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Adopting new adoption laws

Posted at 11:25 AM on March 12, 2008 by Michael Marchio (3 Comments)

Just what kind of access adopted people have to their birth records is one that can provoke fierce debate on a number of different fronts. It's an ethical question that cuts across party lines. How do you balance privacy for birth mothers who may not want to be contacted, with the desire of their children who may want to learn about the person who gave birth to them, or more practically, the medical history of their family?

The House Health and Human Services Committee may bring the state closer giving us an answer this afternoon, when it hears HF3371.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Tinglestad (R-Andover) would give those who were adopted more access to their birth records. Check out a great story from Nanci Olesen here.

In 1982, The Minnesota Department of Health began asking birth mothers to sign an affidavit making their wishes known. On the affidavit, the woman would indicate whether or not she wants her child to contact her once the child is an adult.

Ninety percent of women who've signed this document have opted for "yes," according to the department.

The new bill would still honor this affidavit. But if the bill becomes law, it would create an exception -- the women who gave up their children before there was an affidavit won't have a choice about maintaining their privacy.

If you're a sucker for committee hearings like I am, this one should be pretty passionate, and I'd guess there will be some testimony on both sides well worth listening to. One bone of contention that will probably be picked is how birth mothers - - who may be in their 60s or older and may have given the child up decades ago with the understanding that their records be kept private - - will be served by this legislation. I'd encourage you all to check it out.

Sen. Ann Rest is sponsoring the companion legislation, SF3193, and it awaits a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Comments (3)


If 90% of post-1982 mothers have signed affidavits expressly telling the state that they WANT contact with their sons and daughters, why would you assume that pre-1982 mothers, if given a choice, would have done otherwise?

Why seal the records of 100% of adult adoptees to ease the minds of the 10% of first mothers who do not want contact? Those 10% can file a "no contact" request, and the 90% of first mothers who DO want contact can supply their current contact information to the sons and daughters they have longed to see for 30-60 years.

Adult adoptees can vote, run for office, serve their country in a time of war; are doctors, lawyers, teachers. Are adult adoptees not to be trusted with the names of their parents just because they were adopted as children?

Posted by Gaye Sherman Tannenbaum | March 12, 2008 3:34 PM


Thanks for the insights you've shared here Gaye, and you're quite right that many of these mothers probably would like to contact their sons and daughters. But the bill, however helpful it may be for those that have wished to see their childen for many years, would cut both ways, which is why some might find thorns in it. I didn't intend to advocate for either side, just bring up both their points of view on the issue, but thanks for your contribution on the issue.

Posted by Michael Marchio | March 12, 2008 5:01 PM


So how is a first parent, who wants privacy, harmed by an adult son or daughter merely knowing their name and even address?

It only becomes harm when that son or daughter tries to contact them - so adult adoptees are automatically judged guilty, even if they have never contemplated contact, much less contact with someone who has made their wishes known. How is that fair?

Right now, there is nothing in place to even notify an adoptee that their first parent(s) do not wish contact.

Posted by Gaye Sherman Tannenbaum | March 12, 2008 5:15 PM