Pennsylvania: “Creating another generation of victims is not the answer.” A letter to PA Coalition Against Rape from Kristi Lado
This weekend I wrote about “liberal” opposition to Pennsylvania HB 162, a bill that will restore OBC access, without condition, restriction, to adults adopted in Pennsylvania. OBC ‘s were sealed retroactively there only in 1985! HB 162 passed the Pennsylvania House in October 1913 196-0 and is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow in the Senate where it is expect that the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the Pennsylvania National Organization for Women, and the Pennsylvania ACLU (Harrisburg Office) will testify the OBC access and adoptees endanger women and their privacy. . (Llnks provide contact information) Please write them.
Kristi Lado, an adoptee conceived through rsexual assault sent a very eloquent letter to all three organizations over the weekend. She has received no reply. With Kristi’s permission, I am reposting her letter below. Feel free to forward it.
Thank you Kristi!
Hi Bastards! This is my letter to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. Feel free to repost. I sent similar messages to PA chapters of NOW & the ACLU.
To the Members of PCAR:
I’m writing to express my deep disappointment in your opposition of PA HB 162. As you are aware, the passing of this bill would restore an adopted adult’s right to access his or her original birth certificate.
I am an adoptee who was conceived by sexual assault and reunited with my natural mother 12 years ago. For most of my adult life I have done volunteer work for adoptee organizations, most recently co-founding an online support group for those affected by rape conception.
I’m going on the assumption that PCAR opposes HB 162 based on privacy concerns of women who conceived from rape. For the record, my mother chose to carry me to term with the knowledge that I would (according to the law in 1977) be able to view my original birth certificate at the age of majority. It was retroactively sealed in 1985. When I found her at age 24, she was wondering why it had taken me so long.
There is a big difference between privacy and anonymity. It is reasonable to expect privacy in the sense that not just anyone should be able to inspect a birth certificate or adoption records or otherwise intrude on your life. However, keeping those records from the very person they pertain to falls under the realm of secret-keeping. No other mother in any other situation is given the right to keep her identity anonymous from her child. This is special treatment. No group of citizens in the United States is blocked from accessing their birth original certificates other than adoptees. This is blatant discrimination.
In 1997 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed this view after an attempt to block an open records law in Tennessee. The court stated, “A birth is simultaneously an intimate occasion and a public event — the government has long kept records of when, where, and by whom babies are born. Such records have myriad purposes, such as furthering the interest of children in knowing the circumstances of their birth.” The judges also ruled that “if there is a federal constitutional right of familial privacy, it does not extend as far as the plaintiffs would like.” The U.S. Supreme Court upheld this ruling.
Open records are not a radical idea. Seven U.S. states already grant unrestricted access to birth certificates to adoptees. In fact, most first-world nations do not impede an adoptee’s ability to learn the identity of his or her birth parents.
Does a woman who relinquished a child have the right to refuse contact with her child? Absolutely. Under HB 162 she will have had 18 years to formulate her response, should she receive a call or a letter. In my situation, my natural mother did not want an ongoing relationship and I respected her wishes. She did, however respect my humanity enough to think I deserved to look into her eyes at least once and ask questions about my biological heritage.
One of the worst aspects of sexual violence is being treated like a “thing” with no feelings. Those of us who were conceived by rape deal with the same issue. We are called the “product,” “rape babies,” and worse names that imply we are something less-than-human. By suggesting that it is acceptable to strip us of a right that every other PA citizen enjoys, not only contributes to this myth but is an endorsement of discrimination. All of this based on the idea that a fraction of relinquishing mothers may not want to know their children?
Sweeping a child’s existence under the rug perpetuates the notion that experience of a traumatic conception will just “go away” if you block it out for long enough. Women giving up babies for adoption used to be told to “forget” and “move on” with their lives as if nothing ever happened. In my experience, this archaic way of “dealing” has done exponentially more harm than good. It is my sincere hope that PCAR encourages survivors to seek therapy and truly deal with their trauma rather than hiding in denial.
Women’s advocacy groups have historically eschewed government intrusion in our personal lives and supported equal rights for all. I’m therefore astounded that PCAR would ask the government to continue to trample on a person’s civil right to know where they came from. In modern times, if someone tells a woman to “know her place” they would be considered a misogynist and a bigot. Opposition to open records sends this very same message to adoptees. Know your place. It cuts deep when people place you in the category of “other.” In this case, the oppression is hard to detect because it is not based on race or gender. “Be grateful you were even born,” is a phrase often thrown at us when we stand up for ourselves. In other words, “Take what you can get because you’re not worthy of being treated like everyone else.”
What society fails to understand is our mothers’ past is our present and future. We are not their rapists. Please do not punish us for something in which we had absolutely no choice. Not only do closed records cut us off from our personal history and narrative, but our children and every subsequent generation will live out the legacy of not knowing their family heritage and medical history. Closed records don’t protect raped women from their trauma. They are merely a transference of victimization.
On a personal note, it hurts me as a woman to have to write this letter. I’ve long stood up for reproductive rights when people tried to use me as a poster child for pro-life. Every single time I’m confronted with this I say the same thing: If I could have stood beside my birth mother in spirit when she had to make that awful choice, I would have supported her either way. I do not believe in hindering a woman’s reproductive choices. However, once a child is born there is no question he or she is a full-fledged human being that deserves every right under the law that every other citizen receives. The irony is the very same organizations I thought stood up for my rights (PCAR, NOW & the ACLU) now seek to oppress them.
My goal with this letter is not to alienate your group, but to create an understanding that children born as the result of rape are not the enemy of their mothers. I would be more than willing to work with PCAR and speak with any individual or group that would like to better understand this extremely misunderstood dynamic.
Please consider reversing your opinion and supporting HB 162. Creating another generation of victims is not the answer.
Kristi B. Lado