On April 23, 2008,the Ohio House Health Committee met to take testimony on HB Sub Bill 7. The original HB 7 contained language which would have restored the right of all Ohio adoptees without restriction to access to their original birth certificates. It would have filled in the black hole and removed disclosure vetoes from the third tier. The sub bill stripped that language to maintain the YES NO and MAYBE status quo.
Buckeyes for Equal Access (BEA) sent the following letter to all members of the Health Committee. It plans to add a bit more and submit it as testimony at the April 30, hearing. And no, the pictures were not part of the letter! Maybe they should have been!
I attended yesterday’s hearing, and will write about it a little later today or tomorrow.
Buckeyes for Equal Access (BEA) is a voluntary group of adopted adults, birthparents, adoptive parents, and others connected to Ohio through adoption. We advocate unrestricted access to the unfalsified and unredacted original birth certificates (obc) upon request, for all Ohio adoptees. No exceptions. Our membership includes people from Akron, Columbus, Cleveland, Youngstown, Heath, Fostoria, Marion, Lakemore, Toledo, and all points in between.
BEA is extremely disappointed that unrestricted access to the obc included in HB 7 has been deleted from the sub bill. We ask the committee to amend the sub bill to restore records access with the exact language of the original bill—with no disclosure vetoes or other mechanisms to keep information hidden from adoptees. At this time we are not advocating the incorporation of any other section of the original bill into the sub bill.
Current Ohio law discriminates against adoptees with an arbitrary state-constructed blacklist, based solely on date of birth or adoption finalization and birthparent consent. The law prohibits large numbers of adopted persons from accessing their own original birth certificates and information about themselves.
There is no legal or moral justification for this 3-tiered disparity. Adopted persons are not only treated differently than the not-adopted, but we are separated amongst ourselves by arbitrary legislatively-set boundaries.
Current Ohio law says there is something terribly wrong with adoption as a way to build a family and with those who live within those families. It forces adopted people (and their families) who want information about themselves to beg government and adoption agency bureaucrats for scraps of information, file petitions and appear in court, join a government “reunion” registry, pay professional searchers and private investigators thousands of dollars–or spend years getting a bill passed to get their own birth certificates.
This is the 21st century. The information superhighway grows wider and longer each day, and adoptees and their families are on it. Thousands of successful adoption searches happen each year—hundreds in Ohio alone—nearly all without the obc. Moreover, in this age of heightened security, people are forced to prove their identities and citizenship. Adopted persons, without an obc, are in danger of losing even more rights than just their obc access. Adoptees report increasing problems in obtaining driver’s licenses, passports, professional certifications, and pensions due to what government bureaucrats refer to as “irregularities” in their amended birth certificates. They demand a paper trial of identity, but adoptee identity, according to the State of Ohio, only begins at the time of adoption. We don’t exist before then.
When will this insanity stop?
“Privacy” arguments against adoptee access are misleading. Privacy does NOT mean absolute, eternal anonymity or secrecy from parties with a legitimate interest in information. That is simply not the meaning of the word, either in normal discourse or in the law. Courts, in fact, have generally determined that the federal constitutional right to privacy means protection of individuals from government intrusion. The sealing of obcs from us– the people to whom they pertain– is clearly a government violation of OUR privacy and an over-reaching act of government authority over our lives.
The current outdated law legitimizes debunked spurious claims of “implied promises of confidentiality” to birthparents—which apparently never existed in Ohio before January 1, 1964 or after September 16, 1996. These so-called “promises” have been disproved repeatedly by activists, legal scholars, historians, and by court rulings. In 30 years of birth record access campaigns throughout the US, not one document has ever been presented to any legislature that gives “promises of confidentiality,” “privacy” or “anonymity”– implied or otherwise. And, if verbal “promises” were made by individual adoption professionals or lawyers, they were private policy statements without the force of law—or reality– behind them.
Identifying information about surrendering parents often appears on court documents given to adoptive parents who can at any point give that information to the adopted person. The names of surrendering parents are published in legal ads. Courts can open “sealed records” for “good cause.” Critically, the obc is sealed at the time of adoption finalization, not surrender. If a child is not adopted, the record is never sealed. If a child is adopted, but the adoption is overturned or disrupted, the obc is unsealed. In Ohio, adoptive parents can request the court at the time of adoption finalization to keep the obc unsealed. Birthparents have no say or special right in the matter.
Adopted people want their original birth certificates for many reasons. but reasons are immaterial We have a right to the facts about our births, origins, and adoptions. We have a right to do whatever we please with the information found on our birth certificates, just as the not-adopted do.
The right to the public record of our births is not some radical controversial idea or an attack on adoption. Wendy’s founder, the highly uncontroversial Dave Thomas, whom some of you may have known, and probably the most prominent and generous advocate of adoption in US history, certainly didn’t think so.
In an interview for Adam Pertman’s book, Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming America, Thomas said, “Those things are controversial for people who have never been adopted, who really don’t understand. Everyone should be able to get their birth certificate, their own information. I’d hate to think I couldn’t get mine.” Thomas, in fact, did have his original birth certificate, given to him by his adoptive grandmother.
The deletion of records access from Sub Bill 7 deletes adoptees from the Ohio landscape. Since records were sealed in 1964 there have been several attempts to restore our rights. Until those rights are restored, we will continue to come here.
The Ohio legislature has a duty to assure that all Ohioans are treated the same under law. The current legislature, particularly the Health Committee, has the opportunity to stop this hamster wheel right now. You can incorporate the exact records access language from HB 7 into this sub bill. You can vote it out of this committee to the floor with a recommendation of DO PASS.. You can restore our rights. You can insure that Ohio adoptees are treated like everyone else. You can undelete us today, this month, this year.