Frequently Asked Questions
What’s with the name?
The more than half-century old practice of impounding and sealing an adopted person’s original birth records in perpetuity has had the disastrous effect of breeding deep and long lasting attitudes of shame in all areas of the adoption process. Secrets and lies abound. So we decided to reclaim the term “Bastard” — to take it back and make it ours. In so doing, we hope to explode the myths of shame surrounding adoption and focus attention on the absolute necessity of changing the laws.
We at Bastard Nation believe that there is NOTHING shameful about having been born out of wedlock or about being adopted. We selected our name because we will no longer be made to feel shamed by the odious state laws that permanently seal our original birth records. We do not fling the word “bastard” at anyone. Rather, we wear it proudly as we work to achieve our goal of equal and unconditional access to original birth records for all adult adoptees. More about who we are
Why are you so angry?
We are angry that we continue to be treated as second-class citizens, as dirty little secrets, long after most of the world has recognized the rights of adult adoptees to knowledge of their origins and equal access to government-held documents which pertain to them. We are angry at those self-interested sections of the adoption industry which continue to lobby for sealed records, hiding their own past misdeeds under a cloak of “birth parent privacy,” and implying that adoptees are potential stalkers who would harm their birth parents if they had access to their own records. We are angry that the media still portrays us far too often as “adopted children,” refusing to let us grow up and take our places as full citizens of this country. More about the sealed records system
If all this makes you angry, too, please join us!
Is Bastard Nation a search organization?
No. While we support those adoptees who wish to search for birth relatives and offer resources on our website, we do not help people search. Our mission relates only to unconditional adoptee access to birth and adoption records. Our concern is the relationship of the adopted person to the state, not to his or her birth or adoptive parents. We believe it is a personal decision whether one wishes to reconnect with birth relatives, one which adoptees should be able to make freely without state interference.
Is Bastard Nation anti-adoption?
No. We are not anti-adoption; we ARE adoption. The opposition to open records, most notably the National Council for Adoption, has long characterized those who are for open records as being anti-adoption, since in their convoluted logic the end of sealed records will destroy adoption as an institution. There are many adoption-related issues BN takes no position on. While individual members hold varying views on adoption, the only mission of Bastard Nation is the restoration and maintenance of the right of adopted persons to unconditional access to their own state-held records.
Why won’t Bastard Nation compromise?
There are issues on which Bastard Nation will compromise, such as the age at which adoptees should be able to access their original birth certificates. What we will not compromise on are the basic civil and human rights of adult adoptees. We will accept nothing less than unconditional access to our original birth and adoption records. More about Conditional Access Legislation and other Legislative Compromises
Is open records the same as open adoption?
No. Open records refers to an adult adoptee having equal access to legal documents which pertain to him or her, including the original birth certificate and adoption decree. Open adoption refers to an arrangement for raising an adopted child in which the birth parents, adoptive parents, and minor adopted child have some form of ongoing relationship. Even in an open adoption the adult adoptee cannot access his birth and adoption records. Bastard Nation has no position on open adoption.
What has Bastard Nation done to get records open?
In November 1998, the voters of Oregon approved the Bastard Nation-inspired ballot initiative, Measure 58, which made Oregon the first state to open unconditionally previously sealed records to adult adoptees. After a series of unsuccessful court challenges, the law finally went into effect on May 30, 2000. More about the Oregon Adoptee Rights Initiative, Measure 58
Also in May 2000, with the full support of the Governor and Lt. Governor, a unanimous vote in the House and only two dissenting votes in the Senate, Alabama reversed its 1991 sealed records law and granted unrestricted access to original birth and adoption records to that state’s adult adoptees. This was accomplished through the lobbying efforts of Alabamians Working for Adoption Reform and Education (AWARE), with the support of Bastard Nation and other adoption reform organizations. Visit the archived AWARE website
In 2004 Bastard Nation was part of a loose coalition of activists in New Hampshire that worked on the passage of SB 335, a bill that restored the right of OBC access in that state. Bastard Nation Executive Committee member Janet Allen, then serving in her second term in the New Hampshire House, worked closely with bill sponsor Sen. Lou D’Alesandro and House Speaker Mike Whalley in not only navigating passage, but convincing the governor to sign the bill. As of December 31, 2011, 1497 OBCs had been requested. New Hampshire adoptees have received their birth certificates. Read more about the campaign on our New Hampshire page.
In 2012 we worked in an advisory capacity with activists in Rhode Island to pass HB which restored the right of birth record access to Rhode Island adoptees at the age of 25–a time limit we hope will be reduced to 18 or 21 soon.
We have lobbied for unconditional adoptee rights in many other states as well, including Missouri, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Washington, Connecticut, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and California. Many of these efforts are ongoing.
Bastard Nation was influential in seeing that the Hague Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 upheld and respected the rights of internationally adopted persons. More on the Intercountry Adoption Act
Bastard Nation has fought against legalized anonymous abandonment (babydumps), which strips future adoptees of their identity. View the Bastard Nation Executive Committee Statement on Legalized Abandonment Laws
What does the media have to say about Bastard Nation?
Bastard Nation has appeared in publications from Rolling Stone Magazine to USA Today to The Weekly Standard. Bastard Nation members have appeared on Talk of the Nation (NPR), CNN Talkback Live and CBS This Morning and in many other venues. Our Media Archives page is currently outdated, and we hope to have a more complete listing soon
Who belongs to Bastard Nation?
We’re from the United States, Canada, and many other countries. We’re from all ethnic groups, races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and walks of life. We’re librarians and film editors, homemakers and business people, piano teachers and military personnel, single and married; some of us have children, some do not; we are aunts and uncles and grandmothers, godparents and parents and siblings; we are cartoonists and clergy persons, beauticians and biochemists, old and young and in between. We are just like YOU; we ARE you, except that we are being denied our full civil and human rights simply because we were adopted.
Birth parents, adoptive parents, and others who support unconditional adoptee rights may also join.