Monday, May 23, 2011

More work to do on adoptee access

I just discovered this was published on May 13!  (Maybe my nemesis will see that we really do not disagree much...except in the way we deal with those differences. It's all the last paragraph!)

More work to do on adoptee access

The passage of New Jersey’s Adoption Birthright bill Monday is a long-overdue, momentous day for the adopted people in New Jersey who have waited and worked 30 years for this. And there is great hopeful anticipation that Gov. Chris Christie will sign this bill into law speedily.

However, there is still a long way to go. Instead of giving adopted people unconditional, unrestricted access to their own birth certificates — the same as all other citizens have — this legislation contains restrictions that apply only to adopted-separated citizens.

A birth certificate is a legal document identifying a citizen as he comes into the world. It is a snapshot in time marking an important and unique private and public event and thus is protected by Articles 7 and 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Adoption, which occurs subsequent to birth, legally severs the relationship between mother and child. The mother relinquishes her parental rights and becomes, legally, a nonrelated stranger to her child.

This law now allows this nonrelated stranger, who has relinquished all rights to her child, to go back in time and rewrite history, defacing the adoptee’s original record of his birth by redacting her name. They only have a year to do so, and statistics from other states tell us very few will. But however many do, it is unfair and should not be allowed.

At the same time, mothers who desperately want a copy of a legal document on which they are named, and which represents a monumental moment in their life, the birth of a child — for many their first child, and for some their only child — are denied access to documentation of the event that occurred prior to relinquishment and adoption.

In both of these ways, this law maintains discrimination by treating adoption-separated citizens as a separate class of people with laws that apply only to them and none others, although they are neither minors nor criminals.

“Laws suppressing information about adoptees and/or their birthparents, and laws allowing access to such information only upon consent or registration, or laws allowing access to such information only upon court order, deny adopted persons, their birthparents, and their relatives equal protection of the laws and constitutes unwarranted interference by the government with the right of people to choose whether to associate.” FL-ACLU, April 21, 1987

Additionally, left out of any relief by this bill are people who already have suffered the indignancy of having been abandoned who forever will be denied access to any documentation that might identify the hospital they may have been born in or any other shred of fact.

Legislators believe they have created a compromise that balances the rights of adoptees and their birth parents. This is not true, inasmuch as parents who relinquish their children for adoption relinquish all rights to that child and are promised nothing in return. There is no right to privacy, anonymity or legal protection of secrets and lies nor a right to go back in time and change or erase facts or events. On the other hand, all citizens are allowed unrestricted access to birth certificates on which they are named.

One is a civil rights violation, the other is not.

The governor needs to do the right thing and sign this first step toward total equality. And we need to not stop fighting in New Jersey until all citizens enjoy the same unfettered access to their birth certificates and freedom of association as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Mirah Riben

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