image c/o constantcontact.com
In case your high school history class isn’t still fresh in your mind, here’s a reminder of what we were celebrating with all of those fireworks and barbecues this past weekend:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Yep, it’s the Declaration of Independence! Part of what was so revolutionary about the declaration was its assertion that everyone has “unalienable rights” that are guaranteed and can’t be taken away by governments. Yesterday we ran across an article by a birth mother who asserted that the right to know where you come from is “unalienable,” and that children have the right to see their adoption records and search for their birth families if they want to.
It’s definitely healthier for children to know where they came from than it is for them to wonder about their birth parents, but is it a right? And if it is, how should that right be balanced with a birth parent’s right to privacy if they don’t want a relationship with their child?
Today, sixteen states have opened or partially opened their sealed adoption records, meaning that adopted children can see their original birth certificates and search for their birth families if they want to. Adoptions Together has generally been supportive of these laws, because we have felt that they are in the best interest of adoptees.
That said, we have also worked with birth parents who told us upon placement that they did not want to have any contact with their child, and although we always encourage these folks to leave the door open for contact in the future in case they change their mind, we never pressure or force anyone to remain involved in their child’s life if they do not want to. We would never want to re-traumatize someone for whom the pregnancy and adoption process was exceptionally painful, like a birth mother who had been raped or who placed her child for adoption out of fear of violence from a partner or family member. We have to trust the birth parents with whom we work to know what is best for them in terms of whether to stay in touch with their child.
Clearly, we’re still grappling with this issue and trying to sort out how to respect every individual’s “inalienable” rights. But more importantly, what do you think? Do adoptees have a right to know their birth parents? Do birth parents have a right to privacy from their biological children, if they want it? We’re curious to hear your perspective!