Some believe the smokescreen argument that there is a right to "birthparent privacy" under the law. However, the law as written proves to say quite the opposite.

This is an issue of an entire group of citizens, adopted adults, being barred from a right non-adopted citizens have. Unequal treatment under the law is discrimination by the state holding the records. This discrimination turns access to one's own birth record from a right to a privilege, based solely on the adoptive status of a person, a condition over which the adopted person had no say or control. No other citizens but adopted adults are expected to grovel before a judge or ask another's permission in order to obtain access to their own birth records. This places adopted citizens in a position of being considered suspect and placed in a secondary class compared to non-adopted citizens.

At one point in history, no one was denied the right to his or her own birth record, adopted or not adopted. The sealing of these records began in the 1930's to hide the shame of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and infertility. Sealing records was also a means allowing adoptive parents privacy from first parents. Some states did not seal records until much later, while some states, Alaska and Kansas, never sealed records.

For anyone who believes records are sealed in order to protect the anonymity of the natural parents, consider the actual law.

  • It is highly notable that, in all states, original birth records are only sealed upon the finalization of an adoption. They do not seal upon relinquishment, are not sealed while the child is in foster care and are not sealed while the child is in an adoptive placement that is not yet finalized by the court. In some states, they only stay sealed if an adoption remains intact, and are unsealed if an adoption is nullified. How does this protect a natural parent's supposed right to anonymity? Clearly, the law is not about granting an extra right to relinquishing parents (that of anonymity) that other citizens do not have.

  • Adult adopted citizens in states with sealed records can gain access to their birth records as long as they petition the court and get a court order. Again, this does not point to a legal right to anonymity for relinquishing parents.

  • No one has ever been able to bring forth a relinquishment document that promises anonymity. Even the greatest opponents of open records, such as the National Council For Adoption, have never been able to produce such a document.

  • In some states with sealed records, it is the prerogative of the adoptive parents or the adoptee (if old enough to state a desire) as to whether or not the original birth certificate is sealed. The natural parents have no say. Once more, there is no legal indication that a right to anonymity for one segment of the population was ever intended.

Hence, there is no guarantee of anonymity, nor can such be promised under the law as written. Oddly enough, however, I have met natural parents who asked if and when they could contact their relinquished children. They were told that upon reaching 18 years of age, the adopted person could retrieve his or her original birth certificate containing the natural parents' names. Upon reuniting many years later, these natural parents were surprised to find that what they were told didn't pan out because no one had told them that the records were retroactively sealed, despite the information they were given.

Although this is not truly an issue about reunion, the topic always brings with it discussion of reunion. Therefore, I shall briefly cover this issue. Reunions happen all the time despite sealed records laws. Several states that allow all adopted adults to obtain their original birth records have contact preference forms. This is a form that natural parents can fill out stating whether or not they wish to be contacted. The preference can be changed at any time. It is filed with the original birth certificate. A copy of it is given to the adopted person if and when s/he obtains the original birth certificate. Because the adopted person knows right away whether or not the natural parent is interested in contact, this greatly, greatly decreases the risk of unwanted contact. In states that do not grant access, natural parents and adopted people will continue to find one another, but there will be no information available as to the preference for contact.

Like other citizens, adopted persons and natural parents are capable of handling their own relationships, without state interference. They do not need others speaking for them or deciding what is best for them as though they were children incapable of doing so themselves. This is an infringement on the free association enjoyed by other citizens in our society.

Sealed records are also an infringement of an adopted citizens' right to privacy under the Constitution. The right to privacy in the Constitution refers to privacy from government intrusion, not from other citizens making contact. There is no Constitutional right to anonymity.

Just as adopted citizens are asking only to have the same rights, no more and no less, as other citizens, first parents should have the very same rights, no more and no less, than other citizens. This means no special anonymity provision.