Adoptees demand right to past
Activists fight for access to their birth records, but mothers say they were promised anonymity. Now, two sides take battle to Ore. court.
By Patrick McMahon
MANZANITA, Ore. – Nothing may seem more central to a person’s identity than a birth certificate, the proof that you are who you say you are.
But for millions of American adults who were adopted as children, their original birth certificates are a state secret. They cannot see the documents without a court order.
Those documents are at the center of an intense battle here after Oregon voters passed an initiative last year to grant wide access to birth records.
On one side is Bastard Nation, an in-your-face group of adopted people dedicated to opening up birth records. On the other side are birth mothers who say they were promised anonymity when they gave up their children years ago.
The initiative, which is being challenged in an Oregon courtroom, has forced some birth mothers to speak from the shadows. Because some of those children were the product of rape or incest, as well as youthful indiscretion, many mothers say they feel disclosure now would wreck their lives.
“We were repeatedly assured that the bond was severed permanently,” says an Oregon birth mother who asked to be identified only as Nancy. She says she was promised anonymity when she gave birth as a college senior in the early 1960s. “Every decision I made was based on promises of confidentiality.” … Continue Reading