SUBMITTED TESTIMONY IN OPPOSITION TO HB 5428
ACCESS TO BIRTH CERTIFICATES FOR ADULT ADOPTEES
Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee
April 13, 2010
ACCESS TO BIRTH CERTIFICATES FOR ADULT ADOPTEES
Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee
April 13, 2010
Bastard Nation: the adoptee rights organization is the largest adoptee rights advocacy organization in the United States. We support full, unrestricted access for all adopted persons, upon request, of their own true, unaltered original birth certificates (OBC). We oppose HB 5428 as we have opposed similar bills introduced in the Illinois legislature over the past 15 years.
HB 5428 is misleading. The bill’s stated purpose and its final product are diametrically opposed. The bill simply beefs up the current confidential intermediary/registry system that controls adoptee access to their own public records and adds penalties for so-called “misuse” of information from the registry. According to the bill’s introduction:
The General Assembly recognizes that it is the basic right of all persons to access their birth records, and, to this end, supports public policy that allows an adult adoptee to access his or her original birth certificate
Then, the second sentence immediately voids the “basic right” claim of the first, turning OBC access into a state-granted privilege:
The General Assembly further recognizes that there are circumstances under which a birth parent may have compelling reasons for wishing to remain anonymous to a child he or she surrendered for adoption.
The introduction ends with a mishmash of language that falsely equates “interests” with “rights. It then turns around and creates “special rights,” ungrounded in law, for biological parents based on the age of the adult adopted person, biological parent comfort, and a multi-level bureaucracy to control and restrict the outcome of what the bill claims is a “basic right.”
In an effort to balance these interests, the General Assembly supports public policy that releases a non-certified copy of the original birth certificate to an adult adopted person upon request unless a specific request for anonymity has been filed with the Registry by a birth parent upon request unless a specific request for anonymity has been filed with the Registry by a birth parent named on the original birth certificate.”
The bill’s introduction is followed by 80 pages (pdf) of convoluted, confusing definitions, rules, and regulations that only the politically astute and experienced I adoption legislation can understand. The bill offers a bureaucratic cornucopia of original OBC “permissions” “information exchanges” and controls reflecting the individual personal “preferences” and desires of “birthparents,” and collateral “birth family” members—all with appropriate state forms to fill out--and bureaucrats, geared to override the “basic right” the General Assembly claims adopted people have.
Parts of this bill have already been enacted into law; some are new sections. Although there is much to object to, we limit ourselves to a brief overview with comments on eight egregious points. The term “parent” throughout the testimony refers to the biological parent HB 5428:
1. conflates rights with reunion. It confuses OBC access with contact with a parent. It retains the Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Exchange (IARME), and currently outsources the registry process to the privately owned Midwest Adoption Center as the OBC gateway; thus, keeping the vital records of the state’s adoptees at the mercy and whim of “confidential intermediaries” and paid “searchers” in an inherently arbitrary system accountable to no one.
2. vacates, though parental disclosure veto power (see #4) 750 ILCS 50/10) (from Ch. 40, par. 1512) FINAL AND IRREVOCABLE CONSENT TO ADOPTION which states in part:
That I do hereby consent and agree to the adoption of such child. That I wish to and understand that by signing this consent I do irrevocably and permanently give up all custody and other parental rights I have to such child. That I understand such child will be placed for adoption and that I cannot under any circumstances, after signing this document, change my mind and revoke or cancel this consent or obtain or recover custody or any other rights over such child.
It also contradicts its own language:
“Surrendered person” means a person whose parents’ rights have been surrendered or terminated but who has not been adopted.” (p 11)
3. divides Illinois’ adopted citizens into two arbitrary classes based solely on date of birth: worthy and unworthy. Worthies are born before January 1, 1946. Their OBC is released upon request--like the not-adopted. Unworthies are born after that date. Their OBC release is subject to a lengthy menu of regulations, restrictions and other people’s decisions about access, none of which are under the adult adoptee’s control.
4. subjects Unworthies to five subcategories of parental permission. These categories are not based in a public or civil rights /equal protection and treatment paradigmn. but on state-granted privilege. The bill predicates release on a “special right” for parents whose rights were terminated decades ago, which no other parent or adult has: a special right to deny another adult his or her own birth certificate.
5. Parents (referred to as “birthparents in the bill) are given five “preferences” to choose from:
a. Agree to full release; parent prefers direct contact
b. Agree to full release; parent prefers contact through a personally designated third party
c. Agree to full release; parent prefers contact through IARME
d. Agree to full release; parent prefers no contact
e. Prohibit release of the OBC or certain designated information on the OBC. Depending on the parent’s “preference” the prohibited adoptee may receive the OBC with specific information deleted. In other words, the State of Illinois will deliberately mutilate its own public record at the request of a private individual—in most cases a virtual stranger to the requester--to abrogate the right the “basic right” state says the adoptee has.
6. forces adopted persons who have been denied their birth certificates, to wait FIVE years before they can appeal the decision. At that time, IARME, upon petition, can search for the parent to request an updated medical history and/or confirm the continuance of the prohibition.
7. levies a minimum $10,000 punitive damage claim, payable to the “sought-after relative” against any individual—a CI, state employee, even the adopted person-- who uses information allegedly received from the IARME to identify the relative who has requested “anonymity.” How the source of information is to be determined is anybody’s guess.
8. includes a provision for a massive taxpayer funded public information campaign including a website, press releases, and printed notices about the law enclosed with drivers license and vehicle renewal applications. This cost does not include the cost of retention of separate birth, adoption and registry records, general maintenance of IARME, and outsourced searches which the state has no legal or fiscal responsibility to pursue. We have seen no fiscal note at this time, but under the current state government budget slashes, such expenditures are irresponsible and wasteful.
For nearly three decades, we have heard the claim that biological parents have been promised anonymity from their own offspring who were placed for adoption, yet not one document has ever been presented to show that promise. In fact, some parents say they were promised reunions when their surrendered child became an adult—reunions that never materialized. If anything, courts have found that parents do not have any legal expectation of anonymity. (Doe v Sundquist, 943 F. Supp. 886, 893-94 (M.D. Tenn. 1996)) (06 F.3d 703, 705 (6th Cir. 1997)) (Does v Oregon, Summary Judgment Oregon State Court of Appeals) (Does v. State of Oregon, 164 Or.App. 543, 993 P.2d 833, 834 (1999)).
Under normal circumstances, competitive rights and their balancing is a problem only when there is a conflict of rights. Since there is also a presumed right to own one’s birth certificate, and no “right” to anonymity from one’s own offspring, there is nothing that needs balanced. HB 5428 is pointless. It needs to die in committee now.
Kansas and Alaska have never sealed birth certificates. In the last 10 years, Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire and Maine have restored the right of all its adopted adults—without restriction-- to access their own original birth certificates. Those bills were short and sweet. Approximately 17,000 birth certificates have been unsealed, with no “social unrest” that opponents claimed. Other states are moving in the same direction. Yet, here we are in Springfield arguing an 80 page monstrosity that does nothing but create an even thicker—and more expensive--bureaucracy than already exists. We’ve been at this for 15 years now, and I doubt if anybody here wants to do it another 15 years or 20 years, or 50 years. But if that’s what it takes, we will.
The Illinois legislature needs to put its money where its mouth is: The General Assembly recognizes that it is the basic right of all persons to access their birth records, and, to this end, supports public policy that allows an adult adoptee to access his or her original birth certificate.
Please make that public policy a reality and come back with a real OBC access bill that treats all of Illinois’ adopted equal to its not-adopted. Please vote DO NOT PASS.
Marley E. Greiner
Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization
It appears that I am the first comment, so, so far not too much interest in this issue. I have been searching for my biological parents for 40 years, fighting against an archaic and Draconian system that appears to be only evident in Illinois. This bill will open my records to me. I do not care above penalties that may occur, or any of the caveats listed above. The important thing is that Illinois is now close to releasing these records. Although the writer of the above article may have the luxury of waiting another 15 years for a simpler bill as exists in other states, I no longer have that luxury. This bill must be PASSED.
In other words, you don't have a problem continuing to to let other people suffer form what you suffer form now, as long as you get what you want? What if you get a veto put on you?
I failed to include that virtually no adoptee rights or adoption reform organizations in the United States supports this bill. Why would that be?
Actually, that is not true. I am a member of a number of a few adoptee's rights organizations in Illinois that have alerted me to this bill, and have requested that I send in my acceptance. I took the liberty of googling the bill and reading it in its entirety. It is interesting to note that the Illinois Right to Life Campaign is actively lobbying against this bill, and frankly, much of the 'blogs' and information on the internet has been written by them. This is not a right to life or abortion issue. It is an adoption issue that directly impacts me. I suggest that you re-read the bill, looking at a larger picture. For example, much of what is written is discussing these two alleged 'groups' that will be created (those born before and after January 1, 1946). What does this really mean? In actuality, it is a baseline separating those who will attain the age of 65 (or older) in 2011, and frankly, it assumes that most if not all of their parents will be deceased by that time. In essence it is precluding any need for birth parent approval of any contact for this group. For the rest, the bill not only respects adoptees, but birth parents as well, as the delay is directly caused by the issuance of information, notices of consent, etc. In the event that contact is denied, by the choice of the birth parent, then medical information, etc., is still available, however identifying information is not. I would imagine that there are a number of birth parents who just do not want contact with the children that they gave up, for whatever reason. Although I may not appreciate that decision, I must respect it, even if it is from my own biological parents. You must remember that, at the time of adoption, parental anonymity was guaranteed. A biological parent relied on that guarantee.
I do not understand who these people are that are 'suffering', as you describe. Nor do I understand how this bill furthers any suffering. If you wish to expound on this, I will gladly give you my opinion.
I posted an answer to the above but it appears that it has not been put on the website. It is untrue that 'every' adoption agency in the country opposes this bill. I suggest that, rather than plying people with misinformation, anyone with an interest in this issue reads the Bill. While not perfect, it is a HUGE step forward for Illinois, and respects both the adoptees and birth parents rights. I am hoping that it is passed. So far, each and every argument that I have read against this issue has been misleading, filled with misinformation, etc. And much of this is propagandized by the Illinois Right to Lift group, who have jumped on this bandwagon. It is really appalling.
Jane, you still have not posted the names of Illinois adoption reform groups that supported passage of HB 5428. It was heavily opposed by Illinois Open, Illinois Adoption Reform, Bastard Nation, and as far as I know, the American Adoption Congress. What other organizations are there? The bill was a secret until it passed the House--not even posted; and hearings were not announced.
Of course, the bill was not about abortion We can agree on that. Anti-aborts use any hammer than can find on us to further their own agenda.
We have read the bill several time, and between us we have around 100 years of legislative experience. The bill is quite clear; 2 groups: haves and have nots. Those who need no one's consent to their records and those who are subjected to all sorts of consent options. No other state has such a screwed up system.
The state has no business collecting somebody's medical history--especially as a form of blackmail if the closeted parent(s) does oot want contact, which btw, has nothing to do with owning your own obc.
Parental anonymity has never been "guaranteed." OBCs aren't even sealed until an adoption is finalized If the child is never adopted the record remains unsealed. If the adoption is disrupted, the record is unsealed. Identifying information often appears on court documents given adoptive parents. Courts sometimes open the obc "for good cause." In 30 years of fighting unrestricted adoptee access, no opposition has ever presented one single document promising anonymity.
You said you didn't have the luxury of waiting another 15 years for your obc, so one must assume there's some kind of "suffering" on your part. You obviously want your obc, yet you are willng to tell others they can't have theirs under this anti-adoptee bill.
BTW, do you know the history of this bill? I've blogged about it extensively at http://bastardette.blogspot.com
Jane--where has anyone said that 'every' adoption agency in the country opposes this bill. Adoption agencies aren't ene mention. We are discussing adoptee rights and adoption reform organizatons Big difference. Agin, please list the adoption reform groups you belong to which support HB 5428.
To try to die adoptee rights opposition to anti-aborts is ludricrous.
Jane says, "You must remember that, at the time of adoption, parental anonymity was guaranteed. A biological parent relied on that guarantee."
It was not guaranteed. It has never been guaranteed. If it been, don't you think NCFA, RTL, PP and other opponents to records access would have presented the guarantee? In 30 years, they haven't.
It must be a horrible feeling to be so desperate for information that a person will sacrifice the rights of others to get any piece of information they can. And the scary part is they are willing to risk not even getting their own information.
What is needed is people with Jane's passion and perservance to get birth records open to ALL citizens in the State of Illinois.
I'm not surprised there are hoards of people throughout this nation who would support legislation that would "possibly" open their records. People are getting so desperate to get their records that they've either resigned themselves to a life as a veiled bastard or they'll globb onto anything even if it means foresaking others. I'm glad the Women of Suffrage didn't have this "me, me, me" attitude.
I'm wondering how any biological parent could have relied upon a "guarantee" of anonymity when there was no guarantee that the child would be adopted, no notice of adoption would be given and a judge could open the records for "good cause shown" without any notice to the parent.
BTW - the age of 65 is just a coincidence. Massachusetts set the magic DOB at 1974. If it was truly about the age of 65 (or any other age) then the magic year of birth would not fixed.
While I agree that some bio parents may not want contact, what has that got to do with getting one's own original birth certificate? If someone does not want contact, file a contact preference form and put the adoptee on notice. Just say no. That's what adults do.
You know as well as anyone that there is no way the state can guarantee anyone's anonmity. The state has no way of making sure members of the birth member didn't talk about the "neice or sister who went away". You know there were nuns, attorney's, adoption agency employees who did and said anything they could to punish, torment and shame girls into signing over their babies.
Yes, there will be lots of people who will reunite if this bill becomes law. Personally, I can't in good conscience sacrifice the rights of some people. If even a 1/4 of the citizens who be able to access their records would step up, shout out and demand their rights...bills like HB5428 would not be happening.
Supporting a law that does not create equal rights for all citizens is nothing more than a slap in the face to every woman and girl in this nation.
Jane...please call Governor Quinn's Office and ask him to please Veto this bill. Ask him to tell Illinois State Legislator's to go back, create a bill that gives all citizens the same right to access their original birth records and tell him to reference Oregan's "Contact Preference Form".
Please Jane, this is as much for you and me, as it is for all mother's and their children yet to be born.
Methinks that "Jane" is a ghostwriter. And methinks I know who Jane really is. No wonder she thinks this is a great bill!
It seems in some ways you've been sadly misinformed. Birth Parents have never been guaranteed anonymity from their offspring in any state at any time. So what "rights" do you think would be disrespected with a clean open records bill?
I imagine that if you were in the "unworthy" category you would wish that others had stood up to help you fight for your civil rights as a citizen of this country. It's unfortunate (but not surprising in this day and age of "me, me, it's all about me and what you can do for me") that you aren't willing to do the same.
Leave no one behind.
I think so, too, Pennagal, or she might be a certain Irish priest with his cassock in a wad.
Jane is bullshit and *Jane's* comments are bullshit. As a mother who surrendered in 1964 in Chicago, Illinois...I can say I was absolutely there! and no one, not one godamn person guaranteed me that my privacy would be guaranteed. The only thing I was promised...YOU will never see "the baby" again! No promise of reunion at 18 yrs of age, no promise that I would be contacted if "the baby" grew up and wanted to contact me..nada, nada, nada!! DO you hear that "Jane"...NADA!!!!!!
You aren't an adoptee...you are most definitely a shill...and a liar! Crawl back in the rat-hole you crawled out of. I am one Mother who desires no "protection" by the likes of you and your cohorts.
I wonder if Sara Feigenholtz's middle name is Jane or perhaps a friend of hers is writing all this BS.
Anyone saying that there is not much interest in advocating against HB 5428 must have their head in a dumpster.
If Governor Quinn is not man enough to say no to Chicago Democrats and signs this piece of trash, IL will be taking a gigantic step backward in adoption reform.
If that happens, I for one am not going away - IL must become an open records state. A good start would be to blow some of the current lawmakers right out of Springfield and get some decent people in.
Like I said to her on my blog (after I too went through with her that "anonymity" is not only a joke but a violation of basic human rights), it's pointness to ask Civil Rights Activist to support an Anti-Civil Rights bill.
If this were about race, religion, disability, or gender, negating one's rights with information erasures and restraining orders would cause an outrage. There are too many adoptee apologists willing to submit to oppression and are unwilling to admit we shouldn't be a subordinate class any longer. There is no difference between the ignorance of telling someone they cannot vote because of the color of their skin or denying a constituent a meeting with their legislator because their wheelchair doesn't fit in the office door, than there is telling someone they must lose their rights as a free person for being adopted.
Nope, sorry. It's just not OK. Human Rights are Human Rights. Civil Rights are Civil Rights. The moment we compromise is the moment we admit we're less human than everyone else.
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