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Adoption

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Submitted By lisa66lisa66
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Lisa Gentzler
6239 Cloverleaf Drive
East Amherst, NY 14051 gentzler@buffalo.edu SSC 221

January 31, 2008

Professor Charles E. Carr
University at Buffalo
275 Park Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260

RE: Reforming Adoption Legislation

Dear Professor Carr:

Throughout the history of the United States, individuals have sought a myriad of human rights. The Civil War was fought to free thousands of slaves, followed by the long and arduous battle for civil rights. Women waged a fight for voting rights and in 1973, the Supreme Court handed down one of the most important decisions of the 20th century, Roe v. Wade, which gave woman control over their reproduction rights. I was born in 1966, and it has often crossed my mind that had I been conceived a few years later, would I have been put up for adoption, or never been born at all? Nevertheless, I am one of many who are being deprived of one of the most basic human rights of all. In explanation, I am adopted, and because of archaic laws, created in some cases over 100 years ago, the right I am being denied is my birthright. This birthright is being withheld from an estimated six million adult adoptees in the United States. The basic right to know where you came from, to know who you look like, to know who gave birth to you, and, ultimately, to know why you were given away.
I was blessed to have been adopted by incredibly loving parents, and even though I had a wonderful upbringing, I always wondered who I look like, my biological mother? Father? Just as the United States has moved forward with regard to race relations, single, unmarried women having children has also become increasingly accepted. The “Age of Secrecy” and original adoption laws reflected conditions of years ago. In early society, to be an unwed mother was something shameful, and to be an illegitimate bastard was egregious. Adoption laws were originally designed to protect the privacy and identity of all parties involved from “the eyes of society“. Presently, with abortion being legal, more women are taking on single parenting, which is now not only widely accepted but approved of (think of how many family shows have a single parent). While 60-70% of unmarried women had their child adopted years ago, today one of three have abortions and a staggering 96% choose to become single parents. Open adoptions have become commonplace in the United States, definitions of maternity, paternity, family and genetic diversity have changed as well. Today, only Oregon, Alabama, Kansas and Alaska allow adoptees born in those States to legally request copies of unamended birth certificates. Illustrating the need to discover ones past, in just one year after Oregon opened adoption records, the Oregon Department of Vital Statistics heard from more than 5,721 adult adoptees who wanted their adoption files. Of course, there are plenty of opponents to opening adoption records, among them conservative religious groups who fear opening of records will cause more women to choose abortion. Additionally, some birthmothers, especially in cases of rape and incest, want no part at all in a reunion with their offspring. As a safeguard in cases such as these, birth mothers are given a choice to file a “No Contact Order,” which offers continued privacy to birthmothers and are delivered along with original birth records. To illustrate a small proportion of birthmothers who filed intent forms, 267 wanted to hear from their grown children, 27 wanted to hear from them through an intermediary, and only 79 wanted no contact. Also against opening of adoption records are church-oriented social service agencies and crisis pregnancy centers, frequently broadcasting their anti-abortion agenda and facilitating ideological and theologically based social policies based on the morals and attitudes of pre-World War I sentiments and values. Unfortunately, most of us have grown up accepting closed adoption as the norm, but the secrecy surrounding adoption procedures were anything but normal. Times are changing, and it seems that many Americans are now somewhat suspicious of any type of government secrecy. Secondly, we do not respond very well to government (agencies) making crucial decisions for people, instead of being free to decide for themselves. Today, 80% or more of domestic infant adoptions are open adoptions; the amount the contact between birthparents and the child varies a great deal and is decided upon before the birth of the child. Additionally, other than open adoptions in the United States becoming more prevalent, International adoptions have skyrocketed. In families where there is an obvious racial or ethnic difference, these differences are celebrated and the child’s origins and cultural practices are included in the child’s upbringing, as well as the adoptive parents moral and personal beliefs, and their own cultural backgrounds. That the meanings of open and adoption could undergo such drastic change suggests a broader revolution in modern American thought and culture. In an age of civil rights, democracy has required new tolerance for a wide spectrum of values. Adoption history illustrates that public and private issues are inseparable. Ideas about blood and belonging, nature and nurture, needs and rights are not exclusive choices and personal freedoms. They have been decisively shaped by law, public policy and cultural change, which in turn has altered Americans’ ordinary lives and the families in which they live and love. Pro-open adoption organizations, private investigators and hundreds of internet sites and search registries are now available to birthparents and adoptees, however, some of the above services are extremely expensive. There are free registries available, but the chances of finding a link to your biological family is very small. The only other way for adoption reform to move forward is to urge Congress, State Representatives and State Senators to enact legislation opening these records. Ironically, even dogs have records and a pedigree; therefore, why should so many adopted individuals be denied theirs?
Sincerely yours,

Lisa Gentzler
SSC221

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