Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DNA Game Changer - Part I: Thoughts on the "birthparent privacy" argument

Legislative efforts to restore access to original birth certificates have, unfortunately, focused primarily on search and reunion.  Emotional testimony from adoptees, first parents and "adoption experts" have been countered by equally emotional testimony and speeches by agencies, legislators, and other "adoption experts".  There is talk of "balancing the rights" and "compromise" as if any other individual's rights to his or her OWN record of birth is also subject to permission from the state, a judge, or the parents named thereon. 

Advocates focusing on restoring the right to access birth records have tried to keep the two separate, pointing out that, in most states, even reunited adoptees are not allowed access to their own birth records, and that the birth records of long deceased adoptees are unavailable to their descendants. 

Mutual consent registries, like the one in New York, will typically "reunite" registrants that have been matched but access to the birth record still requires a court order which a judge will not give you because "you already have the information". Other states will provide a "birth transcript" or "identifying information contained in the birth record" but not the birth record itself.  For those who need the information to advance their searches, the chance of having the information within their grasp is enough to make them support "compromise" legislation that may be to the near term and long term detriment of themselves and many of their fellow adoptees.

But what if we could separate "search and reunion" from access to the original birth record?  What if there was a better way to search that would reveal information that was not on the original birth record or even in the adoption file?

Once upon a time, sealed records were impediments to search and reunion.  If an adoptee did not have access to his or her sealed adoption file, there was little chance that a search for family could even be started, much less successfully completed.  Successful searches relied upon adoptive parents retaining a memory of a name mentioned or a document seen.  In direct contradiction of what courts, legislators and agencies are NOW telling us, some adoptive parents were actually GIVEN documents that contained the names of the relinquishing parents.

As time went on, laws changed and adoptees were given "non-identifying information" as a pacifier in lieu of access to the original birth record. While not a restoration of access rights, "non-ID" was a tremendous boost for many searches. Some states even passed legislation to provide birth information access for some or all of their adoptees. Adding online resources for genealogy, people search and social media to the mix initiated a flood of successful searches along with a growing population of adoptees (and descendants of adoptees) who had never searched before because they had zero information to start with.

The argument started to shift.  On the one hand, advocates demanded equal rights to that Simple Piece of Paper. Not reunion. Not medical history. Just the birth record. On the other hand, opponents were still pushing the "what if your mother doesn't want to be found?" argument. Advocates explained that there were "plenty of other ways" for searches to be completed but opponents countered with "we don't have to make it easier for you", implying that only a few lucky adoptees were successful in their searches and that sealed records would still prevent the vast majority of adoptees from "intruding" on an unsuspecting birthmother's life.

Then came the DNA revolution.


  1. This is an issue that still needs to be kept in the public awareness. Sadly, however, the generation of adoptees most affected by sealed records - the Baby Boomers - are getting older and losing hope of ever reconciling the missing links of their past. The birth parents of these adoptees are elderly and passing away. An entire generation of adoptees born between the late 1940s and early 1960s has fought for adoption record reform and made some small gains. But its still not enough until EVERY STATE in this country allows FULL AND UNRESTRICTED access to original birth certificates and all documentation relating to the adoption to every adult adoptee who requests it. Nothing less is acceptable.

    1. The truth is the ones who don't want to be found are the vast minority. What the adoption industry doesn't want us to find out is how much trickery was used to coerce our families into relinquishing us...and that is the true reason for closed records.

  2. All educated and ethical people and entities support every person knowing their genetic origins. Science and Social Media have made closed record laws obsolete and have tax-paying adults who are allowed to drive, vote, marry, parent,divorce, retire and collect social security treated as second class citizens on this issue. Having one's own first medical record, an original birth certificate, allows a person to know their genetic heritage. We know that over 6,000 illnesses run in families and there are no DNA tests for those.

    For those who cannot see the basic inequality of that situation, consider this point: there are direct to consumer DNA tests which are being used to discover blood relatives and those family members ask everyone in the family who this person may have been born of. Not very private. Social media signs are not very private. So if someone is concerned about privacy, the most private thing to do is to restore access to original birth certificates.

  3. Missouri was going to allow descendants of adoptees' to be able to get the OBC until they amended (dirtied up) the bill some more. Somebody please tell me why the descendants of a deceased adoptee need a COURT ORDER to receive their parent's original birth certificate? Why do we have to beg for and 'prove' our legitimate right to a simple piece of paper? Considering the fact that, if our parent was still living, we could receive it through them! Do those who promote and pass these compromise bills not realize that this effects the descendants the same way? Do they not realize what a distressing and hurtful thing this is?

    When there is contradiction / changing stories about anything doesn't that usually indicate someone is lying, trying to cover up the truth?! The truth is a lot of babies and children were forcibly taken from their mothers. What better way to cover things up than to keep the records as or more "secret", as or more "confidential" than any other government documents. The time frame that some want to keep the records closed (99 years plus) ought to reveal just how much there is to hide.

    Anything less than fully open records for the parties they pertain to, and their descendants, is wrong.


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