The issue of sealed birth records roots back to the 1930s. That was a completely different time when parents wanted their children to be totally committed; when women felt embarrassed if someone discovered their infertility; and when sealing the data on birth was an approval to lie and hide. Nowadays the perspective on these points are different. In addition to morale, more facets of this issue emerge urging reconsideration of closed access to birth records. In the context of the modern world, birth records may bear particular importance not only for perception of life and self-recognition but also might be the matter of life and death.
In general, the perspective of the issue defines whether the adoptees “must,” “should,” or “ought to” have access to their birth certificate. First of all, knowing the origins is a basic human right. Everyone should know where he/she comes from and who are biological parents. This question is broadly debated through decades in the past. Obviously, there are pros and cons that stem from numerous reasons. The birth certificate bears essential information about the parents, location of birth, and other significant information that might be useful in particular situation. The issue of access to the birth records has several facets. First of all, this is the question of morale and relationship between the adoptee and the adoptive parents. Another aspect is freedom of choice and rights. And finally, the array of reasons reaches the area of medicine.
The most common reason in the debate for restricted access is vulnerability of a young mind. Protecting interests of adoptive parents as well as the birth eliminate the adoptee’s right to make a choice – to know or not to know (Samanta & Samanta 2016). By and large, the adopted person has no freedom of choice. Speaking of the young mind, children grow up with personal understanding of morale and rights. Having no access means that, in this issue, they will always feel that someone make decision for them.
Morale stated above is the reason to another case named secrets. The argument between goers and protesters evolve around secrets and erosion of life fundamentals. The protesters say that when the life is established with an adopted child in a new family, the revelation of truth may undermine the adoptee’s perception of life and destroy relationship with adoptive parents. If done unexpectedly and involuntarily. This truth may cause dramatic affect. If this truth is a part of family fundament, this knowledge may become the reason to keep each other tighter and grow into a strong family on the basis of trust and respect (Pertman 2007).
More essential role of the birth certificate arises in terms of medical needs. Most commonly, medical practitioners ask a question: “What is the medical history of your family?” The assessment of potential risks that stem from family background is the matter of the person’s health (Rothberg 2005). When a person states being adopted, this seems unfair and unequal compared to those who has access to information about family health record and consequently have more opportunities to receive relevant medical help.
Going into the realms of rights, one interesting fact is that adoptees are the only group that does not have access to birth records. Children who live in foster homes but not adopted have the right to know their origin (Riben 2015). Ones born out of wedlock and whose fathers do not want to reveal the secret affair also have the same right. Why adoptees do not? What makes them marginalized?
This is only one side of the debates. In this discussion, children experience discrimination about exercising their right to know the truth and at one’s own and sole discretion as well as their biological mothers who seek for this truth but encounter obstacles. Biological mothers pose the majority of efforts aimed at finding the lost link. Professor of Law Elizabeth Samuels carried out a research where she reviewed paperwork for relinquishment of parental rights. Mothers signed the paper for their children to be adopted, but these papers did not include the lines that stated anonymity or confidentiality (Samuels 2015).
Taking two parts together, both parties, who put a lot of efforts to know the truth, encounter obstacles and suffering. This outlines a gory picture where thousands of mothers lose hope to find children and maybe grown up children want to search for truth and find their geological roots (Faulkner & Madden). When someone reaches the far end of the truth that there is someone of your true biological family, the question of contact arises.
Making a contact is not an obligation. Having the truth in hands, both sides have a free choice to proceed with further actions or not. Mostly, adoptees have care and respect while trying to make contact directly. Both parties may choose when, where, and in what format to contact and meet each other. When the person decides not to proceed with the new opportunity of relationship, there are personal eand legal actions that support this decision. However, the deprivation of right to have access to birth certificate meaning the right to know the truth is not an option.
- Faulkner, Monica, and Elissa E. Madden. “Open Adoption and Post-Adoption Birth Family Contact: A Comparison of Non-Relative Foster and Private Adoptions.” Adoption Quarterly 15.1 (2012): 35-56.
- Pertman, Adam. FOR THE RECORDS: Restoring a Legal Right for Adult Adoptees. N.p.: Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 2007. PDF.
- Riben, Mirah. “Adoptee Access to Birth Certificates Protects Their Parents’ Privacy.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Apr. 2015. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.
- Rothberg, Glenda. “Special Issue On Adoptions.” Family Court Review 39.1 (2005): 19-24. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
- Samanta, Jo, and Ash Samanta. “4. Confidentiality and Access to Medical Records.” Law Trove (2016): n. pag. Web.
- Samuels, Elizabeth J. “Surrender and Subordination: Birth Mothers and Adoption Law Reform.” Michigan Journal of Gender and Law 20.1 (2013): 33-81. Umich.edu. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.