The Examiner has a 4-part interview with Eileen McQuade, president of the American Adoption Congress. Part 3 is dedicated to the AAC’s policy on records access. Eileen talks out of both sides of her mouth:
Adoptees never agreed to the sealing of their birth certificates, and no one had the right to forbid them access to the key document that is available to all other citizens. The AAC does not believe that birth parents have the right to veto access to the birth certificate, because they relinquished all parental rights, including the right to control the birth certificate access. The appropriate balance is the one enacted in Oregon, New Hampshire, and Maine – the birthparent can file a contact preference form, to indicate a willingness for contact.
The AAC believes that the decision to compromise must be made at the state level, depending on the assessment of local advocacy groups.
I’ve been meaning to write a response to a statement along the same lines that Eileen made in the last issue of the AAC newsletter, The Decree. I still intend to, but this Examiner statement needs to be answered now.
I sent off a response to the Examiner, but (I think) due to space limitations only the first four paragraphs appear. Here is my comment in full with some re-writing and a one-paragraph addition towards the end.
Unfortunately, Ms. McQuade’ statements contradict each other.
While the AAC in theory “does not believe that birth parents have the right to veto access to the birth certificate” in practice it supports and promotes legislation, inside and outside its organization, that includes restrictions on access such as disclosure vetoes (DV) white-outs, and prospective measures that leave large groups of people behind.
The AAC opposed Bastard Nation’s successful ballot initiative in Oregon saying we would turn the clock back 20 years. Yet in the 20 years they had been in operation at that time, they and their friends had not gotten passed one single unrestricted access bill, though they’d gotten discriminatory restricted bills in place which continue to muck up the civil rights for the adopted in those states making our job much more difficult.
Not one state–ever– has fixed any compromised law. Once the state has made a DV agreement with a parent, it cannot unilaterally change the law and lift the DV. Even if a DV-state passes a bill retroactively opening all records, DVs on file would remain valid, leaving a blacklist of adoptees that cannot get their obcs unless their individual DV is rescinded—even by court order.
The ACC, no matter what its stated political view may be, is at heart reunionist. Its records agenda is based in desire, not rights. Bastard Nation certainly does not oppose search/reunion, but that’s not the issue. The issue is rights.
All arguments for obc access must flow from the presumed right of all adults to unrestricted access and possession of their original birth certificates, not just a majority class. Otherwise the right to one’s birth certificate is not a right but simply a favor the state grants to some, a proposition which we doubt courts want to consider. The real issue, then, moves beyond “reunion” and the personal to the public and the political: who owns your identity: you or the state? What interest does the state have in keeping your birth certificates sealed? What is adoptees’ relationship to the state?
These are questions the AAC and other reunion-based groups neither address nor seem to take seriously.
Bastard Nation has drawn the winnable blueprint for change. Before BN developed its successful no-compromise strategies, only two states in the country allowed obc access to adoptees, Kansas and Alaska, both of which had never sealed records. Unrestricted access is now the law in four new states. Oregon and Alabama were direct BN projects. In New Hampshire we worked with a loose coalition of organizations and individuals, including AAC members. (right) Our own Janet Allen, a member of the NH House, worked tirelessly for passage with sponsor Sen. Lou D’Allesandro. We were not involved in Maine, but the folks there clearly followed BN’s no-compromise principles. Without BN’s clear vision, courage and core beliefs, none of those states would be open today.
Reformists can’t be as dumb as the box of rocks they pretend to be. Yet, compromise on access, despite all proof to the contrary, remains their strategy of choice and ease. Reformists continue to take the same old tired path of self-defeatism for reasons that I can’t even begin to comprehend. (NOTE: In 1999 Bastard Nation staged a protest at the old NCFA office in Washington, DC. In the Belly of the Beast was held during the AAC annual conference in a nearby Virginia suburb. When a couple of AAC board members exhibited an interest in attending the protest, AAC president Jane Nast not only forbade their attendance but called a mandatory board meeting for the same day and time to guarantee obedience to her and their absence from our ranks.)
The AAC has done some excellent work in other areas of adoption reform, but imo, they are the chief impediment to the restoration of our rights. Our natural opposition operates in a predictable manner: NCFA, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, “right to life” organizations, the Catholic Bishops. No matter what is proposed–clean or compromised–they don’t budge their opposition. Reformists, however, go to great lengths to explain how they “believe” in clean bills. At the slightest sign of opposition they then inexplicably cast their principles before swine, hoping if they toss enough to them, they might get something. This waffling reeks of indecision, insecurity, and amateurism. Moreoever, the AAC by leaving the decision to compromise up to local groups indicates a lack of leadership and exhibits ideological weakness. Wag the dog. Wishy-washyness does not command the respect of NCFA et al and certainly not Bastard Nation. Why should it? They compromise clean bills. They promote discriminatory bills. They seldom pull a bill gone bad. Anything is better than nothing. “Baby steps” is better than nothing. The thing is, we aren’t babies.
I thank you for pointing out that, for BN, the issue is rights, not reunion. But it is the jab at mothers in this article by Eileen McQuade that gets my back up.
As the issue with BN is rights, so the issue with SMAAC and other groups of mothers from our era is about recognition of and redress for the mistreatment of mothers to facilitate surrender.
Reunion is a whole other ball game or, as I have seen happen, a mine field. Reunion needs its own studies and work done separately and apart from access to records and redress for coercion.
I absolutely do not think that adoptees should be denied access to their OBC. Certainly they have a right to know who they are and who their kindred are. BUT, any further personal information, especially our private, HIPAA-guarded medical histories, should come from us if we chose to share that information.
There are some things that I don’t share with my raised children, and I will not be coerced by threats of lawsuits and worse to bare my soul with anyone. I have had all the coercion I need in a lifetime. It caused me the loss of two precious babies. Those two babies, now adults, received their information from me, willingly. That is the only way to do it.
The medical history thing goes both ways. There are genetic illnesses that have shown up in my children that I did not know were a part of my family history. Would any adoptee agree to mothers’ unrestricted access to their medical records or being legally forced into giving that information?
She is trying to make the AAC appear as an “angelic” organization but meanwhile doing the devil’s work.
California’s AB 372(Ma) was the most hideous bills ever to come down the pipe. (Many of us labeled it the “Birth Mother’s Privacy Act” because it actually made matters WORSE for adoptees seeking access to their original birth certificates.)
Didn’t Jean from CalOpen get a humanitarian award at the AAC? That’s the most ironic thing I’ve heard in a long time. Jean helped Fiona Ma into getting AB 372 introduced and finally editted into a monstrosity that would injur so many California bastards if ever enacted.
The AAC is full of hypocrits and liars.
The winner of the AAC’s Humanitarian Award was Jean Strauss from CARE the creator and pimp of the hideous AB 372.
Jean Ulrich is the head of CalOpen who leads the opposition to the bill. The only reward she gets is grief.
“Our natural opposition operates in a predictable manner: NCFA, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, “right to life” organizations, the Catholic Bishops. No matter what is proposed–clean or compromised–they don’t budge their opposition.”
This is an important point that is often missed in the debate about compromising legislation, and it cannot be stressed enough! No matter how much we give in, with vetoes, black holes, legislation that is prospective only, our enemies remain unimpressed and CONTINUE TO OPPOSE US, no matter how lame and deformed the legislation becomes. They do not say “thank you very much, now it is fair to both sides” and go happily away.
As for garnering support, by and large the same legislators who support legislation that has been fatally compromised will support clean legislation if that is what is put before them; ditto for those who oppose. More and more concessions that often were not even asked for will not make our enemies our friends. It is not really a winning strategy. As Marley has said, it shows weakness and lack of focus.
Yes, each state has its own conditions, its own challenges, and in some places it will take more years, more decades, until we can win over enough legislators to pass clean legislation. But it is worth working for because it is a matter of dignity and rights.
As for reunions, today with the amount of sophisticated search technology available, most reunions are not dependent on access to original birth certificates. Look at how many of us have found our family members without ever seeing that document, and the number grows every day. Sealed records are not preventing search and reunion, nor will access to records result in that many more reunions that would not have happened anyhow.
The argument that any bill is better than none because “adoptees are dyin'”is mostly specious. Some searches can never be completed because the original information was falsified, some because the trail is too cold after 60 or more years. The truth is that very few of these difficult and tragic searches would result in reunions if records were open to these people.
I am sorry that AAC is waffling like this, I have been a member for years but am not happy with the path they are taking now about legislation.cusicarm
thanks for the post and pointing stuff out i didnt know. i am a young adoptee trying to gain knowledge of my rights and learn about sruggles we are all going through as adoptees. thanks again. keep writing the truth!
Thanks for pointing out these details. It grieves me to know that the very organization that opened my eyes to so very much (AAC and various state groups) really is so wishy-washy.
Over the years, I have faced that, too, on a personal level. For me, it was a long and dismal path to sink lower and lower to the point of near-suicide, which is why I lsot touvh with so many people for so long. Climbing out of that severe depression, and being able to see clearly one’s own personal mess, try to manouver out of dysfunctional relationships of all sorts, takes time.
Those of us who have been weaken and abused, heal somewhat to see clearly. My heart sinks to read about what really happened to Senior Mothers, and to know what still goes on today.
Stopping the cycle of abuse in relationships is one thing, and stopping the cycle of abuse in legislation that harms mothers and fathers, sibling groups, and adoptees, is another.
No compromise. Period.
I just hope you all won’t hate me for attending conferences should I ever be able to do that again. I look at the whole picture, take what is useful, and see a better way for the rest.
thanks for info