Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A BOOK REVIEW - MUST READ FOR FUTURE ADOPTEE RIGHTS ACTIVISTS

I was hell bent on reading a book today as I have to turn the sucker in tomorrow. I hope that I will later be able to purchase the book. It was an excellent read. It was enough motivation associated with the book that I checked into both ballot initiatives in both Texas and Indiana. Texas has a petition to put that option into place for Texans. Indiana has nothing to the effect.

The book is called Adoption Politics: Bastard Nation & Ballot Initiative 58 by E. Wayne Carp. If you have not read it, you need to. Its a great historical lesson for all adoptees and adoptee rights activists. I know that I took many a note from the book.

I learned the explanations behind many of the Court rulings in the battle of Measure 58. Three major arguments that the opposition used were contractual promises of privacy, equal protection violations, and right to privacy.

Two of the major players in many of the battles on adoptee access, Catholic Charities and Right to Life, remained neutral on this issue. Both felt that it would not affect abortion in any way. There is no mention in the book of Bastard Nation or Helen Hill and her crew ever speaking to these organizations about this issue until Measure 58 becoming viable enough to pass muster at the Oregon's Secretary of State's office. I have heard rumors that they were given statistical information that proved otherwise.

In both Tennessee and Oregon, both courts ruled that the state's role in adoption is that of a regulatory agency, not a person of interest. The states are not parties to the adoption. The parties to the adoption are the adoptee, the adoptive parents, and the natural parents.

The terminology is also interesting. In his previous book, Family Matters, E. Wayne Carp also mentions that. Back before the wars on terminology, the legal terminology was not birthmother but natural parents or natural mother and father. I will review that book later as well. I have a little more time to gleam more information of that book.

The second point is the right to privacy. The opposition to this failed to prove that there was a permanent or absolute privacy/confidentiality of the natural mother. In both the Oregon Supreme Court and the U. S. Supreme Court never recognized such a broad pneumbra around personal matters what Measure 58 presumably violated. In abortion, Roe vs. Wade only extends within six months of pregnancy. The Justices said it did not extend past birth. The right to privacy is clearly about the right to be free from governmental intrusion.

The Equal Protection violation that the opposition stated also failed short as well. Women who had abortions had the privilege of privacy. Abortion is really a medical procedure so it falls under HIPPA laws. This Measure 58 denied the same privilege to relinquishing mothers. What is not mentioned is that a child is born and is deserving of the same rights as the mother. One person's rights can not remove another person's rights. Where the attorney Katherine Georges argued this point, women who had abortions did not bear a child therefore the birth certificate issue was irrevelent. The adoptee doesn't get access to the medical records of the relinquishing mother just the original birth certificate. Its funny that this was mentioned in the book. Today in Indiana if an adoptee and relinquishing mother are reunited, the adoptee gets everything including medical records. I have had several adoptees read me their medical information. In fact,I was read psychological evaluations of my natural mother's time there at the maternity home. Roe vs. Wade only extends to within six months of the pregnancy and it certainly does not extend beyond birth.

The contractual argument also comes into play. All three of these arguments are used against adoptees. These so called contracts were between relinquishing mothers and adoption agencies and adoption agencies and adoptive parents. Those are the parties that are bound by the contract. It is adoptees that are forced to honor these contracts. We did not make them. They were made when we were minors. Once one reaches age of majority, that contract falls to the wayside. It has been stated by both E. Wayne Carp and Elizabeth Samuels that the relinquishing mothers did not want confidentiality from their children. They wanted it from the rest of the world. Back in the thirties and forties, when an unwed mother went to an adoption agency, the social worker usually revealed her pregnancy to her friends, family, and her employer when the social worker investigated the unwed mother. That is why many of the mothers went other routes to relinquish. Another mention here should be made. The records were sealed to the relinquishing mothers in the late thirties and early forties. Due to the influence on Florence Clothier by Sigmund Freud, unwed mothers were considered mentally ill and in emotional distress. It was decided by then social workers that mother and child had to be separated and the mother could not have any further contact with her child. Little did they know that it was that act that caused the most harm to the mother. All of this was done supposedly in her best interests of her health. The opposition to the measure stated that the adoption agencies, social workers, and others acted as agents on the behalf of the state. These agents promised confidentiality that the state was honored bound to keep. That was when the judges from this case decided the state's role was purely regulatory and not as a party of interest in the adoption. The state did not contract with the adoption agencies and others with adoptive parents or natural parents. According to contract law, this contract had to be unambiguous with an explicit "promise." The opposition failed to show that in their arguments. There is no statute that prohibits future legislatures to change adoption law. The opposition again failed to prove that point as there was no clause in the laws that would allow for that.

The end result were several conclusions. Adoption records are not sealed at relinquishment but at finalization. The other issue is of course if this was about the natural mothers, then wouldn't they have a copy of that record as well? Interestingly enough, there is not a state law that allows them to have a copy of it. Even now. If a natural mother gets a copy of it, it is before the adoption is final. Adoptees are not asking for the medical records of the relinquishing mother but the original birth certificate. The original birth certificate records their birth. The non adopted do not have to ask permission to see their birth certificates. The non adoptive parents do not have to get special permission to view that record either. Why are adoptees, natural parents and adoptive parents discriminated like this? Why are we treated separately and very differently under the law? One other point was made in this book. At the time of Oregon's constitution was enacted, adoption records were open to the public. Neither the state constitution nor the federal constitution could have supported a right to privacy in a natural mother giving her child up for adoption with not ever revealing her identity to the child because the records were open. In fact, many of the privacy laws in place now can not support this either. The non adopted have the right to access any document with their names on them. Again that separation. According to Brown vs. Board of Education, that is illegal. Separate is not equal.

All in all this book was real eye opener. It explained things for me in terms that I did not fully understand. They attack us from the equal protection, contractual laws and right to privacy. All of which have been debunked in both Oregon and Tennessee. The states do not have a contractual obligation to any one in adoption, i.e. natural parents or adoptive parents. Their purpose is strictly regulatory. There is no real forever confidentiality. It is even more so now. In most states birth indices are public record however not every state publishes those indices. But an adoptee or mother could access those at the vital statistics office. In this day and age, equal protection doesn't apply either. Women who have abortions have to fill out forms that are sent to the state. Many of which no longer allow for the woman to remain anonymous. With Right to Life protesters taking pictures of women and their cars as they enter the women's health clinic/abortion provider, they post these pictures on the web. There is no longer an absolute of privacy. Its time to open the records to the parties of interest, adoptees, natural parents, and adoptive parents.

2 comments:

maybe said...

As a mother, I also want a copy of the original birth certificate. After all, I am the woman who gave birth!

KITE KAMP GIRL said...

That is what really gets me. They want to protect the mothers but yet the records are sealed from them in particular.