Right now there is legislation in PA and Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights is asking for your support and help today. Please consider their request for action today.
Yesterday, I stumbled on this book when I was searching for an old paper by CWLA about sealed records…it’s a very short but comprehensive overview of when, why, and how adoption records were sealed. Encyclopedia of Privacy: A-M edited by William G. Staples (quotes below found on pages 7-11. first quote page 8).
Adoptees want to restore the right that was taken from them, many long after their adoption took place. If you aren’t sure what this all means, below is a very quick overview of US history of adoptees being denied the right to their original birth certificate (from the book linked above). In the first quote below you will see it was over several decades that the change took place in the US, and, Pennsylvania was one of the last (in the mid 1980’s) . It also covers privacy concerns and how the courts that have weighed in view the subject of adoption and privacy.
“Rapid changes in state laws continued, however, and by 1960 twenty-eight states reported to the federal government that they made original birth certificates available only by court order, although in a number of those states access to court records remained available to the parties of the proceedings. Twenty states reported making original birth certificates available on demand to adult adoptees. Of those states, four closed the birth records to adult adoptees as well as the public in the 1960’s, seven more did so in the 1970’s, and another seven did so after 1979. Two states, Alaska and Kansas, never closed the original birth records to adult adoptees.”
The paragraphs before the quote in the book, speaks about when it was decided to start amending birth certificates, it wasn’t all that long before I was born. After the quote above, it speaks about who sealed records were originally intended to protect, and why, that was found in the documents from that era, and about the surrender documents and what adoptions workers were to make sure mothers knew (which wasn’t privacy), well worth the read.
Tennessee was one of the first (if not the first) to change their laws and the change was challenged in court. It quickly discusses the court challenges to Tennessee changing the law (and Oregon as well). Parties challenged the Tennessee changes in federal court that resulted in the 1997 ruling…(page 11)
“[…] United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1997 held, first, that the law does not interfere with any Constitutional right to marry and bring up children or with any right individuals may have to either adopt or give up children for adoption. Second, the court held that the right to give up a child for adoption is not part of a constitutional right to reproductive privacy, and that even if it were, such a right would not be unduly burdened by the law. Finally, the court held that the Constitution does not include a general right to nondisclosure of private information.”
They then tried filing suit in state court that the law impairs the rights of birth parents who surrendered under the old law and TN constitutional right to privacy – the 1999 ruling…(page 11)
“[…] the Supreme Court of Tennessee noted that early adoption statutes had not sealed records, and that later amendments permitted disclosure to an adoptee if a court found that the disclosure was in the adoptee’s and the public’s best interest. the court concluded, therefore, that there had never been “an absolute guarantee or even a reasonable expectation” that records were permanently sealed (Doe v. Sundquist 1999, 925). […]”
A few paragraphs later it talks about the challenge to Oregon changing the law. Since this book was published in 2007, more states have changed their laws restoring rights taken from adoptees in the last hundred years.
Wishing all a good week.