Some argue that there is a right to “birthparent privacy” under the law. However, the law as written proves to say quite the opposite. Birth records don’t seal when birth parents give up or lose their parental rights.
Changed Legislation, Lost Rights
Sealed birth certificates are an issue of an entire group of citizens, adopted adults, losing a right enjoyed by non-adopted citizens. Most adopted citizens must grovel before a judge or seek another’s permission to access their own birth 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. This status, of course, is a condition over which the adopted person has no say or control.
How Sealing Birth Records in Adoption Does Not Protect Birth Parent Anonymity
Consider these details regarding the logistics of sealed birth certificates in the adoption process.
- Original birth records don’t seal until an adoption finalizes. This points away from, not toward, a legal birthparent right to anonymity provision.
- Original birth certificates do not seal during the following steps of the adoption process:
- Upon relinquishment.
- While the child is in foster care.
- While the child is in an unfinalized adoptive placement.
- In some states, the original birth certificate only remains sealed if an adoption remains intact. If an adoption is nullified, the birth certificate is unsealed and reestablished as the former adoptee’s legal birth record.
- In sealed record states, adopted citizens 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.
- Opponents of open access have not been able to bring forth a relinquishment document that promises anonymity. These documents do not make that promise.
The biological parents have no say about sealed birth records. Birth parent anonymity is not the goal in the adoption process.
At one point in history, no one was denied the right to his or her own birth record, adopted or not. The sealing of these records began in the 1930s, in part to hide the shame of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and infertility. Sealing records was a means to allow adoptive parents to hold their secret back from society. Few would know their child was adopted. Some states did not seal records until much later. Two states, Alaska and Kansas, never sealed these records from adopted persons.
Adoptees Need Not Apply
Some birth parents have reported that they were told their children could access their original birth records when they reached the age of majority. They later found out this wasn’t the case. Legislation changed. The birth records sealed retroactively. Sometimes legislation includes “grandfather clause” language to consider provisions made prior to the new legislation. But, the law didn’t consider these birthparents when the sealed records arrived.
Sealed records are 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.
Adopted citizens are asking only to have the same rights, no more and no less, as other citizens. Birth parents should also have the very same rights, no more and no less, than other citizens. This means no special anonymity provision.