Massachusetts Legislators: Shame on YOU

Full Disclosure: As of this article going to print, the jury, officially, the members of the Massachusetts House and Senate are still out. On Tuesday, May 16, 2017, the Joint Committee on Public Health held a hearing on equal access to birth records for all persons born in this state who happen to have been adopted during a particular span of years: July 17, 1974 to January 1, 2008. All those who fall outside of the time line are exempt from this barrier.

And why say shame on the Massachusetts Legislators? Because this is not the first time bills to right this wrong have been filed, only to be sent out to committee and never heard from again. This issue has been kicked around the State House since 2015. Thank you, Sean Garballey and Kate Hogan, for presenting the bill in the House: Bill H. 1163. Thank you James Eldridge for presenting the bill in the Senate: Bill S. 1195. And thank you to all of the legislators who joined as petitioners.

Massachusetts has always been ahead of the wave: single parent adoptions, same sex adoptions, same sex marriage, enforceable open adoption contracts for contact, pre-birth orders in gestational carrier agreements, as well as so many other family issues for which I applaud our courts. And yet, our legislature falls flat when considering the needs of all persons who were born in Massachusetts and subsequently adopted.

Let’s hope the Joint Committee on Public Health has listened carefully. The current statute: M.G.L.Ch. 46 s.2B precludes people adopted who happened to be born in Massachusetts between July 17, 1974 and January 1, 2008. WHY? Those opposed assert that anonymity was promised during those particular years for mothers who gave birth in Massachusetts and made an adoption plan.

There is no good or valid reason why this statute should remain as is for several basic and constitutional reasons:

  1. The premise upon which opponents rely, that mothers who gave birth in Massachusetts between July 17, 1974 and January 1, 2008, and made an adoption plan, were promised confidentiality is false. The Massachusetts Surrender is an unconditional and voluntary surrender of one’s child. M.G.L.Ch. 208 § 2. Any promises made to mothers or fathers premised upon the voluntary termination of their parent rights are prohibited and if true, would void the surrender.
  2. The statute is in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
  3. Courts of competent jurisdiction have overruled this so-called promise of anonymity countless times, based upon a showing of good cause, a discretionary standard.
  4. Biological family medical history is key to prevention, early diagnosis and treatment.

Perhaps by the time this article goes to print, it can be thrown out with yesterday’s newspaper.

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