Wednesday, July 23, 2008

USA: Protesters Seek to Change Laws Sealing Birth Papers, July 23, 2008

July 23, 2008

Protesters seek to change laws sealing birth papers
But opposition notes mothers' privacy rights
By Nicole Dungca
Staff writer

Since finding out last year that she was adopted as a baby, Judy Galliand Adams, 58, has been on a hunt for information about her birth mother. But she faces a major roadblock.

In Louisiana, as in many states, adoptees are denied easy access to their original birth certificates. Instead, they can get only amended birth certificates, which name their adopted parents as their biological parents.

Aiming to get the policy changed, Galliand Adams joined about 60 protesters Tuesday on a march from Lafayette Park to the site of the 34th Annual Legislative Summit of the National Conference of State Legislatures at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Organized by The Adoptee Rights Demonstration, protesters urged lawmakers attending the five-day conference to change laws that require the birth certificates of adopted people to be sealed.

For Galliand Adams, Louisiana's law makes the search for her biological history "incredibly frustrating."

"I have no idea who I am, and there's just a big void there," she said.

Even in states that have so-called "mutual consent registries," adoptees only can contact their birth parents if the parents agree. In these states, access to original birth certificates is often possible but usually requires hearings in civil court.

Other protesters said the laws amount to discrimination.

"This isn't about searching and reunion. This is about our rights," said Michelle Edmunds, who came from Canada to join the march.

Across the aisle, adoption advocates expressed opposition to changes that would loosen restrictive laws to grant adoptees easy access to their birth certificates. States that already have such laws include Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Alabama, Alaska and Kansas.

"We're not opposed to open adoption or open records. We're concerned about the right of privacy for the birth mother," said Rodney Huey, spokesman for the National Council for Adoption.

"A birth mother, for whatever reason, decided at one point to have her own confidential adoption, and that (confidentiality is) what she was guaranteed," he said.

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Nicole Dungca can be reached at or 504.826.3321.

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