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Monday, March 11, 2013

Ohio Right to Life Embraces Adoptee Rights








My husband and I have just returned from three glorious days of skiing in Vermont with two of our granddaughters.  For us, it was like history revisited, since Vermont's Sugarbush is where we introduced our two daughters to big mountain skiing many years ago.  Genevieve, on the right, looks just like her mother, and Grace, on the left, acts just like my older daughter did -- protective of her little sister as they looked for hidden trails and little jumps together.  My time on our I-Pad was limited, since Grace had downloaded about 30 games for the long car ride up, but I did check up on the news occasionally.  

How encouraged I was to see that Ohio Right to Life (ORTL), in a dramatic turn-around,  had actually testified in favor of an adoptee rights bill that would allow adopted adults to secure their original birth certificates (OBCs) just like any other citizen.  For years, influential Right to Life groups have testified in opposition to such bills, fearful that they would discourage adoption and perhaps increase abortion rates.  Finally, Ohio Right to Life has come to understand the facts -- that treating adopted adults equally under the law will not encourage women to choose abortion over adoption.

Here's what Stephanie Krider of ORTL told Ohio's House Judiciary Committee in support of the bill that would permit people who had been adopted in Ohio between 1964 and 1996 to secure their OBCs: ..."for faulty reasons for decades, Ohio Right to Life opposed opening adoption records to adoptees born/adopted between 1964 and 1996" because they believed birth mothers had been guaranteed rights of confidentiality and the measure would protect adoptees from potential embarrassment about the circumstances of their birth or from unwanted contact from birth parents.

"Frankly, these are outdated concerns. ..."

She went on to explain that "cultural values have changed" and that being an adoptive parent or relinquishing a child for adoption no longer carry the stigma they once did.

"It is our belief that supporting (this bill) ... would not be a disservice to birth mothers who have placed their child for adoption. Legal guarantees could never have been made to these mothers to ensure their children would never have access to their original birth certificate.

Krider also emphasized that Ohio Right to Life encourages adoption instead of abortion for women who may be facing an unwanted pregnancy. "If we had any reservations about this bill and the effect it would have on chances of women choosing abortion over adoption," she said, " I would not be standing before you in support of the measure today."

Like Krider,  Jaime Miracle of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, also testified in favor of the bill.    While allowing adoptees to access "important family medical information," she explained, the bill also works to protect the privacy of birth parents by allowing them to express their desire for or against being contacted by the adult adoptee.

"This system will, in fact, better protect the privacy of birth parents by creating a system where they can express their preferences for being contacted, which currently does not exist."

Both Krider and Miracle have expressed the truths here that adoptee rights activists have been presenting for years.  Allowing adopted adults to secure their OBCs does not discourage adoption, and it does not encourage abortion.  Statistics from the states and countries that have opened up access prove that this is so.  Original mothers were never guaranteed confidentiality from their own offspring, as every state always had some mechanism by which the records could be opened.  Adopted people find their original families every day, using social networks, and often information from their own adoption decrees.  Without adoptee rights bills, original parents have no way to indicate their desires -- whether they are open to contact, they would prefer not to be contacted, or they would prefer to be contacted through an intermediary.  Most adoptee rights bills, like the one proposed in Ohio, give the original parents the opportunity to express their preferences.  

Data from open access states indicates that the vast majority of relinquishing parents are open to contact.  What a breakthrough that Ohio Right to Life has finally come to recognize this reality.  We can only hope that other Right to Life chapters will follow suit.  The way to promote adoption is not to deny equal rights to adopted people; it is to treat adopted people with the same respect that we afford everyone else.


You might also like:

Adoption and Abortion: It's Not as Simple as Many Pro-lifers Think

Adoption Reform and Political Games

Adoptive Parents and Pro-lifers who Cannot or Will Not See the Realities of Adoption

7 comments:

  1. Why are there date restrictions? Did adoption records close in Ohio in 1964? Because if not, then this is a dirty bill and it is of course unfair to all adoptees born before then.

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    1. The date restrictions had been established in an earlier bill that passed. This bill is the attempt to address those inequalities.

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  2. I feel like I should be jumping for joy over this post but truthfully, I'm not. Of course, I support the open records but the focus is still, as always, on the adults. There is no mention that it is the child who had NO say and actually lived being adopted. And that said child does grow up and becomes an adult who is entitled to all information about his existence just as any non-adopted person is.

    I am concerned about what Ms. Miracle said. She is again giving all the power to the parents by stressing their right to privacy. If the natural parent opts for a contact veto, is the adoptee still able to get his or her OBC?

    It pains me to think of all of the adult adoptees who have passed on without being able to find their parents because of this antiquated thinking, which the Ohio Right to Life now realizes is wrong.

    On a side note, I don't think that any relinquishing parents today should have the right to have a totally closed adoption. They should all be informed that every child has the right to know who his or her parents and extended family are and to his complete medical history.

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  3. I do agree with what you're saying here, Robin, but I am so used to hearing the truly horrible testimony from New Jersey Right to Life that this testimony really did sound like a a breath of fresh air to me. In New Jersey, we have had the added problem of the ACLU opposing adoptee rights bills because it thinks the bills unfairly curtail a women's reproductive choices! How are we to even combat such an illogical position? The rights of children to their own history are unfortunately not even on its radar screen. Obviously, we still have a long, long way to go. But maybe the stance of ORTL will influence other Right to Life chapters -- they continue to be a huge stumbling block in many states.

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  4. It is hopeful to at least hear one strong opponent finally support our position. It's just hard for me not to feel that as long as it is about the natural parents that we aren't going to get anywhere It is not about them.

    I am so grateful that we have your powerful and eloquent voice on our side.

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  5. Robin-
    I agree with you. And I don't understand WHY after all this time we have had child abuse laws in this country (or even before) no one has ever stressed that rejecting your child (through purposeful adoption) is a horrible, horrible thing to do. If some woman who was married walked out on her baby she would be called every name in the book. But it is fine to give your baby to strangers and walk away? Why don't they ever connect the dots that both babies are going to feel the same exact hurt? Adoptive mothers do not make up for the pain of losing a natural mother. No parent should have the right to deny contact either and any parent that does is an abuser imo. I also don't like the fact that we don't really know if an adoptee's mother or father really did request no contact or if another relative did it.

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