Join 3,564 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Bastard Nation
January 31, 2005 6:07 AM   Subscribe

"Why is my birth certificate a state secret?" asks Bastard Nation. The group's fight for unconditional access to non-falsified birth records - start with The Basic Bastard, including a history of sealed adoption records in the USA - has enemies, which of course include Fox's "Who's Your Daddy?"
posted by mediareport (62 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
As a nonadopted bastard, I am offened that this group is trying to take my identity away from me by making it about adoption rights. All truly proud bastards know the point is that we don't have a daddy and we don't care.
posted by dame at 7:40 AM on January 31, 2005


Adoption records are sealed to protect the identity of the birth mother. As an adoptee, myself, I have mixed feelings about opening records.

At the very least, there should be non-identifying information made available to the adoptee. Especially medical information.
I always got tired of the looks I'd get at doctor's offices when I had to leave the family medical history section blank.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:50 AM on January 31, 2005


"Our greatest ally in the continuing struggle for adoptee rights is the average citizen, whose common sense and basic understanding of fairness and equality are qualities we can count on for support."

Color me misanthropic this morning, but if they are relying on that to put them over the top, the records will remain sealed.
posted by Cassford at 7:59 AM on January 31, 2005


All truly proud bastards know the point is that we don't have a daddy and we don't care.

Yeah, why don't haploids have a better lobbying group?
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:32 AM on January 31, 2005


Adoption records are sealed to protect the identity of the birth mother.

From what threat, exactly? I'd love to hear your response, Thorzdad, to the arguments in Do Birth Parrents Have A Right To Privacy?:

...adult children, raised by others, are not the enemies of birth parents. Our laws and policies should not deprive one group of their rights in order to protect others from possibly having to face the consequences of their past choices. In the event that an adoptee chooses to contact a birth parent, both people should consider the feelings and concerns of the other. When birth records are opened to adult adoptees, a woman who relinquishes an infant will have eighteen to twenty-one years to decide how to answer a possible phone call from that adult child...Most birth parents are happy to be contacted by their adult children. A right to privacy that prevents the disclosure of birth parents' names to adult adoptees does not exist in law or in the real world.
posted by mediareport at 8:32 AM on January 31, 2005


Yeah, why don't haploids have a better lobbying group?

Just donating the sperm does not make a man a daddy; father, perhaps.
posted by dame at 8:46 AM on January 31, 2005


Knowledge trumps secrets. Every human being should be entitled to full access to any and all available information about their genetic heritage. No selfish consideration on the part of the biological parents can supercede this fundamental right.
posted by rushmc at 8:48 AM on January 31, 2005


True, rushmc. That's to say nothing of the adoptive child's decendants. My mother was adopted, and the records sealed, so I haven't the slightest idea about that half of my heritage. I am increasingly saddened by this as I get older.

On the bright side, not knowing what my ethnic heritage is means also not knowing what it isn't, which really opens up my holiday possibilities.
posted by Optamystic at 9:24 AM on January 31, 2005


Birth mother's search for children they've abandonded just as often as abandonded and adopted people search for their birth parents. The laws sealing records make it difficult or impossible for either to find the other. Adoption is a multi-billion dollar industry in this country. The laws are only there to protect the people in the adoption triangle with the money, that is, the adopting parents, the organizations rounding up the kids, and the lawyers who are putting together the deals. It's a very inhumane system.
posted by MotherTucker at 9:27 AM on January 31, 2005 [2 favorites]


If parent does not wish to leave their name behind, they should have that option, otherwise there will be far more babies left on doorsteps. A good compromise would be to have parent submit a sample of blood for genetic testing, meaning that children are aware of their medical history. Being the pessimist I am, I foresee that once the names are required that some child somewhere will track down their biological parent and murder them.
posted by Vaska at 9:33 AM on January 31, 2005


Some people have pets with a pedigree- some people (myself included) lack even that. I'm being flip, but it's a continual thorn in my side that I don't have certain information that I believe I should have a right to. Whether I find a birthparent or not, I still want that damn medical history.
posted by exlotuseater at 9:44 AM on January 31, 2005


Nearly all adoptions taking place in the U.S. require the biological mother and father (if available) to give a health and family history. That info should be available to adoptees. However, the biological parents' names should be witheld if they so choose. I think that Vaska offers a good solution.
posted by Juicylicious at 9:53 AM on January 31, 2005


The laws are only there to protect the people in the adoption triangle with the money, that is, the adopting parents, the organizations rounding up the kids, and the lawyers who are putting together the deals.

How exactly do laws that restrict access to adoption records "protect the people . . . with the money?"
posted by Juicylicious at 9:54 AM on January 31, 2005


As an adoptive father and brother to four adopted siblings, I have to admit to mixed feeling about "bastard nation". The question of my adopted child's birth certificate is moot, since it was an international adoption of an abandoned child. I already have as much documentation as I ever will about her birth and genetics, and I'll share it with her freely. I do feel that it is a basic right to have access to one's own genetic information. However, when I hear talk about the "multi-billion-dollar adoption industry" who "round up the kids" and are "only interested in protecting ... the adopting parents", it makes me cringe.

For starters, I'd like to see proof of the multi-billion claim. For another, I think that "industry" is a deliberately chosen pejorative term.

More importantly, I resent my carefully chosen and vetted agency being lumped in with the shysters who run baby farms in Guatemala, or the lawyers who get rich charging yuppies for private adoptions of white female newborns. They aren't the same thing, and acting as if they were only costs you (my) support.

I fully support what these folks want, I do think that all children should have access to their genetic family history. I just can't support some of this group's tactics and language. My child is not a bastard, and I didn't buy her from a factory, nor procure her from a shady industry.
posted by Invoke at 10:06 AM on January 31, 2005


"so I haven't the slightest idea about that half of my heritage. I am increasingly saddened by this as I get older."

You and your mom may want to look into a genetic testing company like FamilyTreeDNA.com. Check out their testimonials page, which includes a letter from a woman abandoned at birth who was matched in their database to a general ethnic/national origin (Hungarian, in her case). It won't turn up your medical history, but it's something. And I guess you could always extrapolate that if the tests say you're of Mediterranean origin, then watch out for Beta Thalassaemia, if they say you're Ashkenazic, then watch out for Tay Sachs and Gaucher's Disease, etc.

It's not terribly cheap: $289 buys a man a 37-marker Y-chromosome analysis and $219 buys either a man or a woman a mitochondrial DNA analysis. Y-chromosome analysis is "better" in that Y chromosome DNA mutates fairly quickly, so if you find a close match in the database (like, say, matching on 34 out of 37 markers), the two of you are almost definitely related within the past X number of years. And they have a tool on their website, based on which markers mutate faster than others, to help you calculate what X is. (FYI, matching 34/37 probably means a > 80% chance of common ancestor with the other person within the past 400 years. If you're lucky, the other person is a genealogist and can give you leads on your family--most customers of theirs are genealogists.)

Mitochondrial DNA matches aren't as useful, because it mutates really really slowly, so you're just matching general maternal-line origins from thousands of years ago, like "the Mediterranean" or "Native American". But again, if you're curious, it's better than nothing. And they're starting to refine that test better.

I've personally used FTDNA for genealogy research (and am even about to start a location-specific non-surname-specific genealogy research project with them) and can recommend them highly. I'm not a company shill, honest. Just a happy customer. And I think more adoptees might want to look into this.

(Just to clarify: you can only test your father' father's father's...father's line [Y chromosome] or mother's mother's mother's...mother's line (mitochondrial DNA), at the moment. Groups like Sorenson are trying to develop ways to test autosomal DNA (i.e. all your other ancestors who aren't on your direct paternal or maternal lines), but that's still at least five years away.)
posted by Asparagirl at 10:16 AM on January 31, 2005


On a positive note, I just discovered that my agency, Holt International, is a strong supporter and sponsor of open records laws. I guess "the industry" is not as monolithic in its practices as some would have you believe.
posted by Invoke at 10:17 AM on January 31, 2005


Baby farms?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:23 AM on January 31, 2005


Opinions are wonderful as always, but it sure would be nice, Vaska and Juicylicious, if you would offer specific replies to the arguments raised at the site. For instance, this page clearly notes that birth certificates were available to adoptees upon majority in all states until 1931, and remained so in many states until World War II. More:

In Scotland adoptee records have been open since 1930 and in England since 1975. Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela are only a few of the many nations that do not prevent adult adoptees from accessing their own birth records. The United States and Canada lag far behind the rest of what we used to call the "Free World" in opening closed birth and adoption records to those to whom they pertain. This is largely because well-funded and well-connected lobbies representing certain adoption agencies and lawyers have a vested interest in keeping adoptee records closed.

Vaska: I foresee that once the names are required that some child somewhere will track down their biological parent and murder them.

Yeah, happens in those other countries all the time. Come on, a little thought here, please.

Invoke: For starters, I'd like to see proof of the multi-billion claim. For another, I think that "industry" is a deliberately chosen pejorative term.

I share your skepticism, but it's not difficult to see which organizations are working to stop open records laws. I wonder why the American Bar Association, for example, takes a position against open records laws, when lawyers in many other modern countries support such laws. It's certainly not outside the realm of possibility that money is a factor.
posted by mediareport at 10:28 AM on January 31, 2005


The up-side of the whole business is that, more and more, open adoption is becoming the norm. In these arrangements, there is open contact between the birth mother and the adoptive parents...sometimes even visitation after the fact...for as long as the parties agree to.

Here in Indiana, there is a service run by the state that allows the opening of the records upon informed consent on the part of the adoptee and the birth mother. Admittedly, it's not well-known and very imperfect, but it's a start down the right road.

mediareport...I don't think you should interpret the sealing of files as protecting against any sort of threat. It's a system that was born in a time when out-of-wedlock birth was highly stigmatized and shamed. Though it is treated as a sort of a joke these days, back then it was not at all unnusual for a girl to be sent off "to visit her aunt" for about nine months or so. Unwed pregnancy was, indeed, a mark of shame on the entire family. The sealing of the records was looked upon as much as a "saving of face" for the mother as anything else. Those were different times.

I, too, support the opening of records. I also feel, however, that some respect for the annonymity of the mother, if so desired, should be part of any system. As I've stated, it certainly is possible, and desirable, to allow full access to non-identifying information, especially medical info. But, if the mother wishes to remain anonymous, we should honor that request.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:38 AM on January 31, 2005


But, if the mother wishes to remain anonymous, we should honor that request.

How do you respond to BN's position that their civil rights (e.g., the right to the same basic information about their birth that every other citizen has) should not be contingent on another citizen's feelings?
posted by mediareport at 10:42 AM on January 31, 2005


I think BN's stance ignores the fact that adoption isn't a normal birth situation. Unless the parties involved agree up-front to a completely open arrangement, there is no way possible to fully respect one party's supposed rights without trashing the other party's supposed rights.

Personally, I'd much rather have access to some information, than to have no information at all.

It's not a perfect world. And adoptees are in the middle of one of the least perfect parts of it. But I think BN's strident anger does little to foster any real, workable solution.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:06 AM on January 31, 2005


The reason cited for wanting birth certificates to be available is that the adoptee wants their medical history. You don't need the biological parents' names to get that info. And what if biological parents choose not to speak with adoptees, including to give any information at all?

I know for a fact that Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Charities help both adoptees and biological parents who have used their adoption services, find each other. Both organizations provide counseling and act as a go between for the parties until they are ready to move forward on thier own.
posted by Juicylicious at 11:09 AM on January 31, 2005


Oh and Mediareport, why are you trying to moderate your own post?
posted by Juicylicious at 11:11 AM on January 31, 2005


Unless the parties involved agree up-front to a completely open arrangement, there is no way possible to fully respect one party's supposed rights without trashing the other party's supposed rights.

Right. And since the children are coerced into the "agreement" without an option to refuse the terms, their rights supercede those of the consenting adult parents, and it's society's responsibility to protect them.
posted by rushmc at 11:12 AM on January 31, 2005 [1 favorite]


At least in part, I owe my reunion with my birthmother to Bastard Nation's (and others') efforts to open birth records in Alabama -- including my own birth record. I cannot thank them enough; it changed my life. (The reunion has been a great success.)

Though I was a happy & well-adjusted adoptee, I was always irked by my amended birth certificate -- it was so clearly a work of legal fiction. While I didn't question that my adoptive parents were my parents, I also knew that my actual birth had nothing to do with them. Receiving my original birth record was liberating in and of itself, even before it becoming part of a reunion.
posted by dbrown at 11:17 AM on January 31, 2005


But what exactly do the adoptees expect to accomplish by unsealing the records? As I stated above, I know that those two agencies facilitate the transfer of info between the parties. All adoption agencies retain the parties' info. What's the point of getting a birth certificate when you can go through the agency?
posted by Juicylicious at 11:18 AM on January 31, 2005


dbrown, what would you have done had your biological mother not wanted anything to do with you?
posted by Juicylicious at 11:19 AM on January 31, 2005


rushmc...
To a point. As I've stated, adoptees should have access to as much information as possible, as long as it doesn't directly identify the birth parents. That seems equitable to me.

This all about balancing acts. Everyone's rights need to be addressed and respected. This absolutist, I-want-it-all-my-way attitude simply isn't workable. We need to be adults for once and consider everyone involved.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:22 AM on January 31, 2005


My older sister (adopted) suffered mild brain damage as an infant because Michigan's state law at the time (1972) declared her biological parents' medical histories to be off-limits; these records would have informed the adoption agency that my sister likely suffered from PKU. Not knowing this, the agency and my parents didn't follow the necessary diet until it was too late.

So I support some opening of adoption records. If the biological mother doesn't want to be found, though, she has a right not to be found. I second Thorzdad's call for balance.
posted by goatdog at 11:34 AM on January 31, 2005


What would I have done? I would have wept.

But I think the question is presumptious. For one, it presumes that adoptees (or birthparents) necessarily have set endpoints to their searches. Any good search is about the search as much as an end. Most adoptees' searches (that I know of) begin with a desire for information. For a couple years of my search, that is what it was about -- gathering information. Eventually there was enough that I also had a desire for contact, but that is not universal, and not a fait accompli.

For two, it presumes that there is an even playing field among the players -- "the triad" is the awful term the adoption community has for it, adoptee, adoptive parents, birthparents. A.M. Homes had a great adoption memoir in the New Yorker in December. Her experience is different than mine, but her insights into the state of being adopted are crystal clear and familiar to me, and probably to other adoptees. She writes, "This is one of the pathological complications of adoption—adoptees don’t really have rights, their lives are about supporting the secrets, the needs, and the desires of others."
posted by dbrown at 11:45 AM on January 31, 2005 [1 favorite]


On my todo pile, I have an adoption search application to find out information about my medical history and ethinicity. If I want to pay more, my state will also attempt to contact the birth mother, and if she's willing, they'll turn over her name. I think that's how it should be. I want some control in whether my birth parents can contact me, and feel it should be the same way for them.

As an aside, I don't plan to pursue it beyond find out general information about my family (I feel left out when everyone else has strong ethnic pride).
posted by drezdn at 12:00 PM on January 31, 2005


But, if the mother wishes to remain anonymous, we should honor that request.

Why?

What's the worst thing that's reasonably going to happen if mothers can't be totally anonymous: she has an awkward interaction with somebody she doesn't want anything to do with -- something that happens to billions of people every week with no lasting damage.

Weighed against the possibility that someone might endure bad health, or even die, from some preventable reason because they can't get information about their birth-parents, that seems pretty damn small to me.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:10 PM on January 31, 2005


Weighed against the possibility that someone might endure bad health, or even die, from some preventable reason because they can't get information about their birth-parents, that seems pretty damn small to me.

You're not even talking about the same thing. Medical history should be required. Absolutely. Identity, address, whatever, should not.
posted by goatdog at 12:42 PM on January 31, 2005


drbrown, that was a great memoir you linked. Thank you.

I find myself wondering how different the situation will be for our daughter. If it is clearly not possible to find your birthparents, do the same fantasies arise? Is it still "about supporting the secrets" of others when there are no secrets to unravel?
posted by Invoke at 12:58 PM on January 31, 2005


Hate to break this to you Invoke, but it appears that your "carefully chosen and vetted agency," Holt International, works with the "shysters who run baby farms in Guatemala."

Adoption is a $1.4 billion annual industry in the US and $12 million annual in Guatemala. The Guatemalan adoption industry grew out of CIA sponsored state violence that saw 200,000 people disappeared by death squads trained by The School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA. In 2000, a UN report determined that infant trafficking and forced adoption existed in Guatemala.

And just to bring everyone up-to-date on subject.
posted by dinsdale at 1:00 PM on January 31, 2005 [1 favorite]


Invoke: You may or may not be familiar with The Primal Wound. It may give some insight into the psychology of the adopted child.
posted by MotherTucker at 1:13 PM on January 31, 2005


she has an awkward interaction with somebody she doesn't want anything to do with -- something that happens to billions of people every week with no lasting damage.

What goatdog said and you cannot make someone interact with you. Even if you get someone's name, you'll have to find their address. Then what? You'll write a letter? What if she chooses not to reply, then what? You show up at her home? What if she refuses to acknowledge you and closes the door in your face? Will you camp in her yard until the police are called to drag you away? Will you follow her to work and demand that she speak to you? Will you force her to get a restraining order to keep you away? How would any of this get you the all-important medical history?

I think that medical history is a very small bit of what this is really about. I believe that those adoptees that are not satisfied with just medical information really are looking for a connection with their biological parents at any cost.
posted by Juicylicious at 1:14 PM on January 31, 2005


A good compromise would be to have parent submit a sample of blood for genetic testing, meaning that children are aware of their medical history.

If we could generate a medical history from blood, you wouldn't need the parent's blood -- you could just project it all from the child's own. Until we know a lot more, family histories are still going to be relevant.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:38 PM on January 31, 2005


You're not even talking about the same thing. Medical history should be required. Absolutely. Identity, address, whatever, should not.

How are you going to be able to get any postpartum medical history from someone the state prevents you from locating?

you cannot make someone interact with you

Agreed. That's just about physically impossible.

Then what? You'll write a letter? What if she chooses not to reply, then what?

Then she will have suffered essentially no harm. She will have endured nothing objectively worse than receiving any other piece of unwanted mail.

You show up at her home? What if she refuses to acknowledge you and closes the door in your face?

Then she will have suffered essentially no harm. She will have endured nothing worse than people endure every week at the hands of those damn college kids selling magazine subscriptions.

Will you camp in her yard until the police are called to drag you away?

Then she will have been frightened, and the police will protect her from any harm, same as with any other disturbance.

Will you force her to get a restraining order to keep you away?

Then the child will be kept away, or go to prison, same as any other stalker.

Really, the only point at which the birth-mother could suffer is if the child is completely nuts and attacks her, which seems so unlikely that it's not worth the law worrying abouts. There are already laws that protect the birth-mother from actual harm, same as anyone else.

How would any of this get you the all-important medical history?

There's certainly no hope in the face of obstinate lack of concern for someone else's welfare; I couldn't now compel my mother to give her medical history to a physician if I tried to, and she has assured me that she squoze me out herself.

But the state shouldn't stand in the way of it, when the costs are so utterly minimal. The state shouldn't make it impossible for someone to even inquire.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:53 PM on January 31, 2005 [1 favorite]


dinsdale, you are incorrect, your supposed proof is simply a page (from their own website) showing that Holt has a program in the country. Yes, they do once again have a program in Guatemala, though they did not for quite a while. At the first sign that baby-selling is taking place, Holt closes down the program in a country, only reopening after safeguards are put in place. I've seen it happen, most recently in Vietnam, and I believe my inside source (my mother) who is a regional director of the organization about what happens, when, and why.

Please, try harder not to tar everyone with the same brush. In Holt's case, it simply isn't deserved.
posted by Invoke at 2:16 PM on January 31, 2005


why are you trying to moderate your own post?

Huh? Screw you. I'll feel free to ask questions of other posters as often as I like, thanks.

The reason cited for wanting birth certificates to be available is that the adoptee wants their medical history.

You're not reading very closely at all here, Juicy. From the third paragraph of the first link:

While many adoptees search for their biological relatives to discover the answers to questions regarding medical history and family heritage, all adoptees should be able to exercise their right to obtain the original government documents of their own birth and adoption whether they choose to search or not. At stake are the civil and human rights of millions of American and Canadian citizens. To continue to abrogate these rights is to perpetuate the stigmatization of illegitimacy and adoption, and the relegation of an entire class of citizens to second-class status.

The issue for BN is fairly simple, so I'm surprised you keep missing it: their unequal treatment by the government. The fact that this unequal treatment is a relatively new creation, is considered unnecessary in many other modern countries, and was originally based on elitist and clearly outdated notions of shame, is more than enough to trash the idea that birth parents need to be "protected" from their adult children.
posted by mediareport at 2:33 PM on January 31, 2005


Optamystic:On the bright side, not knowing what my ethnic heritage is means also not knowing what it isn't, which really opens up my holiday possibilities.


I spent a big chunk of my teenage years playing "I wonder if I might be related to...". I got to be pretty good at guessing what a stranger's face would probably look like after briefly walking behind them. To come across the idea of an eigenface sometime later felt pretty weird. In the end, though, not knowing who you're related to, or not too, leaves a bit of a void. A good friend of mine tells the story of travelling to Scotland to see the fmaily castle. Just knowing that his kin had stood and fought and farmed and done all manner of things for nearly a thousand years gave him much peace and something, as a troubled young man, to belong to.

Personally I have the hersay spoken by a social worker and am (visibly) neither relted to my family nor culturaly entitled to the past a stranger decided I didn't need 30 years ago.

goatdog:
Weighed against the possibility that someone might endure bad health, or even die, from some preventable reason because they can't get information about their birth-parents, that seems pretty damn small to me.
You're not even talking about the same thing. Medical history should be required. Absolutely. Identity, address, whatever, should not.



That's right because everyone one knows that some 16 year old kid is going to be ready, able and willing to part with all that information that I need now.

Aside from the history I do admit to wanting to know more about two families I never got to meet or know. True, too, there is (nearly) nothing that scares me more. As much as the movie was flawed I can tell you that the thought of maybe having a 'group hug' experience as portrayed at the end of Antwone Fisher is narcotically powerfull. I say this as one who has enjoyed an excellent family life and, quite probably, a far healthier environment than most of what my imagination (and too much time with stats canada publications) can dredge up. As much as I know it does not make sense, recognize the irrationality, feel guilt for having ever had the thoughts..... I know that it's not fair.
posted by mce at 3:08 PM on January 31, 2005


One of the primary objectives of adoption is the ability of the mother to abrogate her responsibility to the child, completely and forever. If birth records are opened, this will no longer be possible. If the mother and child know of each other, the mother could concievably be expected (morally if not necessarily legally) to jump in if there is an emergency, for example, if the adoptive parents don't work out or ended up broke. In fact, she might even end up the custodial parent if the adoptive parents died without anyone else being available.

Another of the prime benefits of adoption is that it allows the mother to make a clean break with her past, and not to have it haunt her continuously. Open adoptive records would destroy this opportunity. She would continuously be at risk for the child to hunt her down and constantly remind her of what is almost guaranteed to be an extremely painful memory.

Furthermore, it degrades one of the concepts that makes adoption work; that the adoptive parents are the real parents, and the biological parents are not important. If the adopted child developes a relationship while growing up with the biological parents, they may not end up forming correct bonds with their adoptive parents, resulting in an unhealthy situation.

I can get behind the idea of at least asking for medical records, which can be needed for various important health reasons. However, I don't think either the mother or the child should be able to unlock the adoption records alone. If both want to know of each other, that's one thing, but I think if either wants that part of their history to be closed, it should be.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:40 PM on January 31, 2005


mediareport - it's pretty clear now that you have some strong feelings on this issue. You also clearly want people to discuss the links, but that's not really how FPPs tend to work. Pardon the expression, but putting up an FPP is like giving birth, you hope for the best, but you never really know how it's going to turn out. Discussions often wander from the "links." They grow and form sub-issues and discussions. This free flow of thoughts and ideas is what makes MeFi such a great place. This is why it's considered bad form to try to moderate your own FPP.
posted by Juicylicious at 3:41 PM on January 31, 2005


Mitrovarr, your framing of the pro-closure side is compelling. Still, I'd love to hear a decent reply to rushmc's point about adoptees not being party to the original agreement, and his claim that they therefore deserve rights that supercede those of the other parties later.

This is why it's considered bad form to try to moderate your own FPP.

What a hoot. A patronizing lesson about "bad form" at MeFi from someone who doesn't even bother to cursorily look at a three-paragraph page that's the first link in a post.

Thanks for the lesson, Juicy, but I'm fully aware of thread drift. Asking pointed questions of folks who respond to a post is hardly the same as moderating. Or are you claiming that a person who posts shouldn't participate in the ensuing discussion? That's truly absurd.
posted by mediareport at 4:56 PM on January 31, 2005


Everyone's rights need to be addressed and respected.

Except that isn't possible because they are in conflict. Therefore those whose actions resulted in the current situation should have to deal with the ramifications of those actions and choices, rather than those with no responsibility for it.

I believe that those adoptees that are not satisfied with just medical information really are looking for a connection with their biological parents at any cost.

And why shouldn't they be entitled to make the attempt? Someone chose to bring them into the world: they should have to answer for that.
posted by rushmc at 5:39 PM on January 31, 2005


"Adoption is a multi-billion dollar industry in this country. The laws are only there to protect the people in the adoption triangle with the money, that is, the adopting parents, the organizations rounding up the kids, and the lawyers who are putting together the deals. It's a very inhumane system."

Whoa and sputter, sputter. As an adoptive mom I don't even know where to start to answer such a biased and uniformed opinion.

The world is a broken place and very imperfect. Adoption is not perfect, and asks sacrifice out of everyone involved to make it work. My two children were abandoned by their birth parents. I have chosen to believe it was a difficult but necessary choice on the birth parents part. I only wish I could help my children know something about their birth families, but we know nothing, and probably never will. So we go on. We make a family. We love, we grieve, we wonder...

The culture of adoption is changing - rapidly. Closed records come from a time when having a child out of wedlock and adoption was considered a stigma. As that stigma disappears, other arrangements are being devised to meet the needs of everyone involved with adoption. someday closed records will be a historical artifact.
posted by trii at 6:13 PM on January 31, 2005


So whats going to stop mothers from leaving babies on doorsteps, ect?
Then the child wont know anything about their medical history.
posted by Iax at 6:16 PM on January 31, 2005


Still, I'd love to hear a decent reply to rushmc's point about adoptees not being party to the original agreement, and his claim that they therefore deserve rights that supercede those of the other parties later.
Okay...I'll take a stab at that, from the gut. Utter bullshit.

What? So, since the adoptee was an infant and, thus, unable to agree to the arrangement, their supposed rights trump all else now that they are an adult? Baloney.

I'm sorry, but this whole argument seems to come down to the idea that adoptees have these magically inalienable civil rights and the mothers have zilch.

As an adoptee myself, I've long been aware of BN's bile. Personally, it comes off like nothing more than the rantings of someone who can't handle the fact that they didn't get the nice, perfect TV-land life they think they are entitled to. Grow up. You were adopted. So was I. Sorry about that. Would you rather mom had aborted? She did what she felt was right at the time. It wasn't an easy decision. It's all part of this little thing we call reality. Your pissed about it? Fine. Things do need to change. But your "rights" don't nullify anyone else's.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:32 PM on January 31, 2005


Still, I'd love to hear a decent reply to rushmc's point about adoptees not being party to the original agreement, and his claim that they therefore deserve rights that supercede those of the other parties later.

Children are never a party to the conditions they are born into, under any circumstances. Being adopted means you may not have a medical history, which is a minor disadvantage, but is probably offset by being in a much superior fiscal situation. All in all, as birth situations go, being adopted in the US is probably one of the best ones in the world. It guarantees your (adoptive) parents want you, and that they are reasonably stable and well off financially.

Also, anonymity protects both sides. It not only protects the mother from being constantly reminded of her decision, it protects the offspring from being hounded by the mother. It isn't too hard to imagine a situation in which a really awful biological mother tries to repent her decision and steal her children from good adoptive parents, or a situation in which the mother is a huge mess and tries to guilt her adult offspring into letting her sponge off them.

The main reason that I think it's important, however, is that I think adoption only works when all sides fully believe in one principle; the people who adopted you are your real parents. That is the meaningful relationship; not some accidental biological linkage you couldn't identify without a geneticist or a birth record. Involving biological relatives would undermine that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:39 PM on January 31, 2005


Part of Bastard Nation's point -- and other adoptee activists' -- is that the basic claim of American adoption of the 50s/60s/70s was that it wasn't that big of a deal. (Post-Roe v. Wade adoption, open adoption, international adoption are different animals, as trii in part notes. Everything is different now.) You move a child around, you change the birth certificate, you have a magical tabula rasa. This is the altruistic underpinning of sealed-record adoption. BN writes, "The child was no longer seen as innately tainted by its illegitimate origins, but as a blank slate ready for the adoptive parents to write upon."

This is still a dominant view of adoption from the outside, and one hears its traces in almost any discussion of adoption. (Like the phrase "real parents," and its clinical corollary, "biological parents.") I have seen both sides of this chasm of sealed records, and I call bullshit. Blood is thick, and genetics are subtle and strong, even when they're unattractive. Nurture doesn't stand a chance. (ymmv)

I can understand the arguments against open records; there are conflicting rights and urges in play, and a great many reunions are not possible, or joyous. (forums.adoption.com is a good place to check that out.) Bastard Nation's stance affirms that adoption is a profoundly non-trivial event, that it cannot be swept under the rug of good intentions, or even love.
posted by dbrown at 7:12 PM on January 31, 2005


this whole argument seems to come down to the idea that adoptees have these magically inalienable civil rights and the mothers have zilch

You don't have any sort of civil right not to have people send you mail, or not to have strangers knock on your door. You can certainly tell them to fuck off, and use the power of the state to keep them fucked off if they're legitimately harrassing.

anonymity protects both sides. It not only protects the mother from being constantly reminded of her decision, it protects the offspring from being hounded by the mother

Perfectly good harrassment and anti-stalking laws already protect anyone against being "hounded" by anyone. Absent some finding or data that birth-mothers are so routinely hounded or threatened by their birth-children that they legitimately require more protection than anyone else, why not just stick with the laws that protect you and me?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:14 PM on January 31, 2005


Perfectly good harrassment and anti-stalking laws already protect anyone against being "hounded" by anyone. Absent some finding or data that birth-mothers are so routinely hounded or threatened by their birth-children that they legitimately require more protection than anyone else, why not just stick with the laws that protect you and me?

Because it's not a normal situation. In that situation, an exploitive or abusive mother or child has a HUGE piece of emotional leverage to use, for which the other is likely to have no resistance. An adult child isn't going to be so completely cold-hearted that they can say no to a bedraggled, drug-addicted parent who shows up to sponge money, and you better believe I've heard of biological mothers who stole their children from their adoptive parents. As for the children, if one screws up and ruins their life, I highly doubt most biological parents are going to be able to resist helping them.

Furthermore, if something goes haywire with the adoption process (the adoptive parents die, are unsuitable, or something else) the mother isn't going to be able to, emotionally or morally, stay out of the situation and let things progress. The system has failed to abrogate her responsibility. The adoption system has to do that, that's what it's for. If it doesn't, people won't use it, and you'll see more abortions, more babies in dumpsters, more babies on doorsteps, etc.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:46 PM on January 31, 2005


In that situation, an exploitive or abusive mother or child has a HUGE piece of emotional leverage to use, for which the other is likely to have no resistance

All that can happen is that someone can tell you something, and you do whatever you want. So long as the there's no fraud in the statements, I think this goes far beyond what people need protecting from.

Protecting people from knowing true things -- that you bore this person, or vice-versa, and that this person is in whatever state -- isn't something the state should be a party to, in my opinion. The state shouldn't assist people in maintaining illusions or fictions, however pleasant. I rather doubt you or many others will agree, really, but this is pretty baseline axiomatic to me. Truth is good. Knowing truth is better than ignorance.

If it doesn't, people won't use it, and you'll see more abortions, more babies in dumpsters, more babies on doorsteps, etc.

That's an empirical claim about which we should have evidence.

If that were true, we would expect the adoption rates in Scotland to have dropped clearly in 1930, and for the abortion/babies-in-dumpsters rate to have increased by approximately the same amount. Ditto England in 1975. Do we see these things?

If that were true, then we would expect the parts of the US with open adoption records to have lower rates of adoption and higher rates of babies in dumpsters, all else equal. Do we see this?

I don't mean that in the snotty go-do-my-homework way, but these are propositions that can be examined if anyone wants to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:18 PM on January 31, 2005


Mitrovarr, would evidence from other countries regarding problems like those you describe - or, I suspect, the lack thereof - sway you? After all, the kind of open records you're so dead-set against are currently the "normal situation" in other countries, and were the "normal situation" in the USA from the start of record-keeping until 1931.

If the kind of problems you mention aren't being seen in those countries, would you be willing to reconsider your position?

On preview, ROU_Xenophobe's similar point.
posted by mediareport at 8:20 PM on January 31, 2005


You are paranoid, Mitrovarr. Good law is not written to inhibit large numbers of people based on rare instances of extreme behavior. As has been said above, we already have laws to deal with those who actually transgress, rather than the hypothetical chimeras you postulate as a scare tactic.
posted by rushmc at 8:22 PM on January 31, 2005


The state shouldn't assist people in maintaining illusions or fictions, however pleasant.

Hear, hear.
posted by rushmc at 8:23 PM on January 31, 2005


Mitrovarr, would evidence from other countries regarding problems like those you describe - or, I suspect, the lack thereof - sway you?

Yes and no. Inter-country variables prevent such data from being conclusive, but it would prove interesting and possibly helpful. Before/after data is better, but I'm not sure 1975 data is new enough to be accurate (it misses the internet, which could easily totally change the situation), and 1930 data is far too old.

You are paranoid, Mitrovarr. Good law is not written to inhibit large numbers of people based on rare instances of extreme behavior. As has been said above, we already have laws to deal with those who actually transgress, rather than the hypothetical chimeras you postulate as a scare tactic.

*Sighs* The extreme cases were only examples of what could possibly happen in the worst cases. The main reasons I am against openness in this situation is based on how I think I would feel as a mother in this situation, and how I think the entire issue of biological relations are treated.

As a male, I cannot perfectly predict how a mother would feel in this situation, but using my empathy and personal values, I can imagine how I would feel and what I would want, if it was somehow me. And what I would want is for it to forever be a closed chapter in my life. As I imagine it, accidental pregnancy and adoption would feel like a tremendous and irrevocable mistake... a barely mitigated disaster. I would want nothing other than to forget. Any contact with the child or any reminder would bring back incredibly painful memories. And there would be no avoiding it, if the child willed it; if the child came to contact you, could you break their heart by refusing to their face? Probably not, and you might not feel worthy of it, because you abrogated your responsibility. Every time you saw them, it would be a reminder of how you failed and what you missed.

Futhermore, I don't think the adopted child is served in any way, other than the strictly medical (by having records available), by finding their biological parents. To be honest, I think it would be incredibly unhealthy. Their adoptive parents have been parents to them in every meaningful way, yet because of some biological irregularity, they suddenly aren't 'real' enough? Searching for their biological parents is almost certainly going to erode at their essential and real relationship with them, in a search for some non-existant relationship based on a misunderstanding of biology.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:04 PM on January 31, 2005


And what I would want is for it to forever be a closed chapter in my life.

I can understand why one might feel that way. But what makes you think they have the right to impose that decision upon someone else?

Futhermore, I don't think the adopted child is served in any way, other than the strictly medical (by having records available), by finding their biological parents. To be honest, I think it would be incredibly unhealthy.

Now you're just imposing your feelings on everyone else. There have been many, many cases of reunions with biological parents which have proved rewarding for both parties. You would just dismiss those out of hand, apparently.
posted by rushmc at 9:41 PM on January 31, 2005


Searching for their biological parents is almost certainly going to erode at their essential and real relationship with [their adoptive parents]

What on earth makes you say that? Are relationships a zero-sum game? You went way too far on that point, Mitrovarr; it's a ridiculously thoughtless and rigid assumption.
posted by mediareport at 6:43 AM on February 1, 2005


I totally have to back ROU_Xenophobe on this one. As far as worries of harassment and the like, we already have laws to address that.

As for adoption being about abrogating responsibility... Funny I thought the purpose was to try and give the child a better living condition to be raised in. The birth mother for whatever reason (emotional immaturity, financial issues, etc...) can not provide a quality of life they feel their child deserves, so they give them up in hopes that someone else can. I'm sure there are those who give up their children for totally selfish reasons, but that's not what the idea of adoption is about.

It's peachy that someone wants to run away and forget what they have done... Doesn't change the fact that they did it, they will have to live with it for the rest of their life. You can't litigate or contract it away. It comes down to facts and the truth. In the end I'm going to have to come down on the side of truth. Open the birth records.
posted by MrBobaFett at 6:51 AM on February 1, 2005


One of the many myths of adoption running through this thread is the assumption that the closed records exist because once upon a time underage and unwed mothers were promised this would protect them from public knowledge of their shame in having given birth to an illegitimate baby yet at the same time everyone seems to agree that this is no longer an issue. The real fear that previously sealed records may be opened is that they have served to cover up the crimes of the system that delivered the baby to its adopters.

Listing the reasons that mothers "give up" their babies ignores the *coercion* that many these mothers have been subjected to. In the past this coercion was framed in a context of shame and social/religious ostracism, which is wearing a bit thin these days - to be replaced, one presumes, by poverty - so the "supply" of healthy babies is like so many other things being "outsourced" to the third world. The elephant in the living room is the "demand" for these infants and the large amounts of money changing hands.

There is a difference between adoption, the practice whereby human societies care for genuinely orphaned children, and infant trafficking which is the category that most "international" or "private" adoptions fall into. If a child has "birthparents" they are not orphans and the millions of dollars well-intentioned westerners spend on buying babies and supporting "the last legal slave trade on earth" would be much better spent caring for the millions of genuinely orphaned children (over 1 million to AIDS in Africa alone) there are on this planet.
posted by dinsdale at 11:18 AM on February 1, 2005


« Older Pushing the open source agenda to the internationa...  |  Thinking with Type... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments