Indiana Adoptees Fight for Access to Birth Records

“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage- to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness. ” Alex Haley

Are Indiana Adoptees being thrown under the bus because of the RFRA debacle?

It would appear so.

Word out of  the Judiciary Committee late last night is that SB 352 will not be voted on because they are running out of time to properly debate it.  So, it appears it will be tabled.

Governor Michael Pence sent Lindsey Craig, Family Policy Director, to testify against the bill saying they that they felt the state “made a promise to birth mothers to protect their identity when they placed these children.”  They felt that this was promised to them.  And one can only wonder, where did this information come from?  If it is on behalf of birth mothers, then why not have them  testify on their own behalf, rather than allowing a state official to speak for them?

I have spoken to some Indiana birth mothers, and they adamantly refute Governor Pence’s contention that they were promised anonymity.  Lezli Adams is one of those birth mothers.  She shared her story with me and her words stick with me.  “I was never promised  anonymity! People have a hard time understanding the situation. It was a different Era. We were young and vulnerable. We respected our elders and pretty much did what we were told.  Society pretty much mandated that. We had no idea we had rights of any kinds.  I have heard we had a year to change our minds.   I never knew that even.”  So, if Lezli was not “told” all that she was entitled to and not entitled to, how many other mother out there feel the same way?

How can Mike Pence have been with every single one when they relinquished?  He obviously didn’t spend much time talking to any, because there are many, many more like Lezli.  In her day job, she works with developmentally delayed adults.  In her spare time, she helps reunite families separated through adoption and closed records.  And there are lots.

Lezli has reunited with her daughter and has a wonderful relationship.  It took years of searching, but she was able to find her.  That doesn’t sound like a mother who was looking for anonymity.  She searched.  And she helps others search too, as a search angel.  She points out “How can a society so obsessed with accurate genealogy not want adoptees to know theirs?”

I don’t know Lezli.  It doesn’t make much sense to me either.

Learn more about Lezli’s search, reunion and her continued advocacy for open records, here, here  and here.

For a person who Mike Pence claims was promised anonymity, she sure is out in the press an awful lot.

Even if confidentiality was promised to an adult 40 years ago, it is not equal protection under the law that one citizen of the United States has more rights than another citizen.  It is patently unfair and this needs to change.  The rights of the child, now an adult, are equivalent to that of any other adult in the state of Indiana.  But not so, according to Gov. Mike Pence.  Adult adoptees born between 1964 and 1993 have less rights than other citizens of the state of Indiana.

In an article in The Indiana Lawyer “Pence Administration’s concerns stall bill to open adoption records,”  University of Baltimore law professor and adoption expert Elizabeth Samuels testified that laws in Indiana and elsewhere never guaranteed lifelong anonymity for birth parents. In her experience, she said, “birth mothers, overwhelmingly, they support this access.”  In addition, the bills sponsor, Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, said that  his support of the bill has engendered more positive recognition from his constituents than any piece of legislation he’s backed in more than 20 years at the Statehouse.

Yet here we stand, with Governor Mike Pence, who does not have the greatest record on wisdom lately, no matter now much he claims to pray for it, standing in the way of something that seems to have significant public support.  It easily passed the Senate in January.  But Governor Mike Pence wants to stand in the way.

And today in Indiana, adoptees are still not allowed to see their own records.

But a stranger can.

Not only that, the adoptee has to pay a CI to look at their personal records.  Records that they themselves are not allowed to see.  Ever.

But a stranger can

[Tweet “Adoptees are not second class citizens!”]

We deserve equal protection under the law.

The law, as written, gives these birth mothers, if they crave anonymity so badly, one whole year to request further anonymity.  Now that is equal protection under the law.  (Somewhat, but we won’t get into that today)

I don’t know what they call this other thing.

Fourteen states have passed Open Records Laws that rip away the veil of secrecy in adoption.  This veil of secrecy rarely benefits the adoptee.  And that is inherently unfair.  As tax paying, law abiding  adults, adoptees in the other 35 states deserve equal rights too.  And equal rights does not mean having to pay for something that other people can get for free.  It doesn’t mean hiding from them the one piece of paper that pertains to them and only them.  Plain and simple, we deserve equal protection under the law.

But because this particular Governor has ignited a nationwide firestorm with his Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the whole world is looking at Indiana, adoptees are getting thrown under the bus.  I doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why this bill suddenly doesn’t have time for debate.

We all know how politics work.

I highlighted Indiana’s fight for open birth records earlier this week.  You can read that here.  It has links on how you can let Indiana’s House know that they cannot and should not adjourn for the year without voting on SB 352.

Do not let the smoke and mirrors allow adoptees to lose.  Do not allow these politicians to play a shell game with people’s lives.  Equal rights for all is equal right for ALL!

indiana flag

Silence = Compliance

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About sjwoods318

Mother of six children - five girls and one boy; wife; community organizer, family chauffeur, philosopher, trans-racial adoptee, Deadhead, person of mixed racial heritage, artist, poet, writer who loves to swim, read, and run around with my family.
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One Response to Indiana Adoptees Fight for Access to Birth Records

  1. Scott Bogen says:

    Thank you for your work on this. Great piece. Pence does what’s good for Pence and his career.

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