Minnesota adoptees lack equal access to personal history

  • Article by: Gretchen Traylor
  • Updated: May 21, 2013 - 9:07 PM

Adoptees are the last group of Minnesotans denied full self-awareness and identity.

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hermajestyMay. 21, 1310:27 PM

There's a real generation gap on this issue. I was living in Oregon when it was debated there. Younger women were all for it, but older women (born in the 1940s or before) were afraid that if a woman who had kept her status as an unmarried mother a secret were to suddenly have an adult child show up, her husband would divorce her and her friends would never speak to her again. I said, "Oh, so you would reject a friend who turned out to have given up a child for adoption fifty years ago?" No, they said, of course, they wouldn't, but they were afraid that SOMEONE might. Younger women, on the other hand, whether birth mothers or adoptive mothers or adoptees, were all for revealing family records or even open adoption, in which the adoptive parents raise the child but the birth parents have visitation rights.

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msminnMay. 22, 13 5:54 AM

Spin it anyway you like, but people aren't meant to be "given away" and adopted any more than they are meant to be bought and sold. It's a human rights issue that isn't made any better by knowing the names of the people -- or the people themselves -- who decided for themselves that the life they brought into this world is an inconvenience.

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lilliemnMay. 22, 13 9:07 AM

It's not even about reunion - it's about a person's right to his or her own record of birth. Adopted people are being reunited with their biological relatives every day without their birth certificates; I did in the 90's with the help of the adoption agency that handled my adoption. And because of the laws of Minnesota, I am still unable to obtain or even see my own original birth certificate. Their reason? The woman at the counter told me, "We have to protect your birth parents." From what? From me? One, I already know them. Their names, their addresses, I've been to their houses, had barbeques in their back yards, we've celebrated some birthdays and holidays and had a few barbeques and went bowling and I can even tell you their favorite colors and movies and place to buy groceries. Am I some sort of threat? A person who has never even gotten so much as a parking ticket? To say that these laws are needed to "protect" someone from some perceived "threat" is demeaning. I thought adopted people were special and adoption was a beautiful thing...now I am suspect and something to be feared? These laws are antiquated, outdated, and need to be abolished. I know who gave birth to me, now I would like to have a copy of the official document stating that fact. There is no need to perpetuate these state mandated secrets and lies any longer.

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rlemkerMay. 22, 1310:19 AM

I am thankful to have been born and not aborted. If that means I have no health history, so be it. My birth mother made the decision, as was her right, and she made it expecting to remain anonymous. It is unfair to her to change the rules now. It is none of my business unless she chooses to make herself known to me. If she did, I would thank her for my life.

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endothermMay. 22, 1312:02 PM

My grandfather was adopted and never knew his birth parents. To this day, we have a big gap in our family history because of it. But it seems to me like this just goes with the territory. Anonymity laws are designed to encourage adoption (rather than abortion) by assuring birth parents that their actions can remain private. If the parents want to waive anonymity, that should be their right, but I don't think it should be retroactively taken away from them. If we want to change the law, it should only impact new adoptions.

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davehougMay. 22, 1312:21 PM

Doesn't every state ALLOW the birth mother to decide if she wants her info revealed?? If not she should merely pick another adoption agency.

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davehougMay. 22, 1312:23 PM

The reasons given for opposing this restoration are based on myth, conjecture and unverifiable fears - - - AND - - - promises made to the birth mother.

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romany777May. 22, 13 1:23 PM

Opposition to unsealing records always hangs upon the repetition of myths and conjecture that have no basis in fact. Allow me to explain: Re: abortion - Sealed records laws date from several decades before Roe v. Wade. The purpose had nothing to do with abortion. Further, there are many surveys out there where women had abortions because sealed records would prevent that woman from ever knowing what happened to her child. Abortion would give her closure whereas adoption would not. There are approximately 1,000,000 abortions performed in the US each year and sealed records are still the standard in nearly all states. It doesn't take a math genius to figure out that the status of adoption records is NOT what is driving the abortion rate. Re: Promises of privacy - Records do not seal upon relinquishment. If a woman places a child for adoption and absolutely does not want that child to ever know who she is - the record will remain open and available to that child UNLESS the child is adopted. If a woman places a child for adoption and absolutely DOES want that child to know who she is - the record will be sealed once the child is adopted. Ask yourself this - if it's all about "birthmother privacy" why do records seal in ALL adoptions? Step parent adoptions, adoptions of orphans, adoptions by relatives, adoptions from foster care, adoptions of older children, even "open" adoptions. About HALF of all adoptions do not have any "birthmother privacy" issue yet the records are still sealed. Why? To protect the adoptee and the adoptive family. Back when these sealed records laws first hit the books, all birth registers were public record. Anybody could know if a child was born out of wedlock. Anybody could know that the people this child called Mom and Dad were not his biological parents. When parents were required to present a birth certificate to register the child for school, the birth certificate could very well prove to be embarrassing if it listed another man (or no man) as the child's father or if the certificate was stamped "illegitimate" as many were back then. The state registrars created a way for the illegitimacy to be erased and for the public document to show the adoptive parents as the parents with no one knowing differently. It was considered the perfect solution to the birth record problem and the parties to the adoption (adoptee, adoptive parents and birth parents) all had access to the original document even if the general public did not.

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pjfallonMay. 22, 13 2:41 PM

My State Representative opposed this bill because of the abortion special interest group who filled her with false information. What's more important? A birthmother's anonymity or an adoptee's life? The fact is, many birthmother's were never promised anonymity and never expected it. The fact is, many adoptees have life altering illnesses that could be detected and treated, had they had some family history and knowledge. The fact is, many adoptees just want to see their original birth certificate because it's FACT! Not FICTION! Like the altered, modified birth certificate after adoption. The fact is, many adoptees are having difficulty obtaining passports and some even driver's licenses because their birth certificates were not filed within a certain mandated time period of their birth. I was reunited with my birthmother, without the aid of my OBC. The FACT is, any adoptee who wants to search and find, is going to do it, and go to many different means to do it, without the aid of their OBC. And since when, in the history of any race, creed, religion, etc., has secrecy ever been a condoned and accepted law/practice? My answer, only in adoption. Great article Gretchen! Thank you for writing it.

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teguzcoMay. 23, 1310:16 AM

I am an adoptive father and attorney who has followed this issue here and around the country for more than 15 years. Many of the comments to date illustrate the general lack of awareness of how these laws came to be and what the evidence has shown with regard to any potential relationship between sealed open records and abortion. Minnesota first sealed adotees' birth records almost 100 years ago, but only from the general public, not from the adoptee or the adoptee's parents. That came much later. At present, whether an adoptee has access to his or her original birth certificate depends upon when he or she was adopted and whether one or both of the biological parents have filed an affidavit prohibiting its release. There are various theories about why records were sealed in the first place, whether to shield the biological parents, the adoptive parents or the child. The only thing that we can be certain of is that the decision wasn't intended to conceal the fact that a child was born out of wedlock. Why? Because records have never been sealed unless and until the child was adopted. Given this fact, it seems most likely to me that the decision to seal records was made in order to 'protect' the adoptive family from public knowledge that a child had been adopted. Opponents of open records consistently take the positiont that "women were promised" that the records would be and remain sealed. There are a number of problems with this. First, legally and practically, the mere fact that a law says a record will be sealed today does not mean that it will be sealed tomorrrow. Laws change, a fact of which we are all aware. Second, despite decades of dispute over this issue, no one has ever produced a single document supporting the claim that such promises were made by either the state or any adoption agency. Anything said by an agency is on the agency, not the State of Minnesota and not adoptees.

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