A couple weeks ago, a PR firm contacted me to see if I wanted to interview the author of a new memoir about her experience as a birthmom in a closed adoption. Her story is quite tragic: at the age of 15, the author was raped and placed her child for adoption. She asked that the adoption be closed, and hid this secret even as she later married and had other children. Despite her desire for no contact, the adoptee later searched for her and tried to develop a relationship. The birthmom refused, feeling that this unwanted contact from her birth daughter traumatized her rape experience, and also forced her to disclose this secret to her husband and children.
The birthmom is now fighting for laws to keep adoptions closed as a way to protect other birthmothers who want to remain anonymous to their birth children, and has since written a book called Woman In Hiding: A True Tale of Backdoor Abuse, Dark Secrets & Other Evil Deeds
If you follow what is going on in the adoptee community, you will know that this fight is in direct contrast to the fight adoptees have been waging for years: to have the right to their original birth certificate, whether or not the adoption was closed by the state. Adult adoptees assert that the right to this information is a basic human right. (There is a great article from Adam Pertman on this issue here.)
Now, I don’t want to argue the birthmother’s decision to reject her child’s attempts at a relationship.While I may not agree with her choice, I do believe that every human being has the right to decline relationships with others, including both adoptees and birth parents. This birthmom has the right to say “no thank-you” to her birth daughter’s request for a meeting, just as much as any adoptee has the right to decline a request from a birth parent, and just as much as any biological relative has the right to cut off a parent or child. We cannot legislate relationships.
However, I am troubled by the attempts to shut down access to personal information for adoptees. I do feel that adoptees are right in believing that access to their own birth certificate is a basic human right. Can you imagine being told by the state that you cannot know information about your own biological origins?
As my friend Sunday wisely said:
“While I can understand wanting to move on and close a door on a traumatic/embarrassing/painful event in your past... I do believe that our right to keep secrets ends where another's right to the truth about themselves begins. The "closing a door" she refers to is not a "door", it is a human being. That is not to say she was obligated to have a relationship.”
At the same time, I also understand that there are birthmoms who desire to place their child and wash their hands of the situation, never looking back. I get that for some birthmoms, having the option of privacy is important.
It's a tricky dilemma because someone's will trumps. Should it be the birthmom's right to privacy, or the individual's right to their own information?
I tend to lean towards the adoptee’s right to information. What do you think?