I recently signed the petition to declare July 28 National Adoptee Equal Rights Day. You can sign too right here. I'm not sure how much petitions like this help our cause, but along with other activist movements like the upcoming demonstration in Chicago by the Adoptee Rights Coalition (ARC), they surely can't hurt.
The petition is sponsored by the American Adoption Congress (AAA), RI-CARE, NJ-CARE, EqualAccess4Adoptees.org and Adoption Crossroads, Inc., and it begins with a concise and coherent summary explaining why sealed records in adoption are discriminatory and unacceptable.
The more voices that can be counted in these reform efforts, the more likely it is that the media and legislators will begin to take note. The Adoptee Rights movement continues to be misunderstood in many circles, but it is a classic civil rights struggle.
As I wrote in my comment at the petition website, "This issue has been politicized by misinformed groups with ideological agendas, and by agencies and attorneys who feel it is in their best interests financially to maintain the status quo. The facts can be easily secured by viewing the data from states that have restored adoptees' access to their own legal documents of birth."
I have compiled some telling facts for the following articles, and you can view them for yourself at these sites:
Pro-Life Ideology and Adoptee Rights
Why do State Bar Associations Oppose Adoptee Rights?
Sealed Records Are Wrong. Period.
ACLU-NJ Misses the Mark on Adoption
Sealed Records -- A Secret the Industry Would Like to Keep
NCFA Is Not the "Expert" on Adoption Issues
Adult Adoptee Access -- A Civil Right Long Overdue
In the meantime, I'd like to repeat the thoughts of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., who once defined an "unjust law" as one that a majority of people inflicts on a minority, and one with which the majority is not expected to comply. Adoptees, obviously, comprise a minority group -- it is estimated that they make up 2 to 2.5 percent of the population. And the majority has decided that this minority group is a special class of people who therefore must be subjected to a special kind of law. While all other Americans as adults can freely apply for and receive their original birth certificates, at minimal expense, the adoptee cannot because the majority has decided that she is ineligible for this particular civil right because of her unique status.
And if the adoptee has a particular medical need? While she is feeling totally vulnerable as a result of her medical condition, she can petition the courts for information at her own expense, but in most states, her success depends totally on the discretion of the judge. What if she would like to explore her own genealogy, as many other Americans love to do, as evidenced by the success of such websites as Ancestry.com and the recent NBC show "Who Do You Think You Are?", in which celebrities traced their roots. Sorry, says the majority -- as an adoptee, her personal past is none of her business.
Is it not possible for the majority to see how unjust this system is, particularly since it has now become clear that in surrender documents, original mothers were never promised anonymity from their own offspring? In defining an "unjust law," Martin Luther King Jr. went on to say that a law is particularly discriminatory when the minority that is affected has had no part in designing or enacting the law.
Obviously, adoptees never had any part in designing the sealed record laws that would forever yoke them to a lifetime restraining order preventing them from knowing their own ancestors and genetic make-up. The majority enacted that law long ago, when the adoptee was a helpless and vulnerable baby, incapable of speaking for herself.
It is mind boggling that in our current open society, in which it is clear that the vast majority of original parents, both past and present, do not desire anonymity from their own offspring, that legislators continue to resist the efforts that would update the draconian and clearly unjust laws still on the books in most of the United States.
What can we do to change the situation? I try to educate people and secure new allies through this blog. We can sign on-line petitions and add our personal comments. We can write letters to the editor and challenge the media when it glorifies adoption without presenting its complexities and inequities. We can send donations to the Adoptee Rights Coalition (ARC), which will demonstrate on August 6 in Chicago at the National Conference of State Legislatures Annual Summit.
The purpose of the demonstration on the sixth and activities through August 9 is to allow adoptee rights proponents to meet directly with state legislators and their staffs, educating them about the need for adoption reform. The focus is on reinstating the adopted adult's right to access his or her own legal document of birth.
I can't attend the demonstration in August, but I'm going to send a donation this week. ARC is a nation-wide grassroots movement, and city permits, booth rentals, and educational materials cost money. I wish my friends great success in their efforts. You can learn more about ARC's initiatives and how to support them here.
Trying to change a culture is frustrating and overwhelming at times. We all have busy lives, and we can only do what we can do. Alone, we can't accomplish much, but together, we can and will have an impact.