Thousands of children are adopted every year, yet a majority of these children have no knowledge of who their parents are or where they come from. Adoptees should have the right to access their birth records and medical history. Furthermore, it is vital for adoptees to have an understanding of their cultural identity, just as most American do. The right to birth records is a fundamental right to every citizen of the United States. Adoptees should be granted the right to know who their parents are, with consent from the birth parents, where they come from, and why they are who they are. This basic right should be codified as federal law without delay.
I am a statistic. I am one of the 2.5% of children in the United States who are adopted ("Off and Running" par. 1). Growing up without knowing whom my DNA comes from and the woman who carried me for nine months has had a detrimental effect on my mental health and has caused me to grow up with identity issues. I was adopted through an agency under what is called a closed adoption. A closed adoption is an adoption process where there is no interaction or contact between the adopted child and birthmother; there is also no identifying information released to either of the families involved. There are adoptions that are entirely open, called open adoptions, where the child is allowed to interact with the birth family, but their original birth certificate is still not released. Thousands of kids are adopted every year; during 2001, in the United States, there was a total of 1.5 million children were adopted; a majority of these kids have no knowledge of who their parents are or where they come from ("Off and Running"). The state legislatures believe that by restricting access to these records they are protecting the welfare of the adoptee, allowing productive relationships to form between the adoptee and the adoptive parents, and creating a way for the birthmother to rebuild her life without the adoption becoming public information (Kuhns 3-4). Denying adoptees their records discriminates against a select group of people. The people who believe that the records should stay sealed are only addressing the side of the birthmother and her right to privacy; they never discuss the rights of the adoptee. Often, they believe that because the individual was placed in a better home, that they have everything that they need to live a happy, better life. Sealing adoption records was originally created to protect the adoptee, adoptive parents, and birth mother during times when "society was not generally well-accepting of out-of-wedlock pregnancies" (Kuhns 12). Due to the stigma of illegitimacy, many women who became pregnant during relationships that were out of
birthparents can remove their names from the records, while still providing information of the adoptees heritage. By asking for consent, these states are respecting the right to privacy of the birth mother and the right to birth records of the adoptee. Adoption provides the possibility of a better life for countless people. And while the process is never simple, one thing is clear: The right to birth records is a fundamental right to every citizen of the United States. Adoptees should be granted the right to know who their parents are, where they come from, and why they are who they are. Legal prohibitions against opening medical records for adoptees discriminates against a group of individuals who had no control over the situation they were put in. It was not their choice to be adopted; therefore, the laws surrounding the privacy of the birthmothers should not penalize the adoptee. Like birthmothers, when it comes to privacy, adoptees should have the guaranteed right, at the age of eighteen, to access their medical records, birth certificate, and genetic information. Adoptees like me do not want to think of ourselves as statistics. We are citizens who need to understand where we came from. We have this fundamental human right.
Beck, A. N. (2017). A Walk into the Past: Access to Adoption Records. Exigence, 1 (1). Retrieved from https://commons.vccs.edu/exigence/vol1/iss1/11