May 2005        Vol. 1 No. 14
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BILLS ARE BUSTING OUT ALL OVERÖ
A remarkable number of bills have been introduced during this legislative session concerning the rights of adopted adults to their original birth documents. Fourteen (14) states in the US and the Province of Ontario, Canada, have adoptee rights bills moving their way through the state houses. Five of these are GOOD BILLS, meaning adoptees would access their original birth certificates without any condtions. The rest are BAD BILLS, meaning either they are conditional legislation bills or they are bills that bind adoptees to the status quo.
BABY STEPS DONíT WORK
Social change is traditionally a very slow process. Adoptee rights are no exception. But no matter how long it takes, it is vital that we continue to pursue our goal of UNCONDITIONAL access to original birth documents for all adult adoptees.
Too many adoptees today are just giving in. They support bills that fall short of being unconditional equal rights legislation. They latch on to bills which would allow adoptees to be able to get their original birth certificates but only under certain circumstances. "After all," they say, " "Something is better than nothing." Many adoptees will support any legislation just for the pure "joy" of getting a bill passed. Then they can pat themselves on the back, put another notch in their belts, and call themselves "adoption reformers" They are not!
They are "Adoption Deformers," a phrase coined by Bastard Nation Executive Chair Marley Greiner. Deformers are adoptees who want us to proceed in baby steps. They ask us to accept bills which provide for conditional access, disclosure vetoes, contact vetoes, or intermediary systems. Deformers claim that these conditional access bills have a better chance of being passed and that is reason enough for us to grab them. They tell us that legislation which gives some adoptees restricted access to their original birth certificates is "better than nothing." They claim that conditional access legislation serves as intermediate steps to someday getting true open records legislation.
HISTORY KNOWS BETTER
Once laws are passed, legislators are very reluctant to revisit the issue of records legislation, which can result in future legislative changes being stalled for years or even decades. Once they do revisit the issue, there is no indication that legislators are more inclined to openness than before the conditional access legislation passed, and in many cases that legislation itself creates an impediment in terms of legal precedent.
In 1997, Oklahoma amended its adoption law to allow birth parents to file affidavits of non-disclosure. The Oklahoma group OORAH introduced a pure open records bill in this legislative session. The affidavits of non-disclosure proved to be a major impediment to the supporters who were fighting to keep their bill free from restrictions. No matter where on the bell curve the legislators may have been with open records, one thing became crystal clear. Not a one of them would touch those affidavits. Those affidavits are baby steps that have come back to haunt us.
Baby steps didnít work in Illinois either. In the early 1990s, Illinois enacted both an adoption registry and a confidential intermediary system. Both the registry and confidential intermediary system were "sold" as starting points for adult adoptees. These restrictive laws were supposed to eventually lead us to the Promised Land - the enactment of a pure open records bill. It never happened!
A pure open records bill was proposed in Illinois in 1996 and the lawmakers looked at us as if we were crazy. "We already did something for adoptees. They donít need anything else." The IL adoption registry and its confidential intermediary system stand today in the Illinois Adoption Act as permanent impediments to adoptees ever reaching the Promised Land.
DEFORMERS, WAKE UP
You donít need to bind yourselves to legislation that takes baby steps. I urge you to believe in your own worth and not what the legislators tell you about yourselves. Take a look at Oregon, Alabama, and New Hampshire. These three states, together with Kansas and Alaska, all have unconditional access to open records for adult adoptees. These are very diverse states Ėin geography, population, politics. But they all did it! Their victories are the fuel for our future successes.
SAFE HAVENS: WHAT'S WRONG WITH THEM?
Safe Haven laws create a parallel child welfare system in which the state encourages and facilitates the universally condemned practice of anonymous infant abandonment. These laws run counter to established child welfare practice, statutes and initiatives and create a separate identity-stripping system that has never existed before even in closed adoption practices. Safe Havens initiated and supported by the most reactionary elements within the contemporary adoption industry are a direct attack on adoptees' right to identity and the successful open records movement--a fact admitted openly by those organizations and individuals. Safe Havens, with their no-questions-asked "relinquishment" provisions and emphasis on shame and secrecy are anti-child, anti-woman, anti-family, and anti-adoption.
SAFE HAVENS: WHO USES THEM?
Safe Havens are marketed as an easy solution for "desperate mothers" portrayed as so desperate and dangerous that unless they can anonymously and legally abandon their newborns, they would purposefully neglect or kill them. Yet, from what we know anecdotally of women who have utilized Save Havens or have been afforded Safe Haven "protection" in non-compliant cases, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The mothers who have ill advisedly used Safe Havens are neither abstract socially engineered profiles nor monster mothers conjured up by Safe Haven advocates They are flesh and blood individuals like us all. Their babies have fathers, grandparents, and perhaps siblings who will never have the privilege of knowing them due to the Safe Haven final solution.
What we see are not desperate dangerous women, but women who are disemempowered, and disenfranchised-- women ignorant of the real options afforded them to keep their babies through state or private assistance, temporary foster care, or relinquishment through ethical adoption. And they are kept ignorant through advertising campaigns that treat them as potential killers, fail to mention ethical alternatives, and then praise them for not killing their babies-something they would never have dreamed of doing anyway. These girls and women are isolated and confused, without networks of family support. They are often young and/or poor. In some cases it appears that they aren't anonymous. Drop-offs for some women can be simply a matter of convenience to fast track through a "non-bureaucratic placement"-- unhindered by counseling, fathers rights, and paper signing.
No matter what their situation, these mothers have been convinced to make a permanent solution for a temporary problem. Outside of extraordinary circumstances, they will never see their children again.
SAFE HAVENS: ALTERNATIVES
Safe Haven promotion fails to mention normal alternatives such as counseling, public assistance, ethical child placement-or even family communication. As a consequence, girls and women, attracted by simplistic ad campaigns, are tempted to act irresponsibility towards themselves and their babies. Relinquishment and adoption are life-changing and life-long events for both parent and child and should be done with the utmost care and concern, not at the prompting of a Safe Haven poster in a high school bathroom or a commercial on the radio. The babies and the future people they will grow into as well as their parents deserve better. They deserve the same right to identity, care, protection, and family as the rest of us. Legislators should ask themselves if they would want their daughters, granddaughters, wives or friends to use it?
BASTARD NATION WANTS YOU
BECOME A PROUD MEMBER OF BASTARD NATION
Bastard Nation represents you as the adult adoptee's voice for unconditional access to original birth records. We believe that all North Americans, adopted or not, have a right to access government records about their own lives.
Adopted adults, adoptive and biological family members, and friends of adoptees are all welcome to join Bastard Nationís work to establish respect, dignity, and equal rights for adoptees.
Bastard Nation is an all-volunteer organization. Your membership will help us in our fight to restore adoptee dignity and equality. Bastard Nation supports the efforts of any state working to pass an unconditional open records bill. So too will Bastard Nation take positive action to defeat a bad bill, one which does not provide for unconditional access.
We do not conduct searches and we are not a support group. However, since most of us have been through searching, we do try to provide pointers and other useful information on our website.
JOIN NOW! Please go to http://www.bastards.org/members/ for an application.
Where The Action Is
BQ WELCOMES NEW EDITOR
ON THE MOVE
ACROSS THE SEAS
WELCOME TO THE WORLD
BEST IS THE PLACE TO "B"
The B.E.S.T. E-MAIL LIST - Bastards' Education, Strategy and Tactics List, is Bastard Nationís Members-Only Email list. You probably read about it when you joined, but never got around to following up. Why not give it a try? We invite all members to subscribe. This list is all about Bastards and Bastardy. Itís where you get to hang out with all the other Bastards whose mothers gave them away. Weíre really a fun group.You can participate as much or as little as you like. We come in two sizes, regular and digest.
BEST is for discussing any adoption issue, but itís particularly for talking about Bastard Nationís specific reform issues. During the legislative season, youíll be on top of whatís going on and where. BEST is a place to ask questions, try out new ideas, and stretch your mind. Youíll enjoy meeting and conversing with Bastards from all over North America.
You can subscribe by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" in the Subject: field of the email. To subscribe to the digest you send an email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" in the Subject: field of the email.
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Editors: Anita Walker Field and David C. Ansardi
c. 2005 Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization
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