The Good News About Abortion, Adoption Rates, and Open Records

Statistics show open records do not cause higher abortion or lower adoption rates, and in fact that they have no relationship whatsoever to abortion or adoption rates.

The abortion rates in both Alaska and Kansas, states which grant adult adoptees unconditional access to their original birth certificates, were lower than the national average as a whole - 14.6 and 18.9 abortions, respectively for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, compared to the national rate of 22.9 (source: Alan Guttmacher Institute In 1984 the California legislature passed a law allowing some adoptees born 1984 or later access to their original birth certificates, however statistics show this has not affected the rate of decline for abortions in California. In 1990 there were 50.0 abortions for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. In 1993, the number dropped to 45.0. By 1996 this number had decreased to 39.0. (Source: CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, Weekly Surveillance Summaries. All indications show that California is keeping up with the national rate of decline and that the law passed in 1984 has not affected this one way or the other.

These statistics bear out internationally as well. In England and Wales, data for the period of 1961 through 1987 shows abortions began to increase steadily from 1961 through 1973. However, data shows that from 1974, when England and Wales opened records to their adult adopted citizens, abortions and the abortion rate in these countries actually decreased (source: Alan Guttmacher Institute).

There are myriad factors that influence and determine abortion rates in various states and countries, and as such, it would be irresponsible to claim a causal relationship between open records and lower abortion rates. It can be clearly shown, however, that abortion rates are not higher in states with open records nor do abortion rates increase in countries with open records.

Similarly, there is no significant causality to be inferred between open records and a decrease in adoptions. It was reported by The National Center for Court Statistics that the 1992 rate of adoptions per thousand live births were 31.2 nationally, 53.5 in Alaska and 48.4 in Kansas, but lower in surrounding states with sealed records laws (Colorado, 26 .0; Missouri, 27.5; Nebraska, 42.4; and Oklahoma 47.6). (Source: Flango & Flango, National Center for Court Statistics, "How Many Children Were Adopted in 1992," 74 Child Welfare 1018, 1021-22 (1995)). Barbara Flett, Registrar of the New South Wales Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages, issued a declaration, which showed the numbers of adoptions in New South Wales from 1970 through 1995. This declaration was submitted for evidence in Doe v. Sundquist, a lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s 1996 law allowing some adult adoptees access to their adoption records. (Source: Affidavit of Frederick F. Greenman, August 27, 1996). In 1990, New South Wales enacted The Adoption Information Act which, when it became fully effective in 1991, gave adoptees full access to their original, unaltered birth certificates. The data from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages set forth in Ms. Flett's letter show that numbers of adoptions peaked in 1972 and then began a decline that has continued steadily to the present day. Prior to the unsealing of adoption records in 1991, adoptions had declined at a rate of 85 percent, from 4,564 in 1972 to 688 in 1990. The rate of decline after 1990 shows no significant change from the previous decline, and indicates that the opening of adoption records had no measurable effect on the numbers of adoptions.

Official publications of the United Kingdom Registrar General and the United Kingdom Office of Population Censuses and Surveys show that annual adoption figures in England and Wales for non-parental (non step-parent or interfamily) adoptions by couples in these countries declined continuously from a peak in 1968 to 1984, which appears to be the last year for which these data were published. From the start of the decline in 1968 until 1976, when adoption records were unsealed, the relevant adoptions declined from 14,641 to 4,777, a decline of 67 percent in eight years, in the following eight years, after the records were unsealed, these adoptions declined to 2,910, a decline of only 39 percent.

In conclusion, it is clear that any claims of open records having an effect on abortion or adoption rates is nothing more than myth and propaganda intended to muddy the facts surrounding the issue.

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