We hope that Right to Life and Catholic Conference chapters in other states will take note, and that they too will come to see that granting civil rights to adoptees does not weaken, but in fact strengthens the institution of adoption. Catholic bishops and Right to Life groups have been a formidable obstacle to adoptee rights in the past; unfortunately, so have some state chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In New Jersey, we have battled the ACLU for years. In the past, the organization's leadership seemed to think that denying civil rights to a grown adoptee is acceptable because doing so enables a woman to make private reproductive choices.
The ACLU stance is logically inconsistent with its mission statement, and we are hoping that with new leadership in New Jersey, it will reevaluate its position on this issue. After all, if Ohio Right to Life and the Catholic Conference of Ohio can admit that they have been mistaken about adoptee rights, so can ACLU-NJ! Here is my open letter to Mr. Udi Ofer, the new executive director of ACLU-NJ:
Dear Mr. Ofer:
I am a member of the legislative team at New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education (NJCARE), and I am writing to express my strong opinion that ACLU-NJ has been on the wrong side of history when it comes to restoring the right of adopted adults to access their original birth certificates.
The states of Oregon and Alabama restored this right in 2000, and in the past decade, the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island have likewise restored this right. The states of Kansas and Alaska never sealed original birth certificates from adoptees, and Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Washington all have pending bills.
At its very core, this is a civil rights issue, because adopted adults continue to be treated differently by law in New Jersey than every other American citizen. That is institutional discrimination, and it continues to exist for no good reason. If the document that records my own birth does not belong to me, we might ask, “Who does it belong to?”
The history of adoption reveals that records were never sealed to protect original families, but to protect the adoptee from the “stigma of illegitimacy,” and the adoptive family from “unwarranted intrusion.” Even the courts have ruled that original parents could never have been granted legal anonymity from their own offspring.
Adoptee rights legislation is about civil rights; it is not about reunions. There is a profound difference between knowledge about one’s own history and relationship. Obviously, it takes two to agree to have a relationship, and how two adults decide to conduct their own very personal affairs is frankly no one’s business except for their own.
ACLU-NJ in the past has shown a shocking disregard for the rights of adopted people, and it has wrongly assumed that the rights of original parents and adoptees conflict. Adoptee rights bills are just and effective, and the data from open access states and from those countries that are far ahead of us in restoring adoptee rights is easily accessible.
I implore you to study the facts before the ACLU takes a position on any pending adoption legislation in New Jersey. I am including for you an article published this year at numerous adoption reform sites that outlines how illogical the ACLU’s position has been. I write in the hope that you will study it with an open mind.
I and other members of NJCARE would be happy to meet with you to discuss this issue at any time. Please feel free to contact me at the number below.
Susan T. Perry
Member, Legislative Team
New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education (NJCARE)
To those of you reading this blog post, you can read my article about the inconsistencies in ACLU-NJ's position on adoptee rights here. Please feel free to use any or all of it in your own lobbying efforts. Let's carry on with renewed effort. Progress is slow, but the facts are on our side!
You might also like:
Why do State Bar Associations Oppose Adoptee Rights?
The Ethics of Adoption and Reproductive Technology
Adoptee Rights and a Woman's Reproductive Choices