NOTE: I am making edits on an article on Catholic Exchange, which I hope will run next week. In the meantime, I thought it prudent to offer a bit more information on my own background, as well as clarify my position on some aspects of the “front end” of adoption.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to direct my regular readers to an important resource for women in crisis pregnancies and those considering open adoption, a book entitled “Because I Loved You,” which I have reviewed at the end of this article. I would like to thank Patricia Dischler and others who have taken time to help me “fill in the gaps” concerning some aspects of adoption with which I do not have relevant firsthand experience.
The first time it happened, it came from nowhere, and struck without warning. In the middle of my son’s honors assembly, I heard a name I had tried hard to forget: it belonged to a fourth-grader whose name was the same as that of my youngest sister’s second child.
Two of my sisters experienced crisis pregnancies as teenagers. The first time, my parents threw my sister out of the house. Soon thereafter she married an abusive man who was not the father of her child — and never let either my sister or her daughter forget it. In time my sister escaped, but only after a prolonged legal battle in which she nearly lost her daughter to her abuser (in NJ, he had the right to sue for custody though he wasn’t K’s father).
The second time one of their teenage daughters became pregnant, my parents rallied around her, promising to help her raise her child. Two years later, when it happened again to the same daughter, the three of them chose a Christian couple who would provide a good home for the baby boy, and who agreed to open adoption.
For the most part, I watched all this unfold from the sidelines. I was thirty and unmarried, focused on my career and living hundreds of miles away. I offered to raise my sister’s child, but it was decided the other couple was a better choice. They were married, had more financial resources, and were “Christian” (as opposed to Catholic, as I am).
But it was not to be. The bio father (we’ll call him “Gary”) fought to keep the child … and won. The adoptive parents’ petition was denied, my sister’s parental rights were terminated … and Gary swore she would never see her child again. My sister’s son would never want to see her – Gary would see to that.
When I heard that Gary was contesting the adoption, I had tried to warn my family that it might not turn out as they had hoped. After all, the family court system was bound to favor a biological parent over an adoptive one. Mom disagreed adamantly – Gary had a criminal record, was abusive, and had so frightened my parents that they were in the process of moving to another state. He had recently married, but his wife was killed in an accident in the middle of the hearing. His grief made him even more determined to punish my family, whom he blamed for his current situation.
Mom had been confident: “No judge will choose him over the parents your sister has picked for her child.”
She was confident. She was also wrong.
I’ve often wondered if, had my family approached the situation a bit differently, if I might have a relationship with my nephew today. Certainly it is “in the best interests of the child” to know his mother and her family – and yet, once my family had set themselves firmly in opposition to him, and their adversary’s rights prevailed … they lost everything. Yes, he could have chosen the higher road – and at some point down the line, I hope he will do so out of love for his son. But I’m not counting on it.
Nine years later, I still avoid looking at that little face in my parents’ “rogue’s gallery” of grandchildren’s photographs in their living room. Hurts too much. And when I hear his name called at a school assembly, though I know it’s not the same child – I still wince.
Adoption Assumptions and Assertions
The stories that bring individuals into the adoption triad are many and varied. It can be tempting to generalize about the motivations and agendas of others, and dismiss their beliefs out of hand – especially when their ideas about adoption conflict with your own. However, the issues surrounding adoption are complex, and not given to a “one size fits all approach.”
The past few weeks my articles have drawn a great deal of fire from individuals on all sides of adoption, many of whom denounced nearly everything I had to say as uninformed or “judgmental.” Frankly, responding to each post would have been far too time-consuming, and many of them were written in a tone that was not exactly condusive to constructive dialogue. Some I responded to privately (sometimes they responded, other times they said they would on their blog but failed to follow through). Others posted the same comment in several places, and several times I responded to them on their own blog rather than on mine. Finally I decided that arguing with those whose minds have already been made up is an exercise in futility. Instead, I picked some of the recurring themes, and will make those the subject of future posts. (Those who object to their comments being deleted should refer to the comments policy in my sidebar.)
The fact that I am not myself adopted or a birthmother, to some people, means that I have no right to suggest that adoption is in many cases a better option for birthmothers than attempting to raise a child without the resources to do it properly. Never mind that I am raising two children, and have two others in my immediate family, who suffered profoundly because their mothers chose to raise them — and another who is lost to us because the adoption did not go through. (For the record, I don’t believe ALL single mothers are incapable of raising a child. I have a niece who is raising her son by herself, with more family support than many single parents enjoy. I also have a single friend in her thirties who has adopted two children from Eastern Europe — and again, is a wonderful mother.)
It is both unconstructive and inaccurate to label all adoptive parents as selfish “infertiles” with a “savior complex,” all birthparents as “promiscuous” or “abusers,” and all grown adoptees who seek information about their birthparents as “victims” on one hand and “ungrateful whiners” on the other. These characterizations only serve to alienate those who are heavily invested in the topic at hand. Everyone loses.
By the same token, some overriding principles must govern the conversation if we are ever to transcend emotion and opinion. Tossing out as “antiquated” objective religious and moral principles simply because we find them inconvenient — or to dismiss those who try to live by these principles as “naive” — is more conducive to defensive posturing than constructive dialogue.
On the other hand, if we allow for the possibility that even the “uncomfortable truth” may have transforming powers, that some actions are intrinsically right or wrong in every circumstance and for all time, perhaps we stand a chance at helping future generations make better choices than we did.
On Courage … and Virtue
The other night I was at an adoption presentation in which an adult adoptee in her sixties spoke of getting pregnant at seventeen and choosing adoption for her daughter … Then going on to have two more children, whom she taught most emphatically not to get themselves in the same position. I admired her courage, both to share her story with us and to help her children learn from her mistake — for that is what she said it was.
What I find puzzling is that when birth mothers acknowledge that it was a mistake to get pregnant, and go on to choose adoption, they are often commended as “courageous” (and rightfully so). … However, anyone else who says that it is a “mistake” (or “wrong”) for unmarried women to get pregnant, or that adoption is a better option for those who are unable to parent, is branded “judgmental” and “naive.” While a certain amount of bias is inevitable, because of our own particular life circumstances, this doesn’t invalidate our ability to contribute meaningfully to discussions about the various aspects of adoption.
Is it really such a terrible thing to acknowledge that society is built upon strong, autonomous families; that marriage and family have always been inextricably linked; that children need both a mother and father; or that when the established pattern for family life is disrupted or disregarded, children and others suffer? These are objective realities are indeed “old” — they are the principles upon which every civilization has been built since the beginning of time. On the other hand, newer is not always better; and ancient is not always obsolete. The idea that some things are true at all times and in all places is not popular in our culture, which is so seeped in relativism. And yet “unpopular” is not the same as “false.”
Christians who believe that God ordained marriage and family life to reflect the life-giving love of God, and who speak out against patterns that are inconsistent with this, are not “hypocritical” so long as they live consistently with these values themselves. As a Catholic Christian, I make no apologies for speaking from a faith-based perspective. While I agree that compassion is a powerful and necessary virtue, so is being true to one’s own beliefs. If you do not share these beliefs — and have no interest in understanding them — that is certainly your perogative. However, this may not be the best place for you to invest your time.
From the Christian perspective, adoption is not a punitive measure designed to “punish” unwed mothers for their sins, but a way to spare an innocent child the death sentence of abortion on one hand, and provide a child with both a mother and a father when the natural parents are unable or unwilling to care properly for the child. (In the case of single adoptive parents, the child enjoys the loving attentions of someone who has chosen to parent, though it is always in the child’s best interest to have a loving mother and father.)
Adoptive parents make mistakes — as all parents do. This is not a sufficient reason to eliminate the practice of adoption (though it does support the idea that adoptive parents need to educate themselves about the needs of their particular children, an idea that I explore further in the CE article). Just as all good parents do, adoptive parents must assist the child in his quest for young adulthood by supporting him, encouraging him, and giving him the benefit of their experience.
In time he may have questions about his roots, and his parents must be prepared to help their child get the answers he needs while continuing to strengthen their own family bond. Not because they are “better,” but because they are every bit as much his as his birth family. If they have questions about the circumstances of their adoption, adoptive parents have the difficult job of deciding how soon, and how much, to tell. Not because we want them to know what they were “saved” from — but because it is in their best interest to know.
What adoptive parents cannot do — must not do — is abandon the child in his grief, or imagine that simply helping the child to get back in touch with his birth family will magically dispel any negative feelings he may have. In the words of one adult adoptee and adoption social worker I met recently, “Reunification doesn’t resolve anything, it just changes the dynamics.” The healing comes as the child learns (with the help of his parents) to embrace both parts of his heritage.
This is easier said than done, of course. Some children never get to meet a birth relative (in some cases, reunification may never be possible). Others get to meet them, and discover they are not easy to love (especially in cases when there are difficult or painful details that led to the adoption). Even in the best cases, there may be power struggles and hurt feelings — I recently read of one adult adoptee who was so excited about finding her birth mother during her engagement, she asked her adoptive mother to give the birth mother the “mother of the bride” spot in the first pew at her wedding. My heart went out to this poor woman; the response I got from one adult adoptee was a callous, “She should be happy to do it, and give her daughter her perfect day!”*
Reading Patricia Dischler’s book, I found myself wishing that all triads got along so well, that there was truly a “happy ending” like this for all adoptees. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?! In reality, not all stories end so happily — there will always be cases where one party wants more, or less, or different kinds of contact. There will always be disappointments and scars. We live in a fallen world, and we can’t always count on other people to do the selfless or the noble or the brave thing. All of us — from birth to natural death — can only do our best to live according to the light we’ve been given, and help one another along the way.
Adoption as Redemption?
The story of adoption is a microcosm of the human story, a story of redemption and healing. Some are sensitive to the idea that adopted children (or their first parents) are in need of redemption. And yet all of us – even those of us raised in Christian, two-parent families – have something in our past or present that is disordered, hurtful, or in need of healing. Redemption is not simply the story of adoption; it is the human story. Each side of the triad has particular needs and vulnerabilities; through adoption, each can experience the healing, compassionate love of the first Savior.
The first place most children get to experience this kind of love … is in the home. Therefore, providing children a loving, secure environment is a parent’s highest calling, his or her most important responsibility. When a parent is unable or unwilling to provide this kind of environment, as a society we must tend to the needs of the children. For some, this means supporting birth parents that need assistance; for others, this means opening our homes to children whose parents cannot or will not provide the kind of environment these children need.
To this day I wish the judge had seen fit to place my nephew with the couple my sister selected, who had promised to raise him knowing his birth family. In some ways, the loss would have been less complete. I understand that — all things being equal — a child thrives best when he can remain with a biological parent. In this case, however, the best option was not nearly so clear-cut.
The unmarried couple who takes responsibility for their actions and puts the needs of their child first — whether that means marrying so they can raise the child together, making an adoption plan, or making sure one parent (usually the mother) has the long-term resources she needs to parent — should be supported in their efforts to plan for her child’s future. Inexperienced and overwhelmed birth parents may need help to gather the information they need to make informed decisions.
I recently came across a book that provides this kind of information. Because I Loved You is written by a birthmother who made an open adoption plan for her son, but it is also a valuable resource for any woman who simply wants to know how to arrive at an informed decision — and how to cope with the long-term effects of that choice.
Because I Loved You: A Book Review
This week I read Because I Loved You, by Patricia Dischler. In my upcoming article on Catholic Exchange, I quoted fairly extensively from this book.
Patricia is a birthmother and open adoption advocate, and wrote this book for women in crisis pregnancies who need help in deciding the best course of action with regard to parenting. The book is not written from a strictly Catholic perspective: although she was raised Catholic, Patricia clearly did not get the level of understanding or support she needed from that particular parish. Her views on contraception are also inconsistent with Church teachings. And yet, Dischler’s views are profoundly pro-life, and if I knew a woman in a crisis pregnancy who was unsure about what she should do with her child, this is the book I would hand her.
Juxtaposing her personal story and empathetic guidelines for the reader, Patricia offers practical, encouraging, hope-filled advice on a variety of topics. “One bad decision does not define who you are,” writes Dischler. “We all make mistakes. Now is your turn to learn all you can and make an informed choice.” She offers advice on a range of topics including:
* Taking a personal inventory of your situation — both short-term and long-term realities including father participation, ongoing child-care needs, personal goals, available support, and the mother’s future needs
* Exploring options and looking at the future as realistically as possible
* How to make a birth plan, including celebrating the birth and (if necessary) saying goodbye
* How to make an adoption plan and choose adoptive parents
* Coping with the emotional aftermath, including issues surrounding grief and loss (something every birth mother needs to factor in when deciding whether or not to choose adoption)
* Building positive long-term relationships between birth parents and adoptive parents
* Helping extended birth family members with their grief
Because I Loved You is a great resource everyone in an adoption triad, perhaps especially adoptive parents because it helps us to understand what it means to help an adopted child come to terms with the circumstances of his adoption in a healthy way, with respect and appreciation for both his families.
One last thing. I’m going to leave the comments open for the present. However … Those who use my blog as a space to (a) attack me for my religious beliefs, (b) attack me because you think I’m not sympathetic or aware enough about the MANY circumstances that might lead a woman to consider adoption or single parenting, (c) pontificate about subjects only tangentially related to this post, or (d) write minisermons about Jesus and the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery as a basis for explaining why ALL women should be encouraged to raise their own children, you will be deleted. I’ve had enough of those kinds of tiresome comments this past week to last a lifetime. Stay on topic and keep it civil, or you will magically disappear!
* This woman has since posted several angry messages, denying she ever said this and calling me a liar and a hypocrite (true to form, she continues to attack ME rather than take responsibility for her own actions!). A very sad case. Please pray for her. I’ve taken down the link to her blog … if indeed she’s thought better of her original statement, great; if not, life is too short to perpetuate this kind of toxicity. Go with God … but please do GO. (All future comments and messages, as promised, will be deleted.)
I can imagine the full spectrum of responses that you received. I am glad that you have widened your perspective.
I still stand by my belief of things mentioned in the email as far as comprehensive sexual education. I am one that practices what she preaches.
It has been mentioned that abortion will be the death of our society. Although there will always be a need for adoption, I think we as a society need to get away from making children disposable. Adoption, abortion, and safe havens do that. I am speaking as an adoptee and a mother.
Yes I have an adoption google alert which is how I found your articles.
Amy: Abortion is the ultimate example of “child disposal.” It ends a child’s life, tossing it away because the mother doesn’t want to be pregnant. How can we call this anything but “disposal”?
I have learned a great deal, especially by reading the Dischler book, about how others in adoption triads experience adoption. It saddens me greatly to read some of these letters by adult adoptees who are so angry and stuck in their grief.
However, I think it would be overstating it to say that it has caused me to shift significantly from my original views, especially with regard to the necessity of adoption. It has, however, given me a greater awareness of the diversity of (often passionate)perspectives that are out there, and the need to watch for the “landmines” when discussing the topic.
Thanks for writing.
I consider adoption to be that as well. I am not totally against adoption. I do understand the need for it. There will always be an orphan who needs a home. It should not be practice in such a way that denies that orphan or child his heritage, his rights as American citizen in this country or his humanity as both safe haven laws and adoption do. Our society considers us “forever children.” Truly open adoptions may be different but they will have different issues than the closed era adoptees. Truthfully open adoption is usually a carrot that they use to lure first parents into the office and get them to sign the relinquishment paperwork. There are only a couple of agencies that practice what they preach.
Adoption as it is currently practiced in the United States does this. It treats children like they are disposable or commodities. Look at it from my point of view for a moment.
Let me give you my perspective and some of my history. First off my first father wanted me. He and his wife could not have any more children. I am the product of an affair. They lost three children at birth probably because of thalidomide. I don’t know for sure. My adoptive parents got divorced. Two weeks later my first adoptive dad remarried and adopted her daughter, named Amy. After they got divorced, he dismissed her as much as he did me and his two biological daughters. So I have been a child that has been disposed of on at least three occasions by parents.
Adoption is a way of disposing of a child. I view safe havens that way as well. It leaves a child feeling abandoned. We adoptees live and breath that experience. It manifests itself in various ways. No ability to trust. We abandon before we get abandoned again. Many of us feel that we are deserving of love. We can not fully give of ourselves in relationships. There are more issues.
If we as a society are going to change, we need to stop abandoning or disposing of our children. I don’t expect you to quit understand that because you have not walked in my shoes (for that matter any adoptee).
However if we both want to reduce this kinds of issues, we need to look at the bigger picture. We both have to make some concessions. You want abortions banned where as I see even the need for that.
Lets look at the old (now) Nebraska law. They could not agree on what was the best age to dump a child. So they left it open to adulthood. They shortened it to 30 days. Why is it not damaging to an infant where it is damaging to an older child? I am proof that adoption did hurt me. I do have memories of when she relinquished me. My adoptive mother can also testify to that.
We can’t legislate sexual behavior or relationships. Its impossible. We however can change outcomes so that they don’t hurt children in the long run. That is where sex education, parenting classes, and teaching responsibility come into play. Although you disagree with contraception, that could reduce abortions too. My adoptive mother made sure that I understood sex education. She made sure that I understood that it came with responsibility. If it can be done with me, why can not it be done with teenagers? In fact, I am doing it with my daughters now. I want them to have the same choices that I have had. We have to remember that children are our future.
I meant to put that it does not deny a child his rights.
Hi, Amy. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear of the situation with both your sets of parents — it’s so important that adoptive parents be willing to make the same long-term commitment bio parents make!
The thing is, in the vast majority of cases the children are very much wanted — by the adoptive parents. Yes, I’m sure there are questions and even some trust issues that come up with children, especially those old enough to remember their first parents. Part of the challenge of adoptive parenting is helping the kids resolve these feelings. It does happen. I’ve seen it.
While personal morality cannot be legislated effectively, laws do need to protect what is commonly referred to as the “common good” — that which is best for society as a whole. The next administration has promised to push through FOCA, which would remove crucial restrictions on abortions in the United States. My tax dollars could be used to kill children. I find that morally reprehensible.
In an ideal world, morality is transmitted from parent to child, as parents are supposed to be their child’s first (and most important) teacher. Unfortunatley, the clear moral parameters that once existed in American culture have been largely abandoned, so that a generation of “What’s right for you may not be right for me.” If this is ever going to change, it will have to involve getting today’s young adults to see the damage of this kind of mindset, and passing their observations on to the next generation.
Thanks again for taking the time to write and share your experiences. God bless you!
I appreciate Heidi Saxton’s interest in learning, hearing and hopefully understanding varying positions regarding adoption, despite having been barraged with responses to what felt to many of us as having been clumped under a negative “anti-adoption” umbrella. I am very encouraged to read her words: “It can be tempting to generalize about the motivations and agendas of others, and dismiss their beliefs out of hand – especially when their ideas about adoption conflict with your own.”….
Continued at: http://familypreservation.blogspot.com/2008/11/response-to-heidi-saxton.html
Heidi, I don’t think adoption is redemption. I think it’s synchronicity at best. What is being redeemed? There is nothing wrong with the original family or the child. There may be something wrong with the *situation* and adoption may be the solution in that instance (with you there, totally), but adoption can’t be thought of as healing.
“Through adoption, each can experience the healing, compassionate love of the first Savior.”
How would that be the case? Some people may experience it as nothing but profound loss. You can’t quarrel with feelings. I think God understands the feelings of each person and doesn’t ask them to call it a redemption if they can’t square that away.
OK, so I’m definintely a post-modernist-consider-what-somebody-else-might-think person, but just my 2 cents.
Mirah, you ask on your website:
“If someone lacks the resources, does that make them unfit to parent?”
Well, in some ways *yes*–in this society. We expect people to have the resources to do what they intend to do, whether it’s parenting or healing bodies or growing young minds.
If someone lacks the resources to teach, does that make them unfit to teach? The hard answer is, yes, even if it busts up somebody’s dream.
Parenthood is not just a biological relationship–it is (like it or not)–a job, a set of responsibilities that gets more complex and labour and $$-intensive as time goes on.
That is not to say I disagree with your idea of giving single mother support (I am one myself) but in concrete terms, how much do you think a society is responsible for supporting women who cannot actually support themselves or their kids and how long should this support go on for?
Solomama: Thanks for your contributions to the site!
I think sometimes “redemption” is experienced only in retrospect, not when we’re in the middle of it. In my own experience, feelings gradually change as the intellect is transformed in truth. And the Church describes the life-changing truth of redemption as follows:
By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that his plan for us is one of benevolent love, prior to any merit on our part: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”408 God “shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”409
605 At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God’s love excludes no one: “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”410 He affirms that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many”; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us.411 The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.”412
Please address also your comment about the unsealed initiative being anti-adoption. The movement is not anti-adoption. It is pro-opening records and it is about correcting the common error that closing the records was about protecting the privacy of the “birth” parents. These records are not sealed until an adoption occurs; they are not sealed upon relinquishment. They remain the sole record of birth until adoption happens…and accessible to the person in question.
The NY Court of Appeals argues that the real reasons for closing records is to protect the institution of adoption itself.
This argument ignores that states with open records proceed with adoptions. Kansas and Alaska never closed the records.
Mark: The original quote reads:
Recently, however, the attack has expanded to birth parents as well: Under the “Unsealed Initiative,” adult adoptees and others are lobbying government agencies in New York and other states (successfully, in Toronto) to release sealed birth records in order to gain access to the identities of birth parents who may not desire contact, and who were promised anonymity upon relinquishment. In the minds of the adult adoptees, the “best interest of the child” trumps all — when in fact the “child” is no longer a child, but an adult whose “right to know” is no more important than the other party’s right to privacy.
What I said about UI was true — you do lobby to unseal birth records. Although you may not agree with my assessment of why the records were sealed (and I do agree that amended certificates do benefit adoptive parents as much or more than the sealed records protected the birth parents), I don’t think anything more needs to be said about the purpose of UI.
The groups that advocate for unsealed records insist that no one was promised anonymity. And yet, “Adoptive Families” contributer Professor Elizabeth Samuels of the University of Baltimore School of Law, in her article entitled “How Adoption Grew Secret” writes: “The historical record suggests that birthmothers were in fact seeking a measure of confidentiality. What they wanted, however, was to prevent their own families from learning of their situations.” In other words, the situation is not nearly so clean-cut as you suggest.
I’ve already planned to address some of the other issues you mention here … thanks for writing.
Something I heard on an adoption message board after I adopted Simone was the following (from an adoptee): there cannot be *anonymity* between a mother and her child. Anonymity is typically about secrecy and shame. That idea really stuck with me. You called it confidentiality, and it may amount to the same thing: do you get to be anonymous to someone you gave birth to? I realize this question affects sperm donation as well.
Thing is, that information is as much the adoptee’s as the birth mother’s. I do feel for this group of women but, no mistaking it, a huge cultural shift that has propelled adoptees forward, seeking their rights. . .and it is threatening to some. I’m not sure how this is resolved by keeping those records sealed. The things we promise. . .
Can there by anonymity between a father and his child? What about the thousands of “donors” all across the United States, who have supplied the genetic material necessary to produce children in fertility clinics?
What some are calling “shame” and “secrecy,” others call simply “privacy.” We hear the outcries from the BN/UI crowd … and yet, it’s easy for them to shout, as they have nothing to lose by doing it. Those who would oppose it cannot speak out without identifying themselves as birthmothers … thereby relinquishing the very privacy they seek to protect.
The standard held by groups such as the National Council for Adoption and others is “mutual consent.” Almost every state already has legal provisions to allow adopted persons to obtain medical information and other non-identifying information. But stories like this 1996 story in the New York Times, in which a child was given the legal right to obtain from the state government the identity of her birthmother EVEN THOUGH THE WOMAN HAD ALREADY REFUSED TO HAVE THE INFORMATION RELEASED (under the provisions of the old law), offers an alternate point of view that must be considered.
Adoptees rights groups often claim that because so few birth parents register to re-establish contact with their children, something must be wrong with the system. The other possibility — one that stories like this reveal — is that the birthparents DON’T WANT this contact. But again, since they cannot speak without revealing their status as birthparents, their views are easily out-shouted.
I’m just thinking out loud here. Also, I did mention that I thought the same dilemma applies to sperm donation.
I’m not sure, but I think you may have decided not to post my responses.
Nevertheless, I think it’s important to point out that what some call “privacy”, others experience as “anonymity”.
You might also be interested in hearing what Margaret Somerville, the McGill University ethicist says about the rights of a personl to know their origins.
I think that, like me, you will agree with much of what she says, although not all.
I expect we will differ on where we agree and disagree.
Click to access The%20Intersection%20of%20Freedom%20-%20Margaret%20Somerville.pdf
More here: http://www.michaelcochrane.ca/2007/opening-adoption-files-pain-privacy-and-provincial-law/
“One of the more interesting opinions, I thought, was expressed by Margaret Somerville of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law in Montreal. She suggested that privacy does not always need to be a two-way street. Her view was that emphasis should be placed on the rights of the child, such that, if a child sought disclosure of adoption records, the information should be disclosed whether the parent who placed the child consents or not. The child had a right to know. The reverse, however, would not necessarily be true. In Ms. Somerville’s approach, an adult would only be entitled to information about a child who had been placed for adoption if the child consented.”
Hey, Solo… You’re right, you did mention sperm donation! Gotta slow down when reading these comments…
Thanks for writing!
Thank you for your reply to my concern about Unsealed Initiative. I take it to mean that you see that what we are advocating is not threatening to adoption.
Regarding the thought that “We hear the outcries from the BN/UI crowd … and yet, it’s easy for them to shout, as they have nothing to lose by doing it”: please do hear them. They have nothing to lose because it was already taken without their consent and in most cases I dare say without the consent of the original parent either.
I am an adoptee, now 53, married with two grown children, and also a grandfather. I met my first mother four years ago and I learned then that she was surprised that I hadn’t looked for her sooner. She had completed information that identified her and my father clearly so that I would know. She did not know that the records would be sealed and require a court order to open them…an order almost impossible to get.
I had nothing to lose by my outcries? I and others have nothing to gain by silence. The stories of promises made are in large untrue and where true, questionably legal. Certainly, how can they be binding for all future generations?
You are a bible reader…you know the stories in the OT…genealogy is most of it. Blood line has mattered fundamentally historically and objectively. I am glad that you are looking over what you have written, though from what I see here, you are convinced that adoption is at stake when disclosures about identity are forthcoming. If so, then education needs to be the response, not denials and not scapegoating adoptees who speak up.
One thing about Margaret Somerville’s take on the subject, though, Kippa, is that she wouldn’t endorse gay marriage. Her argument about the importance of knowing origins would have also cast moral doubt on my situation too. I knew going in that there was no way Simone would ever know her biological origins. I *knew* that and yet I did it.
So I’m not entirely sure about her argument there.
Heidi, great discussion you have going here.
Same sex marriage is one of the areas where I part with Margaret Somerville.
As far as I’m concerned, desiring to parent a child, particularly one who is clearly ‘available’ for adoption (as in without traceable home or connections, and who consequently may be said to ‘need’ a home) is something else again.
On the other hand I agree with her when it comes to a person’s right to be conceived with a natural biological
heritage. I am SO not a fan of anonymous donation and gestational surrogacy.
As to the possibility (improbability) of Simone knowing her origins, I don’t know for sure of course, but I gather they were already lost by the time you made your appearance. If that’s so, I don’t really see how her argument would apply to your situation, unless it would be that demand from the West fueled relinquishment/abandonment in China at the time that you adopted. Which I don’t think.
I do think there are other issues to be considered with international adoption, but others can speak to this better than I.
Yes, I think Heidi has opened up an interesting discussion too.
There’s another link, this one to Elizabeth Samuel’s 2004 testimony *in support* of New Hampshire SB 335, where she says that “. . . the laws sealing court and birth records have never guaranteed lifelong anonymity for birth parents.”
Thank you, Heidi. Point made. You *had* posted the link and quote I accused you (on Amy’s blog) of not posting.
I was hasty, wrong, hot-headed, and I apologize.
However, I would really like to know if you still think that
Dr. Somerville’s belief that people have the human right to know their origins applies only to donor, invitro fertilization and other forms of artificial reproduction situations.
And if so, why would you think she’d hold a different opinion about the rights of people in closed adoptions.