BY MIRAH RIBEN
The passage of NJ’s Adoption Birth Right bill (1406) Monday is a long-overdue, momentous day for the adopted persons in New Jersey who have waited and worked 30 years for this. And there is great hopeful anticipation that Governor Christie will speedily sign this bill into law.
However, there is still a long way to go. Instead of giving adopted persons unconditional, unrestricted access to their own birth certificates – the same as all other citizens have – this legislation contains restrictions that apply only to adopted-separated citizens.
A birth certificate is a legal document identifying a citizen as he comes into the world. It is a snapshot in time marking an important and unique private and public event and is thus protected by Articles 7 and 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Adoption, which occurs subsequent to birth, legally severs the relationship between mother and child. The mother relinquishes her parental rights and becomes, legally, a non-related stranger to her child.
This law now allows this non-related stranger, who has relinquished all rights to her child, to go back in time and rewrite history, defacing the adoptees original record of his birth by redacting her name. They only have a year to do so and statistics from other states tell us very few ill. But how ever many do, it is unfair and should not be allowed.
At the same time, mothers who desperately want a copy of a legal document on which they are named, and which represents a monumental moment in their life, the birth of a child – for many their first child, and for some their only child – are denied access to documentation of that event which occurred prior to relinquishment and adoption.
In both of these ways, this law maintains discrimination by treating adoption-separated citizens as a separate class of people with laws that apply only to them and none others, although they are neither minors nor criminals.
“…Laws suppressing information about adoptees and/or their birthparents, and laws allowing access to such information only upon consent or registration, or laws allowing access to such information only upon court order, deny adopted persons, their birthparents, and their relatives equal protection of the laws and constitutes unwarranted interference by the government with the right of people to choose whether to associate…” FL-ACLU, April 21, 1987
Additionally, left out of any relief by this bill are people who have already suffered the indignancy of having been abandoned who will be forever denied access to any documentation that might identify the hospital they may have been born in or any other shred of fact.
Legislators believe they have created a compromise that balances the rights of adoptees and their birth parents. This is not true inasmuch as parents who relinquish their children for adoption relinquish ALL rights to that child and are promised nothing in return. There is no right to privacy, anonymity or legal protection of secrets and lies nor a right to go back in time and change or erase facts or events. On the other hand, all citizens are allowed unrestricted access to birth certificates on which they are named. One is a civil rights violation, the other is not.
I pray that lawmakers in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and the other 15 states with pending legislation see the absurdities in this legislation are more courageous, forthright and just in righting this egregious violation of equality. A civil right cannot be compromised!
The passage of this legislation is but a first step. The Governor needs to so the right thing and sign this first step toward total equality. An we need to not stop fighting in New Jersey until all citizens enjoy the same unfettered access to their birth certificates and freedom of association as guaranteed by the First Amendment.