WHAT GOES AROUND………
Today, I have experienced one of the top two or three moments in all my years as an activist for adoptee rights! Here’s how it came about.
My granddaughters’ nanny, Miss Deb, had recently mentioned to my daughter in law
that she was adopted. "Deb wrote to the state of Oregon nearly 20 years ago to
get her birth certificate," said my daughter in law. Deb thought, as so
many of us did, that we adoptees could NEVER get that information from the state
- any state - in our country.
"Have I got someone for you!" said my daughter in law. And of course, she was
referring to me.
I met Miss Deb a few days ago. She greeted me with, "Hey, we’ve got something in
common." We hugged each other because we do have something very much in common -
we were both adopted - and we felt a special bond forming that day. When I heard
that Deb was born in Oregon, I jumped so high I touched the sky.
Deb told me that although she was born in Oregon she had no idea that she could
now get her original birth certificate. I told her about Measure 58. But it was
hard for her to take it all in at once.
"But I don’t know my birthmother’s name." Deb said, thinking that this fact
would still preclude her from getting any records. I explained the beauty of
"You mean I’ll get a copy of my original birth certificate with my birthmother’s
NAME on it?!!"
"Yep," said I, feeling like Ed McMahon handing out the million-dollar
sweepstakes check. "Her last name too?" asked Deb. "Yep," I said, handing over
"Next time I come," I assured her, "I’ll bring you all the details."
And so, in anticipation of our visit tomorrow, I just came from the Oregon
website where I downloaded copies of the procedure, the application form, and
even a little of the history for Deb. I feel extraordinarily happy today! All
those years of battering brick walls, hoping to crack open one of them, has not
been in vain.
Part of why I’m feeling so elated is because I was on the spot, literally, when
Measure 58 was born. It happened at the first Bastard Nation Conference, "Birth
of a Bastard Nation," in July 1997 in Chicago. The keynote speaker at the
conference was Randy Shaw, an activist whose books include "The Activist’s
Handbook" and "Reclaiming America: Nike, Clean Air, and the New National
After Mr. Shaw’s stirring address, he was milling with the crowd. And there I
was, right there in that same crowd as Randy when he casually turned to a
stranger who was standing next to me. He asked her politely where she was from.
"Oregon," she told him. "Oregon! That’s a great state for ballot initiatives. "
replied Randy, "We need to talk." Helen Hill was that woman!
Later that day, we all took to the streets of downtown Chicago in a torrential
downpour to march in front of the James Thompson Illinois Center. There were
tornado warnings that day - but it didn’t stop us. In the pouring rain we
marched around the plaza at lunchtime in the heart of downtown Chicago, chanting
and handing out flyers. We heard all sorts of comments from passers by - and
many of those comments weren’t very nice! But we were too heady with enthusiasm
to let that bother us. We were so excited we didn’t even know to come in out of
the rain. And as we marched with our hand made posters, I remember thinking,
"There’s that pleasant woman again, still in a huddle with Randy Shaw."
Not three weeks later, Helen was back home in Oregon already researching ballot
measures. Flurries of email posts were flying furiously back and forth between
Helen, Shea Grimm, and many other Bastard Nationals on our email list. Helen had
already started the research. She was bound and determined to make it work in
Oregon and she was ready to finance the venture herself if necessary. It turned
out that she personally funded Measure 58 to a tune of $120,000, money left to
her by her adoptive father.
And the rest is history. On November 3, 1998 there was an overwhelming victory
at the polls. The people said YES. The opponents didn’t want to listen to the
people and so a two-year court battle ensued at both the state and federal level.
Finally, on June 12, 2000, the battle was won! Oregon adoptees were now able to
begin requesting and receiving, unconditionally, their original birth
certificates! To date, over 8,000 adoptees have taken advantage of Measure 58.
Helen Hill, Shea Grimm, Marley Greiner, Damzel Plum, Ron Morgan, Cyn Holub and
too many other wonderful Bastards to name here exhibited the most incredible
energy, perseverance, and dedication I have ever witnessed. The seed planted by
Randy Shaw back in July 1997 become a hard fought reality. I was there when it
all started and here I am today to experience the feeling of Oregon open records
in full bloom.
What a momentous and exhilarating time that was. Victory was so sweet. And
today, it’s become a lot sweeter because I met Deb.
"Don’t ever let anyone tell you that one person cannot make a difference."