I am an adult. I vote, pay taxes, have raised children and grandchildren, drive, may legally have the occasional drink if I wish, and in my youth, was able to serve in the military. I am not a convicted felon, terrorist, stalker or miscreant. And yet the one thing I cannot do that all other citizens can (including the aforementioned felons, terrorists, stalkers and miscreants) is access the original documents of my birth, my identity and my heritage. I am one of more than 2,000 children trafficked from Ireland to the US for adoption. And I am weary of everyone from politicians and political pundits, to pro-life campaigners and religious think tanks, conveniently hijacking our narrative, our lived experience and using it to flog other issues or controversies. Yet I am the one who has been flogged clean of my rights, and seem to have no voice in my own narrative.
It seems unthinkable in a modern Ireland that this remains the case, despite that immediately across the water in the UK, citizens there have been able to access those same documents for nearly forty years.
Likewise, in most European countries and five US states. I continue to hear The Taoiseach, Ministers and TDs elected by the people tell me that these rights, access to these documents, represent “complex Constitutional issues.” Nothing could be further from the truth. They are confusing issues involving basic human behavior and relationships, with issues involving rights. My right to know who I am is a civil and human right, one enshrined in the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption and by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. And yet more than 60,000 adopted Irish adults continue to be denied that right.
What may be considered “complex” is seeking out one’s family of origin and making contact with those individuals.
But thousands of Irish citizens do that every day, despite sealed records.
We are also told that natural parents (mothers especially) were guaranteed confidentiality and somehow are granted this extra layer of protection – a level of protection no other citizen enjoys. Nothing could be further from the truth: this myth of “privacy” has been trotted out ad nauseum by agencies with a great deal to hide, and it has increasingly become a dog that simply won’t hunt. No documentation has ever been produced to prove this. In fact, quite the opposite, mothers of loss have come forward with documents they were forced to sign, promising that they would not seek their children in future. We are also told that opening records will cause adoption rates to plummet and abortion rates to rise, yet in jurisdictions where records have always been open or were opened in the past, nothing could be further from the truth (Alan Guttmacher Institute: http://www.agi-usa.org/pubs/journals/3026398.html).The basic right to our identity is not mutually inclusive with search or contact.
Many adopted adults in open records countries/states obtain their original documents and never choose to trace natural family.
And at the end of the day, all human relationships are complex by design, whether shaded by adoption or not. In fact, most countries in the free world, including Ireland, have already enacted laws that protect individuals from unwarranted or harmful contact by way of barring orders, anti-stalking and harassment laws, digital privacy laws, etc. Why do our elected officials feel that adopted people must be harnessed by extra layers of protection against contact with blood-related individuals? One can only assume that our government believes us so pathologically unable to handle our interpersonal relationships that we are somehow “damaged” or “less than” because of the circumstances of our birth. And that is just plain discrimination. If we treated any other minority group in the same manner, the hue and cry would be earth-shattering.
So do we continue to believe lies designed to hide past bad practice, adoption fraud and a generational legacy of shame and stigma?
Do we continue to allow mothers and fathers to live in pain, closeted by shame and stigma created by a nation caught in the stranglehold of outdated religious mores and control, and acted out by their own families and a State?
Or do we finally drag ourselves kicking and screaming into the 21st century, into the light of what we now know to be best practice as it applies to adoption and open records? Do we now finally acknowledge that we have spent the last half of the 20th century marginalizing, infantalising and discriminating against an entire population of adults?