Monday, June 14, 2010

Are Adoptees Human?

The headline, Adoptees and Their Mothers Deserve Equal Human Rights, to an excellent post about open records, brought to mind the question that permeated human rights & feminist discourse in the '90s, "Are women human?" Much of human rights law then (and even now) ignored issues important to women because human rights focuses on how nations/governments treat people, how they oppress and discriminate and imprison and torture and kill. Private oppression like honor killings and female genital mutilation and domestic violence and rape, those things women suffer, were not the subject of human rights law. So if being free from domestic violence or rape or being killed by family members are not human rights, then it obviously follows that women are not human.

Adoptees aren't complaining about private oppression -- it is governments that refuse access to original birth certificates and governments that create the lie of an amended birth certificate. So the question is whether the things they ask for are things humans are entitled to.  Are humans entitled to know about their origins?  To know their biological beginnings?  To know their original names, the names of their original parents?

Every non-adopted human has access to this information.  If adoptees aren't entitled to this information, then the question remains -- are adoptees human?  In only a handful of states in the United States is the answer yes.


Anonymous said...

1- I don't agree that most people having something is equivalent to the "right" to have something (which seems to be the implication of the last paragraph).
2- In this case it would seem that giving one person certain "rights" would always impinge on another person's "rights" (this goes both ways - the current climate in the US which allows the birthmother or the adopted parents to decide on "privacy" makes one person able to make decisions for others involved)
3- The statement "every non-adopted child has this information" is clearly not true just from semantics :D - many orphans around the world also do not have this information
4- There have also been many people throughout the ages who did not know their genetic history, and in very few cases did it involve an adoption the way adoption is known now. Usually it had more to do with illness or catastrophe and the lack of record keeping that is available in the US today.
5- Knowing my genetic history is not an inalienable right or need (IMO of course).

LL, adoptee (closed) and adoptive mom (china, so also closed)
For full disclosure purposes: I met my birthmother when I was 32 due to a change the laws in the state I was born in and her action to find me, I have chosen not to pursue meeting my birthfather (birthmother gave full information including where lived) and my adoptive parent experience includes a failed adoption (birth mother decided to parent and reclaimed the child) that would have been fully open. I personally prefer open adoption but don't feel that is is an inalienable right.

joy said...

@ anon above, you may not think it is an unalienable right, but it is discrimination when one group is denied based on no self-selected behavior.

Yes, we are treated as sub-human, see comment above.

Just because above commentor claims do be an adoptee means nothing to me. He/She may very well be, which reminds me of another feminist phrase, "All smart women are feminists, but not all feminists are smart"

Von said...

Knowing who we are is an unalienable depends where you're standing I suppose.
Who says adoptees aren't complaining about private oppression? Wouldn't you?
The oppression of the state is a different matter and neither seem likely to be fixed any time soon.
Adoptees complain about the things they feel others might recognise as oppressive because that is the area where there is the best bet on change.

travelmom and more said...

I am not sure access to information is a human right. I believe birth records should be open, but I am not sure this is a fundamental right in the way I think freedom from domestic violence or rape is a right. Many of us have no access to our genetic history, mostly through divorce, separation or family secrecy. Adoptees are not the only segment of society with no access to information. Those of us with severed families also often have no access to information. I had access to my fathers name, but he had no paper trail because he was homeless, a drifter and didn't work. Not to discredit the need to know, I needed to know my history, although after learning about my father as an adult, I know why my mother didn't tell me anything about him. Adoptees are not the only ones who have no access to their records. Thousands of children and adults living in the US are estranged from at least one parent with little or no access to any information, even if they have a name, due to others keeping them from that information. Information is powerful and should be available but I don't think it is a right.

Susie said...

I am a first mom, and I agree that ALL adults should have full access to their OBC's. I am tired of the first/birth parents being made scapegoats for this issue. Few of us were promised anonymity, few of us desire it. In my case, and many others, we were told we would be breaking the law if we ever tried to find our children, even when they became adults.

@ travelmom: being estranged from, getting no info from your family is not comparable to not being allowed to know the facts of your birth. Even though estranged from the family, you still have access to the origins of your birth.

Does it not say something that those opposing open records here are the adoptive families?

Anonymous said...

Travelmom's arguement is similar to mine - there are many in the world who lack this information due to "happenstance" rather than adoption. Those people have the same pain as those whose lack of knowledge is due to adoption. Pain/lack/loss do not equal inalienable right any more than most people having something equals inalienable right. Perhaps when the adoption world opens up to the fact that MANY people feel the same pain they do, I will be more open to believing it is an unalienable right.

the "non-smart" adoptee LOL

Anonymous said...

My current reply to those who say that identifying information is not a right for everyone is that it is not, therefore, a right for anyone. It should therefore be legitimate for the state or any private interests to rewrite that information for everyone.

I'm not willing to go there and so claim that this information should be preserved and disclosable. This applies to person conceived using donor gametes.

Also, just because it may be disclosed does not mean it must be when the persons do not want to know it.