A brief history:
In 1864, the state of Oregon enacted its first adoption law. This law severed the ties of birth parents to a child, declaring selfsame child to belong to the adoptive parents. Until 1921, though, all name changes - for adoption or otherwise - were published annually and made available to the general public. In essence, an adopted person - or anyone else, for that matter, had access to adoption records.
In 1921 the practice of publishing name changes ended in Oregon, but it wasn't until 1939 when Oregon followed many other states in actually sealing some of paperwork involved in the adoption process, though those records could be accessed by court order. In 1941, the Oregon legislature provided for an altered birth certificate to be issued upon the adoption. The 1941 laws did not, however, provide for secrecy or identity protection for birthparents.
In 1957, the original birth certificate became a sealed record in Oregon, available only by court order. It was in 1979 that all adoption - related records, including agency files, were sealed as well.
Until 1957, the state of Oregon provided an original birth certificate to every citizen who requested one. There was nothing in any Oregon law which prevented an adult adoptee from asking for and obtaining her birth certificate. After 1957, however, adoptees in Oregon had a most basic right taken away, the right to view official documents recording their birth.
In 1998 I had the immense privilege to support Helen Hill, Oregon adoptees and birthparents, and Bastard Nation in the campaign to gather enough signatures to place Measure 58 on the Oregon ballot that year.
We wrote letters to the editor. We collected signatures. We did interviews and outreach. We spoke out and acted out and marched ourselves bloody.
On November 3, 1998, Oregon voters agreed that adult adoptees in Oregon should be able to access their own birth certificate. It took two more years of wrangling in court, however, for the Measure to finally take effect. On May 30, 2000, the stalling and the appeals (remember the Jane Doe's?) and the drama were finally put to rest,and Oregon adoptees were finally able to go to their Department of Records and request a copy of their original birth certificate, just like any other non-adopted citizen in Oregon.
This brief narrative does NO JUSTICE to the amount of money, time, effort, sweat-equity and dedication that went in to making Measure 58 a reality.
Now someone wants to change that.
Representative Dave Hunt (D) has introduced 2843, a law that would repeal Measure 58. Under HB 2843, adoptees would only be able to access their birth certificate if a birth mother provided written consent.
I don't want to rehash hours and pages of birthmother testimony here, but its out there and its compelling. Over 500 birthmothers paid for a full page ad in the Oregonian in support of Measure 58.
No other citizen requires the permission of another adult to access the original record of their birth. A birth certificate records the birth of a person and unless all birth certificates become accessible only under parental permission, the birth certificate of an adopted person should by the same token be available to the person whose birth it records. Period.
I pay the same taxes as you do. I vote. I drive. I am old enough to drink. I have two children and a full time job. Why on earth should my birthmother dictate whether or not I have the right to the document that records MY OWN BIRTH?
Ron Morgan will be chronicling the fight against HB2843 here.
Don't let this happen.