I have been reading editorials from various New Jersey newspapers supporting the New Jersey Adoptee Birthright Bill, A1406. The bill has passed both houses and now has only one more hurdle. A1406 awaits Governor Christie’s signature in order to become the law.
These editorials shout out how good it is that adoptees will finally have the “right to know.” So many citizens now agree that it’s a good thing for adoptees to finally be able to see their original birth certificate and learn about their past and so they cheer for A1406.
The supporters of the bill say that one of the reasons why A1406 is a good bill is because it contains a “balance of rights.” If Gov. Christie signs the bill, birth parents will get a new right, in law, to veto the issuance of an original birth certificate to their “adult children.” All the birth parents need to do is file an affidavit of disclosure, within the year, requesting that the state keep their identities secret. The affidavit insures that these birthparents will retain their anonymity from their adult adoptees. This request is accomplished by preventing their adult children from receiving an original birth certificate, even though original birth certificates will soon be issued to the other adopted adults in the state. Here’s how it will work.
When a birthparent files the veto, the adoptee is automatically bumped off of the “Right to Know” list. The adoptee’s name will then be indelibly inscribed on “The Right NOT to Know” List, meaning that he or she will not receive an unaltered original birth certificate like the other adoptees. These adoptees will receive only an amended document of their original birth certificate with all identifying information whited-out.
It’s impossible for me to accept the reasons that legislators, the media, lobbying groups, adoption agencies, attorneys, major church organizations, et.al, give for insisting that the adoptee’s “right to know” has to be somehow balanced with the birth mother’s new right to remain anonymous. These groups chose to wear blinders or else they are ignorant about the original intent of sealed records. They are revisionists, rewriting history. For their own personal interests, they have found it expedient to elevate birth mothers to the top of the food chain – something that never happened. Ask any first mother how she was treated at the time she relinquished her child.
This revisionist version of history says that promises and assurances were made to first mothers long ago that their identities would be kept secret from their children forever. Now that the state is getting reading to unseal most original birth certificates, it believes that it must uphold these long-ago “promises”. And the way they will do that is to snuff out an adoptee’s right to know.
The irony of the situation is that the birth certificate is sealed only upon the decree of adoption, not upon the birth mother’s relinquishment. A child relinquished but not adopted has an unsealed birth certificate. If protection of the birth mother was intended, the original birth certificate would be sealed upon the termination of her legal relationship to the child, not at the beginning of the legal relationship of the adoptive family.
If truth be told, adoptive parents were relieved that birth certificates were sealed because many of them were afraid that the birth parent might locate them a few years later and grab their child back. I know my mother was always afraid that “that other family” as she called them, might kidnap me. (Could that have been her conscience bothering her?)
The adoptive family was considered sacred in law - the forever family - and no outsider should ever be let in. What better way to accomplish this than to impound and seal in perpetuity all birth records.
It is readily apparent that our birth records were not sealed to protect our first parents from anything. Therefore, there should be no acceptable reason today for the state to give any birth mother a new right, in the law, to keep her identity a secret from her child. Furthermore, the state has no business upholding promises made between private parties.
In 1999, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, holding that birth mothers have no constitutional guarantee of privacy regarding the fact that they relinquished a child, despite promises they may have received that their identities would be protected. [Doe v State of Oregon, 164 Or.App. 543, 993 P. 2nd 833, 834 (1999).
If the state wants to restore the “right to know” to its adopted citizens, then it must guarantee, through legislation, that 100% of the adopted men and women will receive the same right. It is the civil and human right of every adoptee in the state to be able to request and receive an unaltered, original birth certificate, with no vetoes or other conditions tacked on.
The New Jersey Adoptee Rights Bill, A1406, does not guarantee the “right to know” to each and every adopted person in the state. The bill adds to the adoption law a new “right” allowing first mothers to keep their identities secret from their own adult children at the expense of their adoptee’s “right to know.”
This bill is flawed, and I would urge the governor to veto it. It is not a true Adoptee Birthright bill – by any means.