Guest commentary: Repeal Article 199 of the Louisiana Civil Code _lowres


In December 1993, my birth mother made a difficult decision. She was unable to properly raise me at the time, so she provided me life through choosing adoption. In doing so, she also gave my parents their lifelong dream of raising a child.

As we recently “reunited” with my biological parents, I found it extremely disheartening to learn that I, as an adoptee, have inheritance rights from my selfless biological parents regardless of their desire or will.

According to Article 199 of the Louisiana Civil Code: “Upon adoption, the adopting parent becomes the parent of the child for all purposes and the filiation between the child and his legal parent is terminated, except as otherwise provided by law. The adopted child and his descendants retain the right to inherit from his former legal parent and the relatives of that parent.”

In simpler terms, Article 199 details how adoption officially ends birth parents’ rights to their biological child but how that same child can inherit from his or her biological parents whose parental status has been terminated. This policy is disrespectful to those who courageously choose to put their child up for adoption, and is a deterrent to the adoption process altogether.

This policy’s failure to protect some birth parents’ desires for continued privacy may actually discourage some from choosing adoption. Some birth parents desire seclusion from the future adoptive families and the adoptee; they want to terminate parental rights through closed adoption. However, birth parents realize that this article allows adoptees to “return” and claim inheritance, causing undue stress on the families. The death of a loved one is difficult, and the possibility of a biological child “returning” at the time of death to claim undeserved inheritance simply makes the family’s grieving process harder and disrespects their desire for privacy.

The St. Elizabeth Foundation and other adoption experts in Louisiana take similar positions. Teri Casso, director of the St. Elizabeth Foundation, insists that this policy “discourages birth parents and makes it more likely that they will parent while unprepared or seek to terminate the pregnancy.” Casso also suggests the law “undermines” adoptive families and “subjects” birth families to privacy risks.

Although some claim these adoptees have the “right” to inherit from biological parents, the actual facilitation of the adoption should terminate these rights. Adoption is the process of a couple or individual legally obtaining another’s birth child. As sociologist Carol Baumann notes, adoptive parents become the “true” parents after the adoption facilitators finalize the adoption, so adoptees should not have the ability to inherit from biological parents because they are no longer the legal guardians.

Proponents of this policy may also claim that adoption should center only on adoptee benefits, implying this article is positive because inheritance “benefits” adoptees. However, this ignores the interests and wishes of birth and adoptive parents and equates biological with adoptive parents at the time of inheritance. Normally a child can inherit from his or her true parents, but this policy now allows them to inherit from biological parents as well, even though parental rights were terminated through signing relinquishment papers.

Therefore, Article 199 rids the adoption process of its sanctity and legitimacy through its disregard for terminated parental rights and overly narrowed focus on adoptees. Birth parents and adoptive parents are the reasons adoptees have life and family, so this article should respect the interests of birth and adoptive parents as well as adoptees.

It is with these ideas in mind, along with adoption agencies’ expressed disapproval of this policy, that I urge the Louisiana Legislature to consider repealing Article 199 and replace it with common-sense legislation that affirms the sanctity of adoption and respects the interests of all parties involved.

David J. Scotton is a political communication major at LSU and intern for Louisiana Right to Life and U.S. Congressman Bill Cassidy.