This article was originally published on Dissident Voice website on October 20, 2015.
It is re-printed here.
No One Should Place False Facts on Birth Certificates
by Joan Wheeler / October 20th, 2015
Transparency and Truth
There are three groups of American citizens whose birth certificates are falsified: those in the witness protection program, adopted people, and donor-conceived individuals.
In the United States, there is currently no national law (or Supreme Court decision) providing people created through reproductive technologies (or who have been adopted) with factual birth certificates. This country needs to ensure the total transparency and truth by repealing outdated laws, then modernizing and standardizing laws that govern the generation of birth certificates for these two groups of people.
Inaccurate birth certificates are continually issued by state governments as “official” documents. Donor-conceived individuals receive only one birth certificate with the sperm or egg donor’s name omitted. Some birth certificates state “father unknown,” as is the case with many children whose single mothers do not want to name the father, especially if the child was conceived through a one-night stand, an affair or sexual assault. Adoptees are given a new birth certificate with their new name, and the names of their new “legal parents,” combined with their place and birth date. The actual birth certificate is then sealed forever.
None of this should be happening in today’s world where we claim to value honesty. We experience disgust when someone, or a major company, deceives us. A few examples of this are Bill Clinton’s affair, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scandal, Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi and e-mail untruths, and Volkswagen’s intentional deception about emissions on 11 million cars. Topping off this list is Kim Davis the Kentucky county law clerk who was sent to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the law firm representing her, the Liberty Counsel, both of whom are now known for lying about the details of Davis’s meeting with the Pope.
For the victims of birth certificate fraud, this is a life-altering and lifelong matter. Who can we trust when we know our birth certificates are false?
History of Birth Certificates for Non-Adopted and Adopted Citizens
State laws requiring birth registration and birth certificates for American citizens began in the early 1900s.
Right from the start, people worried about the morality of the “illegal births” of bastard babies born without a legal father. The first person to address this formally was Victor von Borosini in his paper, “Problem of Illegitimacy in Europe,” in 1913.1 In the United States back then, the word “Illegitimate” was stamped across a bastard’s birth certificate.
By 1925, Georgia Tann2, an infamous Tennessee baby broker who stole children and sold them across the country, falsified birth and adoption records so her clients, adoptive “parents,” could be assured that the actual parents could never be found.
After 1930, states began sealing actual birth certificates after new ones were created via adoption. The illegitimately-born child was seen as “legitimized” and “reborn” through adoption.3 With no one questioning this archaic law (except activists), we now have many legitimately-born adopted children who are subjected to laws written to hide illegitimacy: full-and half-orphans, children who were removed from their parents due to abuse or neglect, and children adopted by their step-parents or grandparents.
State laws differ; only Kansas and Alaska never sealed adoptees’ actual birth certificates, but they produced (and still do) falsified ones for adoptees, stripping the official usefulness of the actual birth certificate, as if that birth never happened. All other states created new birth certificates (and still do) and then sealed the actual one upon the finalization of every single adoption, pretending that the new “birth” replaced the old one. This is why access laws that give adoptees mere access to uncertified, informational-only copies of their sealed birth certificates4 do nothing to solve the insidious problem. Access laws will give adopted people information that they did not have before, but these laws will not restore their civil rights.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Vital Statistics, states that the US Standard Certificates of Live Birth changed in 2003 and that it has changed 12 times in the 20th century.5 The CDC, however, does not create the forms for new birth certificates for adoptees. State Directors of Registrars of Vital Statistics create the forms used for amended birth certificates, as they have been doing since 1930.
But how can false facts on amended birth certificates be considered “vital statistics?”
Adoptive guardians have been getting their way since 1930. But they are not the only ones. People who use anonymous sperm donation have been deceiving their children since the practice began in America in 1890.6 Parents who use donor sperm and eggs are not legally required to name the donor as a parent on the child’s birth certificate.
This manipulation of the facts reveals self-centered entitlement with denial of the facts of life. That is how birth certificates morphed into “certificates of ownership.”
This crazy-making system is a set-up for disaster for millions of adopted and donor-conceived people.
Confusing the Issue
Lawmakers and Registrars of Vital Statistics scramble to accommodate same-sex couples who, after achieving nation-wide marriage-equality, now want to be named as parents on birth certificates. The Supreme Court, in their decision to uphold marriage-equality, chose to be politically correct rather than stand up for the actual facts of who is, and who isn’t, a parent to be named on a child’s birth certificate. Some states refuse to name both same-sex spouses on birth certificates and this has resulted in lawsuits. Same-sex couples see this refusal as yet another restriction on their rights.
In a National Public Radio story, “Gay Parents Face Issues With Birth Certificates in Some States,” that aired on September 21, 2015, Kathy Sakimura, attorney for The National Center for Lesbian Rights, states, “There are several custody cases where, you know, someone who has been on the birth certificate has been found out not to be the parent of their child.” National Public Radio’s reporter, Jennifer Ludden, concludes by paraphrasing Sakimura, “non-biological same-sex parents should legally adopt their children” in this push for “family equality.”7
This is acknowledgement that DNA actually proves who is, and who isn’t, a parent. Any single mother knows this. Paternity tests routinely prove who the father is so that the authorities can force him to pay child support.
Yet, same-sex couples want to change the birth certificate from “mother and father” to “parent 1” and “parent 2,” while others want the words “mother 1” and “mother 2” or “father 1” and “father 2.”
The fight to establish gay rights has been, and still is, a long, hard struggle. However, many same-sex couples fight so hard to establish their rights that they mistakenly believe their wants are the same as rights. They are fighting for their perceived right to be named on birth certificates, even if one of them is not a biological parent. They delude themselves, but at whose expense?
It may not be obvious to many people, but it is very clear to the victims of identity fraud. Same-sex couples are confusing the issue. Yes, definitely, the right to be married and the right to raise a family, as long as the rights of the children involved are not violated.
When straight married couples with children divorce and re-marry, they are faced with one of them being a biological parent while the other is not. They accept the situation, fully acknowledging that the non-biological “parent” is a step-parent. This is a blended family.
Activists and the Donor-Conceived Speak Out
Jennifer Lahl, President of The Center For Bioethics and Culture Network (CBCN), states that “‘family equality’ requires that we forever diminish the significance of our biological ties. So much for the children who long to know, and be known, by their biological parents! Farewell to the idea that biology matters—even for the sake of knowing one’s medical histories.” Ms. Lahl points out that “[s]ince the use of anonymous gamete (egg and sperm) donation came into existence, an unknown number of children—easily in the hundreds of thousands—have been conceived this way. This has led to an entire generation of children who are severed from at least one of their parents. […]These children long to know their biological parents. They suffer real psychological and physical harms.”8
Mirah Riben, a long-time proponent of family preservation over adoption separation, writes:
Adoption activists are appalled that that the lies and secrecy they have fought against for decades are being replicated in anonymous third party reproduction. While adoption alleges to be about finding homes for children in need, it has become a privatized multi-billion dollar industry which, like the infertility industry, caters to those who can pay dearly to obtain a child. In both adoption and assisted reproduction, the child is reduced to a possession, highly sought but not treated as an autonomous human being with rights.9
In “Sperm And Egg Donation Foster Technology-Induced Child Slavery,”10 Christopher White, Director of Research and Education, Center For Bioethics and Culture Network, is concerned that “parental desires to have children trump the rights of children to know and be known by their biological parents.” He quotes the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 7: “The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.” Mr. White also points out that, “buying and selling eggs and sperm privileges the wealthy at the expense of the poor.”
Michael Allen Potter, author and activist11, states the following in response to the above quote, “This non-specific language is the crux of the issue!” Indeed, the word “a” is vague (as in “a name”) leaving room for anyone to step in to re-name the child and to claim to be the child’s parents.
In12 Jennifer Lahl brings attention to the economic inequality of poor women. She writes, “Surrogacy involves the exploitation of poor and vulnerable women and the creation of a market for children.”
Ms. Lahl and The Center For Bioethics and Culture Network have produced films that should be mandatory viewing for everyone and anyone, especially those considering being either a donor or a gestational surrogate mother, and those who are considering donor gametes: Eggspoitation, 2010-201213, Anonymous Father’s Day, the Movie 14, Breeders: A Subclass of Women15 and Maggie’s Story: An All New Documentary Short Film, Egg Donation,16
In Anonymous Father’s Day, donor-conceived individuals discuss their feelings at length. The 1989 book, Lethal Secrets, compiled a collection of voices of the donor-conceived, donors, recipient parents, and experts. Just as adoptees have written numerous books and blogs, there are blogs written by the donor-conceived: “The Son of a Surrogate”17, “I am a Product of Surrogacy”18, “Confessions of a Cryokid: What happens when artificially created bundles of joy begin to speak for themselves? Revolt!”19, and “Connect It: Contemplating the humor, ethics and truth of being the product of anonymous sperm donation,”20 These blogs and one podcast, “The Anonymous Us Project: Anonymity in family formation hides the truth. Anonymity in story-telling reveals it,”21 tell us that the human products of these technologies are not happy about how they came into existence.
They are Not the Same
It is quite simple, really: If your sperm, egg, or uterus did not participate in the creation of another human being, then your name does not belong on a birth certificate. Yes, the rented-uterus-surrogate-mother’s name should be on the child’s birth certificate because she was implanted with the embryo, carried the fetus to term, and gave birth.
Instead of doing the right thing that makes the most common sense, many gays and lesbians want to pretend that they are exactly like every other married couple who become “parents.” The reality is that they are not the same. No two women and no two men can physically make a baby, so it makes no logical sense for their names to be on a “birth” certificate when only one of them actually sired (or conceived and birthed) the baby. The same applies for a new, amended, “birth” certificate for their adopted child.
Lesbians become pregnant with the sperm of an anonymous donor. They raise the child as a married couple while depriving “their” child the right to know the father’s identity and to have a relationship with him. Most lesbian mothers do not realize that they have a moral obligation to tell the child the truth. They are only concerned with their happiness and their right to be married and their right to be treated as equals to every other person.
Gay men who choose an egg donor and a surrogate mother use their sperm to become fathers. Most do not want the mothers to be involved in their children’s lives. The moment an egg donor is paid, or that a gestational surrogate mother is found (whether she is a friend or a poor woman in Nepal22,23 in a baby farm who is paid for her services via a paid third-party agency), then the father, or “fathers,” have a moral obligation to the child they created with the assistance of strangers. Just as most lesbian mothers are only concerned with their rights, most gay men who are fathers are only concerned with their perceived right to be “fathers,” no matter what the truth is.
Normally, the names of parents (who have conceived and birthed the child they are raising) are listed on a birth certificate. The resulting record is an accurate one. These parents are the legal parents of their biological child. This is normal for non-adopted people.
When parents are separated out and not recorded, and the facts are ignored and intentionally changed, birth certificates become “certificates of ownership,” stressing the importance of the “legal” guardians (disguised as parents of birth) while dismissing the importance of the actual parents. Over time, this bastardization of the original purpose of registering births and issuing birth certificates has reflected the wishes of the people who see themselves as “their” child’s only “parents.”
As a civilized society, America needs to return to the true meaning of a birth certificate. In the case of adoption, there should be both a birth certificate and an adoption certificate, both certified and open to the adoptee at any age, because birth and adoption are separate and distinct events.
Creating a new document recording both birth and adoption on one certificate, as some people suggest, is ridiculous because birth and adoption are two separate events with adoptions finalized anywhere from a few months after birth to several years later.
Donors and Gestational Surrogate Mothers
Sperm and egg donors are also complicit in this intentional deception and willful parental absence.
Sperm donors only think of how much money they can make masturbating to porn while creating an unknown number of children that they will never know. They have a bloated sense of self, egotistically spreading their genes around without financial obligation to pay child support or to be a parent.
Egg donors risk their lives to get paid for their “donation” when they enter into months of hormone injections leading up to surgery to remove their eggs. Many live to regret their decisions.
Gestational surrogate mothers either claim pure altruism when they carry a pregnancy to term for a friend or a relative, or they are paid for their services. Even though agencies claim they psychologically screen women who are “mentally stable”24 to give up the baby at birth, this approach actually brainwashes women into believing that because they can get pregnant that they owe someone else their bodies to produce a baby. It seems that no one is concerned that carrying a stranger’s baby to term is a mental- and medical-health risk for the surrogate mother.
The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network (CBCN) has been trying to change the public’s view of surrogacy, with only other activists and bioethicists taking notice. But on October 12, 2015, the CBNC announced that, “Congressional hearings are urgently needed to investigate the exploding U.S. baby-farming business that left another paid surrogate mother dead this month — this time an American woman.”25
The CBNC indicated that the woman had been a paid surrogate three times and “died October 8 carrying twins, reportedly for a Spanish couple. Surrogate pregnancy is illegal in Spain and other European countries. The European Parliament called surrogacy and egg sales an ‘extreme form of exploitation of women’ in an official resolution.”
Jennifer Lahl, President of the CBCN, said:
American women are being paid to put themselves at significant physical risk every day in this country to produce babies for others. […] These mostly low income women are injected with powerful hormones and other drugs to maximize chances of pregnancy, virtually without government oversight. Women didn’t get this far to be treated like breeding animals.
Mental Health and Medical Health Risks of Surrogacy on Infants
No one thinks about the unborn baby bonding with this mother, or the risks facing that unborn strange baby growing inside a woman whose hormones and nutrition may be beneficial or harmful, or if the surrogate is exposed to toxins and unsanitary maternity care or emotionally-damaging living conditions (if she lives in a Third World country). No one cares that the unborn baby senses the emotions of the gestational surrogate mother who detaches from the child because she is in it only for the money (or because she wants to help someone else have a baby).
We are only just beginning to understand how an infant’s immune system develops. Brett Finlay, a University of British Columbia microbiologist, says:
What’s become clear recently is that microbes play a major role in shaping how the immune system develops. And asthma [for example] is really an immune allergic-type reaction in the lungs […] the way these microbes are working is they are influencing how our immune system is shaped really early in life.”26
Martin Blaser, of New York University, states that:
The microbes that babies have early in life are not accidental. They got a lot of them from their mothers. It’s been going on since time immemorial. […] And if you mess with that, then the choreography [of the microbes] is different. There could be disease consequences like asthma.
There are other factors to consider. With eggs and sperm being shipped all over the globe, mixing ethnicities and races, and surrogate mothers living on baby farms in yet another country, and the resulting child shipped off through immigration to yet another country, how will these children make sense of their contracted identities?
If we continue to condone surrogacy, infants born this way are set-up from pre-conception, pre-birth, and after for a myriad of physical and emotional problems, many of which we will not even know about for many years to come.
Medical Health/Financial Risks for Adoptees/Donor-Conceived
While some medical information may be gathered at the time of adoption (or of gamete donation) many inherited medical problems do not show up until years later. There is no way to determine if missing siblings, or parents, or grandparents also have the medical condition. Insurance companies will not pay for genetic testing when a person cannot provide a family history to trace the condition, forcing the person seeking help to pay thousands of dollars in cash. This puts adoptees and donor-conceived people at a great disadvantage.
Those With No Choice
Marriage equality does not give married gays and lesbians the right to take away the human and civil rights of the children they are creating and/or adopting.
The ones whose birth facts have been altered have no choice but to face the consequences of the actions of all the adults who created them: contracting “parents”, gamete donors, surrogate mothers, doctors, and Registrars of Vital Statistics who allowed facts to be falsified on their birth certificates.
Just as adoptees in closed adoption (and in open adoption, which is only a social arrangement and has nothing to do with Vital Statistics) are resentful that their birth certificates were not only falsified, but sealed, so too are donor-conceived people.
The same principal of truth applies to heterosexual married couples, but it is less obvious. A man and a woman can “get away with” passing off the husband as the father of a sperm donor’s child. Again, no adoption is ever processed because the law assumes that the husband is the biological father. (For obvious reasons, this same assumption cannot be made by lesbians, or gay men, who want to be named on their spouse’s child’s birth certificate.)
When a married heterosexual woman receives a donor’s egg, she becomes pregnant with her husband’s sperm through the help of an infertility clinic. She gives birth to a child who is not genetically “hers.” No adoption is ever processed. The couple believes that no one needs to know. But the person who was deceptively conceived will one day find out. The resulting shock can be devastating.
When a married heterosexual couple receives another couple’s anonymously-donated frozen embryo, the wife becomes pregnant and bonds with the unborn baby. (And the baby bonds with her, as well.) She gives birth. (She is a mother by pregnancy and by birth, but she is not the child’s only mother.) Nor is her husband the only father. Neither one is a genetic parent. Yet, their names are placed on the “birth” certificate because they are the intended social and legal guardians of the embryo transfer and this mother birthed the child. Some embryo recipients finalize the transaction and birth with an adoption. They form a relationship with the donor-couple and initiate informal visitation (that cannot be court-enforced) between the two sets of full siblings who are living, perhaps, thousands of miles apart.
The correct term for “embryo adoption” is “embryo transfer.” Embryos are considered property, not people, and are not legally adoptable. The child born, however, is adoptable.
Many adopted people feel as though they were treated as property.
Ensuring Parental Rights and the Child’s Rights
To ensure not only the parental rights of same-sex couples, but the rights of the child to legal guardians, a formal guardianship should be finalized to ensure that the two lesbian “mothers” or the two gay “fathers” are, indeed, named as legal guardians on a guardianship agreement that states only the facts of that transaction.
Likewise, when a heterosexual couple is the recipient of an anonymously donated embryo, a certificate of birth must be filed to spell out who are the actual parents – those who had a part in this child’s conception, gestation, and birth. Since the wife gave birth, she is legally considered to be the mother, but so is the egg donor. The husband of the wife carrying an anonymous couple’s embryo should not be named on the birth certificate of a child he did not sire. However, to ensure the couple’s right to be the legal guardians of this child, and to ensure the child’s right to legal protection, a guardianship should be finalized. Only the facts of that legal transaction should be recorded.
Desperation Leads to Moral Dilemmas
In 2004, The President’s Council on Bioethics researched reproductive technologies and published their findings in their book, Reproduction & Responsibility: The Regulation of New Biotechnologies.27 They called for regulation, but there are no federal laws (only some state laws) in the United States.28 Infertility clinics and everyone involved just make up their own rules. Individuals can use the “turkey baster” method of self-insemination from a friend.
The President’s Council on Bioethics cautioned against a certain procedure and proposed that it be deemed illegal. Cytoplasmic transfer can produce a healthy child to a woman who carries a known medical problem in her mitochondrial DNA. The cytoplasm (that contains unhealthy mitochondria) from the genetic mother is removed and cytoplasm containing healthy cytoplasm from a donor’s egg is inserted. A healthy child can now be born who is the product of two genetic mothers and a donor father. Evidently, this procedure has not been declared illegal as several articles indicate that a few of these frankenchildren have already been born.29,30,31
The ethics of producing a child with two genetic mothers must be examined. It is not known if the procedure is medically safe for the child. In addition, these children may also be the product of a gestational surrogate mother and could also be adopted by a different woman, a same-sex (or straight) couple, or a single man.
Why are we continuing to split parentage? Are the people who seek these treatments, or legal contracts, so selfish that they cannot see the burdens they create for the children (and for future generations)? Morality and ethics seem to go by the wayside when one is desperate to have a child, not only by their own genes, but by any means necessary.
Worldwide Laws on Donors, Surrogacy, and Adoptees’ Birth Certificates
There is much discrepancy in worldwide statistics about how many children can be produced per donor and whether a country allows anonymity. Sperm donors can have up to or over 100 children, but many countries are limiting how many children can be produced. Anonymity is seen by many progressive countries as detrimental to the well-being of the child; therefore, laws have been passed requiring sperm donors to be identified. It is unclear if a donor’s name is on a child’s birth certificate.
Egg donation laws worldwide can be found at Egg Donation Laws32. It appears that information is kept secret as users must either want to be a donor (or to be in the market for a donor) before information is sent via e-mail.
Traditional surrogacy is different from gestational surrogacy. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is inseminated and becomes pregnant with her own biological child that she will relinquish at birth. In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate is inserted with an anonymous embryo. Worldwide surrogacy laws can be found here.
Even though the majority of the world issues falsified birth certificates to adoptees after the adoption hearing, “[s]ealed records are now the exception globally, and the trend is toward the repeal of anti-bastard laws. The United States and a handful of other countries are among the last holdouts to records reform.”33
Reform laws, however, promote adoptee access to uncertified, informational-only “pre-adoption” birth certificates. In order for all adoptees and donor-conceived people to have full human and civil rights, a global change is necessary to retro-actively and prospectively provide for fully-accessible certified birth certificates and mandatory adoption certificates. This is the way it is done in The Netherlands, a country that never falsified, nor sealed, birth certificates of adopted children.
Equality of Truth: A Goal for Donor-Conceived/Adoptee’s Rights
Donor-conceived people need birth certificates that are specifically created for their particular split-parentage. Egg-donor mother, sperm-donor father, gestational-surrogate mother who gives birth, or the heterosexual couple who donated their left-over frozen embryos to another couple must be named on a document that verifies who created (and birthed) this new human being.
A birth certificate is supposed to record the facts of the birth of a child. Therefore, adoptive guardians should not be named on a new “birth” certificate for an adopted child. Adoptive guardians (gay or straight) perceive this as an attack on their perceived rights. They do not realize that anything other than the facts of life on a birth certificate violate the civil and human rights of the very children they claim they love so much.
When the recording of conception, birth, and adoption becomes a reality-based and fact-based system, when the child’s actual birth certificate is left intact (and not falsified nor sealed), when guardianship is promoted over adoption, when adoption certificates are created upon the finalization of an adoption, and when the child’s right to her name at birth is respected (meaning that the adoptive guardians do NOT change the child’s name), when an adopted person can revoke the adoption contract in adulthood if they choose, then, and only then, will adoptees and donor-conceived people be treated as fully-equal members of society, with full civil rights, and with their worth and dignity recognized.34,35,36
LGBT, ACLU, and the ‘Right’ to Adopt: A Third View
Lori Carangelo, President of Americans For Open Records (AmFOR.net), states that the idea of “a right to adopt” was begun by American Civil Liberties Union Director, Anthony D. Romero, a gay man, when he sent out surveys in the mail that “intended to support same-sex marriage.”37
The third view is that “no one has a ‘right’ to adopt someone else’s child. The ‘right to marry’ does not beget a ‘right’ to adopt. AmFOR’s position relies [neither] on the fact that, while adults have a right to choose whether to marry and who they wish to marry, a minor child has ‘no choice’ whether to be adopted (nor by whom). But also ALL adoption results in an adoptee having ‘less rights.’”
“Activists for LGBT rights need to respect millions of adoptees by refraining from suggesting a ‘right to adopt.’”
Carangelo points out that Americans For Open Records upholds the rights of all adoptees:
… including gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender adoptees of all races and nationalities – a policy that has been well established by AmFOR over the past 25 years since AmFOR’s founding in 1989.
While it is imperative that LGBT individuals in America be afforded access to the ‘same playing field’ with regard to the ‘same rights,’ it is a slap in the face of ALL adoptees to allege that any American has a ‘right to adopt’ while American adoptees, like pre-Civil War slaves, have been deprived of THEIR rights for the past century since the Orphan Trains and even more so since 1940s bastardizing and sealing of their true birth records withheld from them even in adulthood — with the blessings of ACLU.
Lori Carangelo concludes with a fact that adoptee activists have known since the 1970s, that the American Civil Liberties Union does not support adoptees’ civil rights to our own sealed birth certificates, preferring to back “foster care agencies that facilitate adoptions.”
This Article is Gay-Approved
Michael Allen Potter is the middle of three siblings who were removed from their schizophrenic parents when they were young children. The two brothers were adopted separately and their sister grew up in foster care. Michael was adopted at age eight and again when he was ten (by the same woman and her new husband).
Michael has three birth certificates: the actual one was sealed when the second one was created; the second one was sealed when the third one was created.
After a decade of search, he found his mother, and she gave him his actual birth certificate. He reclaimed his actual name back to his name at birth, but does his second amended birth certificate override his actual birth certificate? Currently, Michael, like all American adoptees, does not have the civil right to obtain a certified copy of his actual birth certificate from Vital Statistics.
Michael states that being trafficked and adopted from one family to another, and then being assigned another “father” by adoption, and going through multiple name changes, is far worse than being gay. He does not support gay and lesbian use of gamete donation, or surrogacy, or adoption to build families. He promotes family preservation and guardianship as viable alternatives to adoption.
Promoting Adoption Truth Since 1974
When I was 18, I was found by four older siblings I was never supposed to know, according to New York State adoption law.) The resulting reunion was a blend of joy, sadness, and trauma.
But it was the revelation that I have two different “birth” certificates that was the single most disturbing shock. When my adoptive guardian (whom I loved as my mother) gave me both of my “birth” certificates, I was numb with disbelief. I have owned a certified copy of my actual birth certificate for 41 years, but do not have the legal right to obtain it from Vital Statistics.
According to federal law, no one can have two different certified birth certificates. Releasing a certified copy of the sealed birth certificate to an adopted person would give the adopted person the opportunity to commit fraud. So adopted people are held suspect in the possibility of committing crimes, when all we want is certified proof of our real identities and many of us want to null and void our amended birth certificates. We did not do this to ourselves.
It infuriates me that my state government has determined that the facts of my birth can be re-written, that my actual birth certificate has been deemed inoperable, and that my amended “birth” certificate overrides the facts.
Though my siblings are legal strangers to me (by law, they do not exist), we have the same parents. My siblings can get their birth certificates as free citizens, but I cannot.
The only “birth” certificate I am entitled to is the false one that claims that “Joan Mary Wheeler” was “born” to a woman who could not get pregnant. Her husband did not sire me. I loved them, yes, but we are talking about the facts of life. I was, in fact, born Doris Michol Sippel to my mother who died three months after she gave birth to me. Her husband sired me. He was my father.
There is absolutely no reason why I should have lost my birth certificate, or my name, (or my family) in order to have “a better life” by adoption.
- Victor von Borosini, 4 J. Am. Inst. Crim. L. & Criminology 212, 1913-5 to 1914- 3. 
- The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption, Barbara Bisantz Raymond, Union Square Press, 2007. 
- “1930: Birth Records of Illegitimates and of Adopted Children,” Sheldon L. Howard, Illinois State Registrar of Vital Statistics, and Henry B. Hemenway, Medical Assistant Registrar, Vital Statistics Division, Illinois Department of Public Health, Springfield, Illinois, read before the Vital Statistics Section of the American Public Health Association, 1930-10-30, originally published in The American Journal Public Health Nations Health, 1931-6-21(6): 641–647. 
- Adoptee Access Laws, State Legislation, American Adoption Congress 
- “2003 Revisions of the US Standard Certificates of Live Birth and Death and the Fetal Death Report,” and “The New Birth Certificate,” National Vital Statistics System, Reproductive Statistics Branch, National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Vital Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 
- Lethal Secrets: The Shocking Consequences and Unsolved Problems of Artificial Insemination: Parents, children, donors, and experts speak out, Annette Baran and Reuben Pannor, Warner Books, 1989. 
- “Gay Parents Face Issues With Birth Certificates In Some States,” Jennifer Ludden, reporter, NPR, National Public Radio, 2015-9-21. 
- “‘Family Equality’ Means Children Lose Biological Ties,” Jennifer Lahl, President, The Center For Bioethics and Culture, 2015-07-01. 
- “Anonymous Third Party Reproduction Ignores Children’s Rights and Welfare,” Mirah Riben, The Huffington Post, 2015-03-03. 
- Christopher White, 2014-11-20. 
- Michael Allen Potter, digital publishing consultant, writer, editor, adoptee rights and gay activist 
- “Family Equality’ Exploits Women as Breeders,” Jennifer Lahl, President, The Center For Bioethics and Culture, 2015-07-02. 
- Infertility Industry has a Dirty Little Secret – Eggspoitation, The Movie, The Center For Bioethics and Culture, 2010-2012 
- The Center For Bioethics and Culture, 2012. 
- The Movie, 2014 
- The Center For Bioethics and Culture, 2015. 
- a blog, 2006 
- a blog, 2004 
- a blog, 2012 
- 2012-3-17. 
- Podcasts, ongoing dates 
- “Israel Evacuates Surrogate Babies From Nepal but Leaves the Mothers Behind,” Mahroh Jahangiri, 2015-4-28 
- “Israel Criticized For Leaving Pregnant Surrogates In Nepal,” Renee Mantagne, Host, National Public Radio, 2015-4-30 
- Psychological Screening of Potential Surrogate Mothers, Surrogacy911 website 
- “American Surrogate Mom Dies,” The Center for Bioethics and Culture, 2015-10-12. 
- Missing Microbes Provide Clues About Asthma Risk, Rob Stein, National Public Radio, 2015-9-30 
- Reproduction & Responsibility: The Regulation of New Biotechnologies: A Report of the President’s Council on Bioethics, Washington D.C., 2004. 
- “Sperm donor, surrogacy and co-parenting laws in the United States,” with links to laws in the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and Canada, CoParents website. 
- “World’s First Genetically-Modified Babies Born, Or Were They?” Rebecca Taylor, 2012-7-2. 
- “Three Biological Parents and a Baby,” Karen Weintraub, Well, Blogs, New York Times, 2013-12-16. 
- “First Genetically Modified Babies Will Graduate High School In 2015,” Essel Pratt, 2014-9-29. 
- Egg Donation IVF website 
- “Open Records around the World,” Bastard Nation, 2015. 
- “Ethical Principle: Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person,” Social Workers Code of Ethics, National Association of Social Workers, 1996 revised 2008. 
- “Social Worker’s Ethical Responsibility as Professionals: 4.04 Dishonesty, Fraud, and Deception,” Social Workers Code of Ethics, National Association of Social Workers, 1996 revised 2008. 
- “1st Principle: The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person,” Unitarian Universalist Association. 
- “LGBT, ACLU, and the ‘Right’ to Adopt: A Third View,” Americans For Open Records. 
Joan Mary Wheeler was born and adopted in Buffalo, New York. She is an adoptee rights activist. Since 1975, her articles have been published in newspapers, social work journals and government publications in United States, England, Australia and The Netherlands. She is the author of Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity. You can visit her website at Forbidden Family. Read other articles by Joan.