This is an open letter to NY State Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein:
Dear Ms. Weinstein,
I know the arguments against opening adoption records to adoptees, adoptive families, and birth mothers. Adoptive parents fear the birth mother might reappear and fight for custody or otherwise interfere. Adoptees might be disappointed when they learn the truth about their birth. Birth mothers were promised confidentiality. I would like to explain why none of these is valid in hopes that you will vote in the affirmative on Bill A 8910. I don't propose opening adoption records until all parties are adults, at which time all citizens have a right to information that is pertinent to them. Adoptive parents need no longer worry about custody issues. Trying to pretend that an adopted child is anything other than adopted is to found a life upon a lie. Parenting, whether of biological or adopted children, is always filled with risk. That risk should be born by the adoptive parents, not the state. I am an adoptive parent, and I know I would do anything to help my now-grown son find his family of origin. Research shows that adult adoptees feel a sense of emptiness and isolation, no matter how loving the adoptive parents are. This is so well known it is even the plot of the children's film "Stuart Little," which my grandsons enjoy. I grew up with many friends who were adopted in the 1950s, and all express deep regret that they don't know who their blood relatives are. In 1968, I myself gave up a son for adoption--in Ithaca--because everyone around me pressured me to do it: parents, doctor, social worker. I was 22 and a college graduate, but I was seen as an "unfit mother and a disgrace to my family." Within three years I had a husband and a child. I went on to have two more children, one adopted (I was deemed fit for that), earned a PhD and taught for 30 years at a southern university. I deeply regret my decision to relinquish my child. No young woman would face such pressures today. Illegitimacy does not carry the stigma today that it did in 1968. When Murphy Brown had a baby as a single woman, I knew the tide had turned, but the tide had left me stranded. There may be a few birth mothers who do not want to be found. That is their right. But the overwhelming majority would welcome contact; it is they who should be considered, not the few who wish to remain anonymous. Opening records is not about forcing unwilling people upon each other; it is about allowing adults to make important decisions for themselves. Perhaps the most persuasive reason to open records is the medical information they can provide. Information given by the birth mother at the time of relinquishment is out of date. What were healthy family members have developed conditions in subsequent years that could be a matter of life and death to an adoptee. I urge you to read the newsletters and blogs about adoption and the efforts of family members to find each other. The stories are heartbreaking, and there are many of them. Closed adoption increased after WW II, when the intent was to create families that were virtually the "real thing." Novels and films of the day portrayed unwed mothers as victims or fallen women. Those stereotypes no longer apply, but the law hasn't changed to keep up with contemporary mores. We now protect the civil rights of previously disenfranchised groups--African-Americans, gays, the elderly. The lost mothers of my generation are being denied their rights by an outdated, patriarchal system. When I was 22, I believed the people who told me I was doing the best thing for my child. I believed the overwhelming grief I felt at parting from him would eventually abate. It didn't. I have lived a happy, relatively successful life, but always in my heart there has been a hole where my son should be. I would at least like to know what became of him. Please, for the sakes of thousands of birth mothers and adoptees, vote to pass Bill A8910.