Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Rhode Island Health & Human Services Committee


Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization is the largest adoptee civil rights 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 S2759 and its companion bill H7877 already passed in the House.

S2759 is misleading and inimical to the right of all Rhode Island adoptees to access their own original birth certificates. The measure is promoted as an “adoptee rights” and OBC “access bill.” It is not. The bill reinforces out-dated adoption secrecy through the “do not release” disclosure veto option for “birthparents” and other biological family members. S2759 does not restore the right to the OBC once enjoyed by all Rhode adoptees. Instead, it makes adoptee access to their own birth certificates a state/”birth family” conditioned privilege separate and unequal from the right enjoyed by Rhode Island’s not adopted.

1. denies equal protection to the state’s adopted adults by (a) maintaining different rules for birth certificate access for the adopted and not-adopted and (b) creating new and different rules for access between the adopted themselves through the use of disclosure vetoes.

2. rescinds Rhode Island General Law § 15-7-7: Termination of parental rights. – (a) The court shall, upon a petition duly filed by a governmental child placement agency or licensed child placement agency after notice to the parent and a hearing on the petition, terminate any and all legal rights of the parent to the child, including the right to notice of any subsequent adoption proceedings involving the child) and replaces it with a new state-constructed “special right” for “birthparents” that no other parent has: barring their own offspring from the state-held document of their birth.

3. extends that new special veto “right” to the parents and siblings of deceased or permanently disabled/incompetent “birthparents,” some of the very people who may have forced the adoptee to be surrendered for adoption to start with and who have never held any rights over the adoptee at any time.

4. assumes that the legal right to access a birth certificate equates with the interpersonal decision of search and “reunion” for adopted person

5. denies the right of free association and autonomy of adopted adult by creating an intrusive parens patriae relationship between the state and adults where none is needed or desired.
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 in Rhode Island or any other state to show that so-called promise. In fact, courts have found that “birthparents 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)). Moreover, OBCs are sealed at the time of adoption finalization not surrender, and the birth certificate of any child not adopted is left unsealed and available not only to him or her but to the public at large. If an adoption is disrupted, the birth certificate is unsealed.

Under normal circumstances, competitive rights and their balancing is a problem only when there is a conflict of rights. Since there is a presumed right for all adults to access their birth certificate, and there no “right” to anonymity from one’s own offspring, there is nothing that needs balanced. S2759 and H7877 in their current restricted form are pointless.

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. Approximately 17,000 birth certificates. Other states are moving in the direction. S2759 and H7877 not only maintain the status quo but create new roadblocks to the restoration of the civil rights of all adoptees in Rhode Island and the US.

US and Rhode Island law does not privilege rights by race, religion, ethnicity, age, or gender. The law should not privilege rights by adoption. A true records access bill in Rhode Island would not harm anyone. It would instead restore legal equality, dignity, and fairness to adopted persons. Bastard Nation, therefore, cannot support S2759 and H7877 with their continued and additional harm to Rhode Island’s adopted citizens.

Don’t leave anyone behind. Please reject S2759 (and H7877) and replace it with a clean OBC access bill that treats Rhode Island’s entire adopted population equal to its not-adopted. A clean bill will have universal support from adoptee rights advocates and adoption reformers across the country. Please vote DO NOT PASS on S2759.

Bastard Nation is dedicated to the recognition of the full human and civil rights of adult adoptees. Toward that end, we advocate the opening to adoptees, upon request at age of majority, of those government documents which pertain to the adoptee's historical, genetic, and legal identity, including the unaltered original birth certificate and adoption decree. Bastard Nation asserts that it is the right of people everywhere to have their official original birth records unaltered and free from falsification, and that the adoptive status of any person should not prohibit him or her from choosing to exercise that right. We have reclaimed the badge of bastardy placed on us by those who would attempt to shame us; we see nothing shameful in having been born out of wedlock or in being adopted. Bastard Nation does not support mandated mutual consent registries or intermediary systems in place of unconditional open records, nor any other system that is less than access on demand to the adult adoptee, without condition, and without qualification.