When will adopted persons be treated equally?

It was abundantly clear during the state Senate Committee hearing on HB1028 (a bill that would have stripped the rights of adopted persons, now thankfully dead) that adopted persons in Louisiana are not treated or thought of with equality. Family Forum, Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, St. Elizabeth’s Foundation and the adoptive parent speaking were all more concerned with their bottom line and protecting their own interests rather than those of adopted persons.

Their actions and attitudes ensure babies placed for adoption grow up without knowing their true origin, genetic history, and social heritage — their own “chapter one” — and foster their different treatment from others. When adopted persons ask questions about our origins, we are explicitly or implicitly told we are ungrateful and undeserving of information about our own birth. No other group in society must make this sacrifice.

Infant adoption is presented as being about “saving babies,” “finding forever homes,” etc. It purports to “protect parents who relinquish.” The truth is, infant adoption serves infertile couples and is committed to “protecting” adoptive parent’s illusion of family. If it were about anything else, parents who relinquish would not be courted by potential adoptive parents and then pushed aside once the child is born. The sly negative portrayals of adopted persons and their families of origin would not exist. The stigma and shame that promotes all the secrecy would not exist.

Parents who relinquished were not promised by the state nor do they want confidentiality from their own children. The overwhelming majority want their children to be treated with equality.

If those speaking in support of the horrid amended HB1028 really want to make a difference in the lives of adopted persons, they need to acknowledge adopted persons and their families of origin as human beings deserving of the truths of their origins. Current laws fostering a culture of secrecy and shame protect only adoptive parents and agencies that serve them. Adoptive parents would be better served being educated about the lifelong implications of the adoption their children will experience.

It is time for the myths and stereotypes about adopted persons and our families of origin to become extinct. Adopted persons and their generations that follow should not be penalized for how we came into the world. We have the right to access to our heritage and truths without imposed judgment or restrictions.

My hope for adopted persons in Louisiana is that in the future, a well written bill like our neighbor, Alabama enacted in 2000 with no ill effects, will be passed allowing all adopted persons in Louisiana unrestricted access to the government document that records their birth- their original birth certificate.

Elise Bateman Lewis

former board member, American Adoption Congress

Bethesda, Maryland