A Birth Parent’s “Right to Privacy” vs. an Adoptee’s “Right to Know”

Whose rights are more important?

Tom Andriola March 07, 2016
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As an adoptee, I find it interesting that this is even a question. Hands down, I believe that I and all other adoptees have a right to know who our biological parents are, and it’s absurd that it’s even a question as to whether we as adoptees should be afforded the opportunity to obtain our original birth certificates and know our true identities.

I also believe that birth parents have a right to privacy, but by no means do I think that they should be able to have their identities hidden from their biological children. As individuals, a birth parent has a right to refuse a phone call and ignore an email or a letter, just like anyone else who does not want to correspond with someone. But hiding the truth is not the way to protect a birth parent’s right to privacy. That’s what common decency and existing laws are for.

What do I mean by that? Think about it. Most adoptees I know have searched for their biological parents. They yearn for their roots. They run into obstacles, but they keep going. They want to know. They need to know. In most cases, when they find their biological mother or father, they reach out. They want to establish a connection, but they are also respectful of the responses they get in return.

Hiding the truth is not the way to protect a birth parent’s right to privacy. That’s what common decency and existing laws are for.

Similarly, there are many biological parents who want to be found. Ironically, the laws that are supposedly in place to “protect” a birth parent’s right to privacy actually prevent them from finding their biological children when they want to. And in many instances, especially thirty or forty years ago, young women were coerced to surrender their child to adoption and had no interest in this so-called “right” to privacy.

Most people have common decency. Some, of course, do not. There are a small number of adoptees who will refuse to leave their biological parent alone if they do not have interest in contact. And while a few attempts at contact over the course of a period of time should not raise a cause for concern, frequent and multiple attempts to engage an individual who would like to be left alone can be a problem. That problem, however, can be dealt with using existing anti-stalking laws and orders of protection. It’s not one that should be resolved using laws designed to hide the truth.

So why is it taking so long to change the arcane laws that continue to hide identities and conceal truths? Unfortunately, it’s not dissimilar to other human rights movements. It takes time. It takes money. It takes organization. It takes persistence. And, unfortunately for adoptees, we’re not as well-organized or as well-funded as other groups have been in moving the dial in recent years.

But hopefully truth and common sense will prevail. Hopefully, there will be champions who persist in spite of the obstacles. We know it’s inevitable, but the wait is painful for many, and time is of the essence for those who don’t have much of it left.

For help to find birth parents or family, visit the new search and reunion website.

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Tom Andriola

Tom Andriola advocates for adoptee rights and shares his personal experiences about being adopted and his successful, independent search for both biological parents. To see more of his writing, visit Tom's Facebook page.


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