Saturday, November 21, 2009

birth parents privacy rights is a lie concocted by the opponents of adoptee rights

by Joyce Bahr

The National Council for Adoption formed in 1980 after England unsealed birth certificates in 1975 and a federal class action lawsuit by 19 members of the New York chapter of the Adoptees Liberty Movement Association was defeated, because a Texas republican senator and adoptive parent used his power to do so. Also at this time adoption social workers were communicating with the U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare about reforming adoption and HEW wanted to open records for adoptees and birth parents throughout the country.

There is speculation the NCFA was formed not only to promote adoption but to prevent adoptee and birth parent rights, and this they have done. Not only did they lobby against the Tennessee and Oregon open records bills they legally challenged the new laws. However they were unsuccessful in court challenges to the Tennessee Supreme court, the U.S. Court of Appeals to the Sixth Circuit and the Oregon Appellate Court, as they were unable to produce even one written promise of confidentiality. Also they were unable to prove unsealing birth certificates would cause more abortions.

During the Tennessee initiative to open records only one agency in the state, The Small World Adoption Agency operated by the Mormon Church joined the NCFA to lobby against the bill while other adoption agencies in the state spoke out, saying the NCFA does not want to reform adoption.

The NCFA is a Washington, DC-based trade association with 184 private agency members of which 61% are either Latter Day Saints or Bethany Christian Services-affiliated. They advocate for confidential adoption and deny that adoptees have the need for contact and information about birth families. They fail to recognize grief issues for adoptees and for mothers who surrendered to adoption. For many years they have said the few adoptees who search and are degenerates and misfits. The thousands of birth/natural mothers who have searched are not mentioned at all. Instead of any concern for mothers and acknowledgement of the injustice of forced adoptions they continue their lies of privacy rights.

Surrendering mothers like myself signed surrender papers terminating parental rights for the purpose of adoption placement, and these papers state nothing about confidentiality or a privacy right afforded mothers. When abortion was legalized in 1973 women were given a legal right to privacy in the early trimester of abortion, but there was never any right given to mothers who surrendered, and adoption agencies never gave us a document signed by them stating we would have confidentiality. Certainly agencies could never give anyone a right and they had no intention of giving a mother legal confidentiality. No options to keep your baby were presented and most mothers were manipulated and coerced in a surrender process all about signing the baby away.

Some social workers made statements indicating a surrendering mother would have confidentiality, but what did it mean? Was it legally binding, when courts have held that adoption professionals' verbal sratements of confidentiality cannot be permitted to tie the hands of legislatures? No,neither a social more nor a verbal statement are legally binding and are not supported in a statute. For some the word confidentiality was heard because the agency wanted to let you know they had no intention of telling anyone you were pregnant out of wedlock, but they were not saying they could some how prevent your child from one day finding you. Nor could they prevent social mores from changing. It was confidential however, no confidentiality was given.

Did mothers ask for confidentiality? No, it was imposed on some of them and in private adoptions attorneys never mentioned it. Pregnant mothers were being told what to do and doomed to lose their child because they were unmarried. Doomed to suffer the unbearable pain and agony of postponed or delayed grief or immediate grief.

Research by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, the foremost think tank on adoption issues in their study, For the Records, Restoring a Legal Right for Adult Adoptees finds there is no constitutional right to prevent the disclosure of "confidential" information. Courts have held that the constitutional right of privacy has never included a general right to the nondisclosure of all forms of information that an individual may prefer to keep secret.

Most Americans support adoptees and birth parents in their search and many do search, however if there were a right to privacy for birth parents or adoptees it could have put a damper on searching a long time ago. So there are no privacy rights for birth mothers or fathers and there is no justification for denying adoptees the inalienable right to a copy of their own birth certificate. Mutual consent registries do not work for all and give many no other recourse than to search.

The NCFA should not speak for the thousands of adult adoptees who want to quit wondering, have questions answered, and who realize the importance of knowing their identity for health and well being. It should be the adult adoptees decision to seek the answer to their identity and be able to request a copy of their birth certificate if they so choose. The Donaldson report released in November of 2007 did not rely on disapproved assumptions and the misrepresentation of statistical data as the NCFA would like people to believe. The report recommends for every state's laws to restore unrestricted assess for adult adopted persons to their original birth certificate and it acknowledges the fundamental right to know.

Joyce Bahr is President of the Unsealed Initiative and founder of Manhattan Birth Parents Support Group which she lead for twelve years and is a member of the American Adoption Congress Legislative Committee. She found her son in1986.

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