Tuesday, April 28, 2009

AB 372: The "Birthmother Privacy Rights" Bill, moves out of Judiciary

AB 372 sailed through Judiciary yesterday laden with sweet disclosure veto deliciousness and the suggestion of added contact vetoes. It now heads from the policy committee to the fiscal committee, where Asm. Ma will explain how the process by which adoptees may send a letter in a bottle to their "birthmothers" will be funded. Three guesses: The state will fully fund a program to do due diligence to find these women, leaving no turn unstoned; the program will get nominal funding, enough to pay for postage, but not enough to pay for staff to apply the stamps to an envelope; or adult adoptees will get the bill to do the due diligence.

Proponents of AB 372 are still shopping the notion that it will benefit 99.5% of California adoptees. I suppose so, if the state has or will be willing to obtain valid addresses for 100% of women who relinquished in California. Otherwise this "statistic" is worse than meaningless, its intellectually dishonest and insulting.

Proponents are also busy writing that they had to include a disclosure veto so the state could CYA for the past issuance of said vetoes. That the State Supreme Court would tear it up. Fair enough, but what's the rationale for making them prospective? If this is a bill to benefit adoptees, what principle is at play to not only continue the usage of disclosure vetoes, but to tune them up and make them the default in cases where contact is not made? I'll tell you why, political expedience.

A look at the list of supporters and opponents of AB 372 is enlightening, not for who is on it, but for who isn't. The ABA, the adoption attorneys, the ACLU. The agencies. All the folks who are inimical to our interests didn't show up. That's because they got what they wanted. Because that's the way they roll and they rolled over us.

But you know what, I'm folding my hand on AB 372, cutting my losses. I may blog on it as it moves forward. At this point I don't see any chance of stopping it in the Assembly. If the opposition organizations suddenly wake up and smell the coffee and grow their capacity, they might be able to do something in the Senate.

At this point I'm assuming that this bill, with some modifications, will pass and become law. What happens on January, 2011? Not much. It's not like thousands of California adoptees are going to apply for the OBCs the first month, like in Oregon or New Hampshire. Why should they? If the default is non-disclosure then the benefit will be marginal. No, California adoptees will do what they have done for years, hire search consultants that specialize in California and do a name search through the Birth Index and by doing so they will assert the right to their information that California will still deny them. A few adoptees may drink the kool aid, but their narratives of migraines and frustrations will pepper the internet and dissuade others from using the state system. In other words, the status quo will remain.


Anonymous Reunited Mother said...

I agree with you that a "default veto" situation is no better than keeping records closed. This bill, if anything, is a step backwards.

If they are so concerned about protection of privacy, why don't they do what Alberta and Ontario did: a huge information campaign about vetoes such that those who want to file them can file them, in advance of records opening.

I saw the records for an Alberta adoptee whose mother had filed a veto. She received her complete adoption file and birth record, and only the name of her natural mother was redacted. Everything else was there including her name at birth and complete non-ID info of everyone in her natural family, including her father's name and everything about him (birthplace, employment, upbringing, etc.) If this is the extent of a veto, one name lost, then is this a model that the adoption reform movement in the U.S. can accept?

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Laurie said...

I'll say up front that I oppose disclosure vetoes. But, to respond otherwise to Reunited Mother's example, AB 372 is not about giving adopted persons access to the adoption file. It's about giving access to the original birth certificate only. If only the mother's name is on the birth certificate, and she files a veto, the OBC remains sealed. If both parents' names are on it and only one opposes, it is released with the opposing parent's name redacted. Of course, if both parents file vetoes, then no OBC is released.

As far as non-ID info, we can already receive that. Granted, you never know what you're going to get, but it's available upon request, and of course, for a fee. I received mine when I was 26 years old. It cost me 175.00 back in 1990.

I don't believe that the usual opposition to "open records" would be agreeable to an informational campaign, anyway. I don't think they would consider it good enough in terms of "protecting" anonymity. I think that is why this bill compromises to the huge degree that it does. You know you've compromised enough when your only opposition are those who want passage of an adoptee rights bill, rather than a "birthparent privacy rights bill."

12:35 PM  
Blogger The Fuzzy Duck Daughter said...

"Three guesses: The state will fully fund a program to do due diligence to find these women, leaving no turn unstoned; the program will get nominal funding, enough to pay for postage, but not enough to pay for staff to apply the stamps to an envelope; or adult adoptees will get the bill to do the due diligence."

With the state in such dire financial crisis, I'm wondering how this mess could get past the fiscal committee without the adoptee footing the bill entirely.

And what of the unlucky adoptee that doesn't even know they're adopted? Will they get a nice bill in the mail?

"Dear xxx, The State of California has spent 6 years conducting a search for your birthmother. She could not be located. Attached is an invoice for $17,163 payable to the State."

Almost enough for Arnie to buy another Hummer.

9:03 AM  
Blogger BB Church said...

Any bill that contains a fiscal note is going to have problems this year. They can either minimize the cost by reducing "service" or passing along the cost to the consumer, in this case the adoptee.

A per head tax on adoptees would be passed along to adoptees to who don't know by simply passing along in their state income tax without telling them... That's kind of the way it works anyway with LDA's...

10:31 AM  
Blogger BD said...

My bet is that bastards will be dunned.

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Assemblymember Ma:

Your latest version of AB 372 (now known by adoptees around the country as "CARE's Birthmother Privacy Bill), has made it so that I can get my original birth certificate if my biological parents are confirmed dead?

How is the State of California going to confirm my biological father's death when he cannot be located? I don't want a copy of my original birth certificate without his name on it! It's my biological history and my right to have that document complete and unaltered. I already have an altered and amended birth certificate!

You are seriously confusing reunion with records. Reunions are already happening without birth certificates. They aren't needed for reunions. A gentle phone call from an adoptee is a lot better than a certified letter from the state. Your idea to send this to the "best address" (which is probably 30 years old) is ridiculous. A lot of names will be redacted and a lot more birth certificates will remain sealed.

AB 372 does NOTHING to help adoptees get what is rightfully theirs. We want what every non-adopted citizen in this country has: our original birth certificates. Nothing more, nothing less. Equal rights for all citizens of this country.

Please kill AB 372 and write a REAL reform bill modeled after Oregon's.

4:16 PM  

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