Sunday, June 13, 2010

Adoptees and Their Mothers Deserve Equal Human Rights

The following has been submitted as an OP ed to the NY Times, USA today and elsewhere. (This is an example of how to support a bill while encouraging some changes in it...but not simply opposing it entirely as some do.)

Adoptees and Their Mothers Deserve Equal Human Rights

As New York and New Jersey legislators hear the arguments on adoptees’ rights I hope they will listen to the mothers whose alleged right to privacy is so hotly debated.

I am a former director of the American Adoption Congress, author of two books and numerous articles on adoption.

I am a mother who relinquished a child for adoption in New York in 1968 and co-founder the first and only NJ-based national support organization for mothers who lost children to adoption. For more than three decades I have counseled hundreds of mothers longing to know the outcome of the children they sacrificed. I held their hands and wiped their tears and have reunited hundreds of families separated by adoption - reunions initiated by adoptees, birth and adoptive parents.

I have also read the relinquishment agreements these mothers signed, which state that they are relinquishing their right to parent their child(ren) for his minority years.

The only promises relinquishing mothers were given were that we would forget (not true) and that our children would have a "better life" if we let them be adopted (also not totally true).

A better life does not include being denied the same right as non-adopted citizens to one’s own original and true birth certificate nor requiring parental permission to speak to another adult.

Do all mothers who relinquished feel the same way? Of course not. While ninety percent or more welcome being found, many have lived their lives in secrecy. However, laws do not protect the minority, there is no constitutional right to privacy and there are no other laws that protect anyone’s lies and secrets.

Men are sought and forced to accept their paternal responsibilities.

In the Internet age anyone can be found and those who wish not to be have the option of changing their name.  Sufficient laws exist to protect all of us from unwanted harassment or stalking. Laws that apply only to certain citizens who have committed no crime are discriminatory.

Those who speak for and about the alleged rights of birth mothers privacy represent those who profit from our losses and well-meaning pro-lifers who believe the adoption industry's intentionally false, unsubstantiated claims about access increasing abortions.

They do not speak for us. HEAR US!! We were never promised anonymity from our children nor do we want it. The statistics prove that out state after state.

NY and NJ legislators need to do the right thing and restore rights taken from innocent adoptees in a time when illegitimate birth status was a stigma and being adopted was kept a secret.
Adults who were adopted as children deserve equality. They need to be made equal to their non-adopted peers. They have a right to their own birth certificate and to their pediatric medical records. They do not however need to violate the intent of HIPAA laws in regard to access of mothers’ medical or social history (other than ethnicity) taken by a social worker in private counseling session designed to help an expectant mother in a time of stress. Relinquishing parents never signed waivers of release for these confidential records.

Adoptees need to be whole and equal. Allow adoptees unfettered, unrestricted access to their original birth certificates just as all other NJ citizens enjoy. Allow them the ability to acquire all other information about their personal medical, social and genealogical history as all other citizens do: verbally from the living family members. No other children have access to their parents’ medical records, nor vice versa once the child is an adult.

Adoptees deserve equal human rights and their mother deserve to have promises made to them upheld. They deserve no less and no more than that. 

Mirah Riben, author, "The Stork Market: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry"


Von said...

What a marvellous statement!!

Mirah Riben said...

Thanks, Von. I will be testifying (hopefully) tomorrow in Trenton and hope to have time to day as much of this as time permits.

d28bob said...

Mirah, I wonder if we should be using the term "adopted adult" instead of adoptee. Most spellcheckers won't even recognize the word, and lay people may not understand exactly what is meant. "Adopted adult" makes it plain who we are talking about, and reinforces that we are no longer minor children.

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