSE COMMITTEE AMENDMENT NO. 1
 Samuels, “Surrender and Subordination: Birth Mothers and Adoption Law Reform,” Michigan Journal of Gender and Law, 2013, Vol 20: 1, pp. 32-81.
Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
Hole In My Heart is the kind of book you have to read in one go. When I did, over a weekend not long ago, I found myself transported back in time. For while Hole In My Heart is an incredibly personal story of one woman's pregnancy and the loss of her child to adoption, it is also the story of every woman of that time who longed for more than the mainstream thought we should have.
Reading Hole In My Heart feels like having a cup of coffee with Lorraine while she recounts painful experiences that would bring the strongest person to their knees. And yet in spite of overwhelming loss and betrayal, both held deep in her heart while she fought the workplace and family battles that make up the stuff of women's lives, Lorraine retained humor (love her dry sarcasm, delivered at the most appropriate times) and an amazing ability to pick herself up and keep going. I do not say "move on," because Lorraine most definitely didn't do that. She took stock of where the world was at in relationship to adoptees and first parents, strapped on her sword and fought a very good fight for justice on their behalf.
I appreciate the factual and historical information about adoption policy, law and the fight for open birth records - very important information for anyone interested or working in adoption reform. But mostly I appreciate the way in which Lorraine shared her experience: without varnish or apology. This makes Hole In My Heart much more than an adoption book. It's a book about all women, really, and the strength with which we survive, thrive and do good work in spite of the challenges and pain we face."--Margie Perscheid (Third Mom blogger) at Goodreads