Measure No. 58

Explanatory Statement

Arguments in Favor

Arguments in Opposition

Measure Contents Page

Proposed by initiative petition to be voted on at the General Election, November 3, 1998.

BALLOT TITLE

58

REQUIRES ISSUING COPY OF ORIGINAL OREGON BIRTH CERTIFICATE TO ADOPTEES

RESULT OF "YES" VOTE: "Yes" vote requires issuing copy of original Oregon birth certificate to adult adoptees upon request.
RESULT OF "NO" VOTE: "No" vote retains confidentiality of original Oregon birth certificate of adoptees unless court orders disclosure.
SUMMARY: Current Oregon law provides that upon decree of adoption, a new birth certificate generally will be substituted for the original birth certificate, and the original certificate showing birth parent information will not be subject to inspection, unless a court orders disclosure. Measure would require state registrar to issue certified copy of original birth certificate to any Oregon born adopted person 21 years old or older. Establishes same procedures, filing fees and waiting periods for obtaining birth certificate copies for adopted persons as for non-adopted persons.
ESTIMATE OF FINANCIAL IMPACT: No financial effect on state or local government expenditures or revenues.

TEXT OF MEASURE

Upon receipt of a written application to the state registrar, any adopted person 21 years of age and older born in the state of Oregon shall be issued a certified copy of his/her unaltered, original and unamended certificate of birth in the custody of the state registrar, with procedures, filing fees, and waiting periods identical to those imposed upon non-adopted citizens of the State of Oregon pursuant to ORS 432.120 and 432.146. Contains no exceptions.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

This measure changes existing law to allow an adopted person 21 years of age or older to obtain a copy of the person's original birth certificate. Current Oregon law prohibits the release of an original birth certificate to such an adopted person without a court order. The law currently requires that upon receipt of a decree of adoption or a report of adoption from a court, the state registrar shall issue a new birth certificate unless the court, the adoptive parents or the adopted person requests otherwise.

This measure requires that upon receipt of a written application the state registrar shall provide a copy of the original birth certificate to an Oregon born adopted person 21 years of age or older. This measure requires that the procedures, filing fees and waiting periods for certified copies of original birth certificates be the same for requests by adopted persons as for non-adopted persons.

This measure applies to persons adopted in the past or in the future. There are no exceptions to this measure.
Committee Members:Appointed by:
Helen HillChief Petitioners
Shea GrimmChief Petitioners
Catherine DexterSecretary of State
Jim WheelerSecretary of State
Michael SchrunkMembers of the Committee

(This committee was appointed to provide an impartial explanation of the ballot measure pursuant to ORS 251.215. The statement written by the committee was modified and certified by the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon pursuant to ORS 251.235.)

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

Passage of measure 58 would grant adult adoptees the same right as the rest of the population enjoys, namely access to a document that truthfully states the names of the biological parents. As the original birth certificate would only be available to the adult adoptee, the issue of "privacy and confidentiality" should not be an issue.

Although the adoption process severs the responsibilities of the birthparents, it should not relieve them of the moral obligation of providing accurate family history and medical information to an adult adoptee. The sealing of birth records was created and justified for the purpose of protecting the adoptee from the stigma of illegitimacy, to allow the birth mother get on with her life, and enable the adoptive parents the freedom to raise the child without interference from the birthparents. This is reasonable as it pertains to a minor, but should not restrict the rights and needs of the adult adoptee to access their biological information.

I applaud the birthmother's decision to give the child up for adoption, but I think that if she would put herself in the child's place, she would understand the importance of providing this information.

Adult adoptees had access to their original birth certificates prior to 1957, when the records were sealed, even for prior adoptions. Sealed birth certificates do not serve the interests of birth parents or adult adoptees. Statistics have not shown a higher rate of abortion in those states and countries with open records.

The passage of this measure would restore the rights of adult adoptees that were taken away in 1957.

(This information furnished by Berry T. Price.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

Supporters of Measure 58 have heard concern over the possible loss of privacy to birthparents. There are complex issues in adoption that require compassionate consideration but are beyond the scope of the simple civil rights issue this measure addresses.

The sealing of the original birth certificate provides irrevocable legitimacy and a legal bond with the adoptive family that cannot be challenged on grounds of kinship or inheritance. The confidentiality of birthparents is a secondary effect. The surrender form signed by birthparents deals with the transfer of custody and rights from the birthparents to the adoptive parents. Nowhere is birthparent identity concealment alluded to in the forms signed by the birthparents. The fact that the birthmother gave birth on a specific date remains on state documents and hospital records even after the amendment of a birth certificate to replace the birthparent names with the adoptive parent names. Searches are routinely conducted through such archival evidence. There is no ultimate legal protection of privacy. Many birthparents have waived confidentiality and signed up with registries. Members of our group believe in statistical and powerful anecdotal evidence that over 90% of birthmothers do not object to an adoptee's knowledge of birthfamily identification.

Some adoptees grow up with such knowledge. Others have to jump through hoops to obtain even a scrap of vital medical information. Measure 58 would provide consistency and equality. We understand the concern of the few who want to conceal knowledge, but privacy does not equate with secrecy. As a group including birthmothers, we seek to remove obstacles from access to original birth certificates by adult adoptees. We support the measure on behalf of adoptees and their birth and adoptive families.

(This information furnished by Carey Mercer and Other Members of The Circle, A support and information group for all involved or interested in the relations of the adoption circle.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

Citizens deserve to know the Facts

All Adults have the right to know the true facts

regarding their birth, except Adoptees.

Are you adopted? Are you sure?

Vote for the right of All Adults to receive upon request

a copy of their original birth certificate.

Vote to restore a constitutional right denied

by the state in 1957.

EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL ADULTS.

Vote YES for Measure 58.

(This information furnished by Donna Martz.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

Hidden Roots Support Group of Bend, Oregon believes it is unconstitutional for the State of Oregon to regulate who gets a true birth certificate and who gets a falsified one. Give Adult Adoptees the right to choose whether they would like to have access to their original birth certificate by voting Yes on Measure 58. Thank you.

(This information furnished by JoAnne Wildman, Birthmother; Victoria Seaton, Adult Adoptee; Hidden Roots Support Group of Bend, Oregon.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

The year was 1957 - the peak year of the baby boom and a time with the most teen pregnancies per capita in history. It was the year Senator Joe McCarthy died, the Russians launched Sputnik and Oregon closed adoption records to adult adoptees, the people to whom they had always been open previously. Those who oppose Measure 58 will argue that the 1957 sealed records law was meant to protect birthparents. Untrue. It was a move designed to protect the adoptee and the adoptive parents from the alleged shame of an adoptee's often "illegitimate" birth. Secrecy in the adoption process was something forced on birthparents, not something they asked for or were promised.

Opponents will attempt to scare you by claiming that pregnant women in Oregon will choose abortion if records are open to adult adoptees. This is false. In states and countries where records are open to adult adoptees, the abortion rate is no higher than in states like Oregon, which seal such records.

Opponents will argue that people who relinquish a child have a right to privacy that opening records will violate. We ALL have a right to privacy. However, privacy does not equal anonymity. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld an appellate court decision just last year that reiterated this fact. (Doe v. Sundquist 1997 FED App. 0051P (6th Cir)).

The opponents of Measure 58 shamelessly use the specter of birthparents allegedly promised anonymity, or young women choosing abortion, to further their own agendas, which in many cases is simply to cover up and hide their own illegal and unethical activities with regard to these very same birthparents they now claim to care about. The not-so-honorable past of some adoption agencies and attorneys may come back to haunt them if discrepancies are revealed once records are unsealed. On November 3rd vote YES on Measure 58. Vote for Truth.

(This information furnished by Shea Grimm, Ian Hagemann, Mary Hunt, Arletta Gustafson, Judy Kennett, Julie Dennis, Terri Leber, Rhonda Bradeen; Washington state Open '98.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

Imagine two Oregon neighbors, Bill Jones and Sam Smith. They are the same age; as a matter of fact, they were born the same day at the same hospital in Corvallis. They both became grandfathers the same year and fought in World War II. Bill can go down to the county registrar and pay twelve dollars for a certified copy of his original birth certificate. Sam, on the other hand, cannot. His birth certificate is sealed. The only difference between Bill and Sam? Sam was adopted in Oregon.

It's time to get the State of Oregon off the backs of its adult adopted citizens. Measure 58 will finally put to rest the failed social experiment of hiding and obscuring the most fundamental information any of us possess: the facts of our birth. The present sealed records law, a remnant of the McCarthy Era philosophy of "Government Knows Best", has been judged a failure by the very people it was designed to "protect": the adopted adult citizens of Oregon.

Governments make poor referees in the affairs of law-abiding people. Measure 58 would allow all of Oregon's citizens the ability to access the documentation concerning their birth without the interference of disinterested bureaucrats and expensive, cumbersome procedures.

When you mark your ballot, consider whether you would like the state to decide whether you could know the facts of your birth or not. Consider that is not a large leap from sealing birth certificates to withholding other personal, vital information from the citizens to whom such information belongs. Consider that something of YOURS could be next. Then Vote Yes on Measure 58.

(This information furnished by Shea Grimm, Marley Greiner, CK Bertrand Holub, Ron Morgan, Damsel Plum; Bastard Nation.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

Oregon born adult adoptees should have the same civil right as non-adopted Oregonians - the right to access the true historical document that records their own birth.

The Oregon Bill of Rights states: "No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges or immunities, which upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens". The State of Oregon currently violates it's own Bill of Rights by denying adoptees the right to access their own original birth certificate (OBC) while allowing anyone not adopted to do so.

Many countries allow adoptees easy, unrestricted access to their own records of birth. Every human being deserves the right to access these records which help them to define their genetic, ethnic and cultural heritage. The Oregon State government should not regulate who can and who cannot access their own OBC.

Medical science stresses the importance of knowing one's ancestors' medical histories. It is impossible for adoptees to obtain this vital medical information without allowing them access to their OBC.

Adoptees are forbidden access to their OBC due to archaic laws which mandate that adoptee birth certificates be falsified by the State and the original sealed by the courts at the time of adoption. These laws were enacted allegedly to protect adoptees from the shame of their "illegitimate" heritage, not to protect the birthmother's privacy. Birth parents do not sign a contract upon relinquishing a child for adoption guaranteeing them anonymity.

Studies show that the overwhelming majority of birth mothers welcome reunion with their children. Many birth parents support Measure 58.

The creation of a falsified birth certificate implies there is something shameful about adoption and must therefore be kept secret. Adherence to the fundamental principles of truth and honesty advances the interests and goals of a free, open and democratic society. A birth certificate falsified by the State is incompatible with these principles.

The State should set an example for it's citizens - freedom to know the truth.

(This information furnished by Dale Bender, Birthfather, Karen Thomas.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

Please, I need your help to find my sister and two brothers.

Vote Yes on Measure 58

The voters of Oregon are my only hope, and the only hope for thousands of others like me. My name is Jonathan Wexler, I was born here in Portland on April 12th of 1958 at Wilcox Memorial, now Good Samaritan Hospital.

When I was born, I may have had another name, but unlike you, I have no legal right to know what it was. I have no legal right to see my own unaltered birth certificate, to know what diseases may run in my family and most painfully, no right to know what happened to my two older brothers and sister.

Unlike them, I was lucky. Through a private adoption, I ended up with Simon and Joy Wexler. I had the most wonderful, loving parents anyone could ever wish for. My adopted sister, Marci, and I were truly blessed.

My sister and I are now alone. My dad died when I was twelve, and my mom died on my birthday last year. I applied to the state for what most Oregonians consider their most basic human right; to know who they are and where they come from. I can only say that what I found broke my heart.

The State, which is so desperate to "protect" us from ourselves, had adopted out my two brothers and my sister into different homes, but only after leaving them in foster care for seven years. They were two, three and four when I was born. I never knew they existed. They still have no idea I exist, and the State will not tell me their names. I don't have the same right in Oregon that any other citizen has. I can't call and ask, "are you alright?"

Ever since I was a boy, when I go to the doctors, apply for a loan, apply for health or life insurance or for a job, I have to leave the page on my family medical history blank. Not because there is no one to ask, unlike you, the State of Oregon has decided I have no right to ask.

Please don't buy into the nonsense that those who are not adopted tell you about the "rights" to privacy that birth and adoptive parents have. It is not their birth certificate that was been taken away. I never agreed to have my rights taken from me, and it is not the States business to assume that my birth mother wouldn't like to hear from me, that she made the right decision and that I'm happy and healthy. It's our decision.

I am a human being. I have a right to know the same details of my birth as any other citizen of Oregon. I have a right to care about and meet my own brothers and sister, and they should have the same right to know I exist.

You are my only hope. I beg you, please, vote "yes" on measure 58.

(This information furnished by Jonathan I. Wexler.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

Through the course of this past year, since the day I filed the paperwork to begin the process of certifying Measure 58 to the statewide ballot, I've been contacted by thousands of people throughout Oregon and the country. These people came from all walks of life, they were young, old, rich, poor, Democrat, Republican and unaffiliated. They were a diverse group of artists, teachers, retired construction workers, college students, lawyers, prison inmates and homemakers. Together they comprised a seemingly complete cross section of America with one unifying element: they had been touched in some way by adoption.

I was contacted by adoptive parents who expressed such unconditional love and concern for the deepest needs of their children that I was uplifted by their spirit for many days afterward. I was contacted by birth mothers whose lasting concern and love for a child relinquished twenty, thirty or forty years ago led them to work passionately for this measure. And of course, there were the adoptees. As an adoptee myself, I knew well the complex emotions in their hearts. Some were angry and frustrated at the road blocks to the unanswered questions of their lives, while others supported this effort in quiet solidarity. Still others were bed ridden or dying from an undiagnosed illness; that was a shock to me. We don't see those people, we don't realize they're there.

Perhaps this isn't an argument in favor of Ballot Measure 58 so much as it is a tremendous and heartfelt thank you to the initiative process and to the State of Oregon, and to all those who contacted and helped with this campaign, thank you for the most incredible year of my life.

Helen Hill

Chief Petitioner: Ballot Measure 58

(This information furnished by Helen Hill, Open 98.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

Adults should have the right to the truth about themselves. The state shouldn't be deciding what truths some adult citizens can be allowed to see, and what others cannot. This is the wrong job for the state. Keeping true facts of birth away from an adult citizen is not within the mandated purpose of a state government.

The State of Oregon expects us to be honest and report our income exactly the way it is, insurance companies expect us to be honest and report accidents exactly the way they happened, the courts demand that we account for our actions truthfully. So much in our society hinges on each and every citizen remaining truthful and responsible to each other. Why then does the state, in this instance, hold that it is legally appropriate to seal an original, historical document and deny an adult the true facts about when, where, and to whom they were born?

The CHOICE to know the true facts about ourselves should belong to all of us as adult citizens. Vote Yes on Measure 58.

(This information furnished by Patricia Champ.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN FAVOR

Before 1957, an adult adoptee was guaranteed the right to see his or her original birth certificate by an act passed in 1941 by the State of Oregon. For over HALF of all adult adoptees alive today, Measure 58 represents A RETURN TO THE STATUE IN PLACE AT THE TIME OF THEIR BIRTH! Vote Yes! A wrongful law is a wrongful law no matter how long it has been in effect. This measure is about truth and accountability. The right to the truth, for an adoptee, it is a right that has been abrogated. We all have a right to the truth, and the wisdom of countless religions and philosophers through the ages holds that in the presence of truth, there is the greatest potential for healing. Let's move into the year 2000 with this very human right and just step towards the light. Vote YES on Ballot Measure 58.

(This information furnished by Donna Harris.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN OPPOSITION

We, the undersigned adoption professionals, urge all Oregonians to vote no on Ballot Measure #58.

Until the 1960's, women faced with an unplanned pregnancy were shunned by their friends and families. The deep shame associated with the prospect of bearing an "illegitimate" child and the disgrace heaped upon "unwed mothers" made it nearly impossible for these women to consider parenting their children. Those who made the wrenching decision to plan an adoption for their babies did so with the clearly expressed expectation that their identities would always be kept confidential.

By keeping the secret, they hoped to "start over," begin a new life without the risk of being discovered. These women were encouraged to "forget this ever happened." Many birthparents took, or intended to take, this secret to their graves.

Adoption agencies, seeking to honor their relationships with birthparents and adoptive families as well as respect their wishes for privacy, assured each party confidential services.

Over the years, adoption practice has changed and evolved. There are now many options that address the freedom of relationships among adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents:

We oppose Ballot Measure #58 because there are no provisions in this measure allowing birthparents to veto either the disclosure of their identities or potential contact from the adult adoptee. There is also no way for birthparents to access current identifying information about the children for whom they planned adoptions.

We believe that birthfamilies, adoptive families, and adoptees deserve equal respect and courtesy. Services offered to one of these parties should also be offered to the others.

VOTE NO ON MEASURE 58

Nancy P. Simpson, MA; Lauren Greenbaum, MSW; Claudia Hutchison, MA; Gayle Dukart-Hardy, LCSW; Kathleen Moore, LCSW; Kathy Astle; Susann B. Finnegan; Lori Mason Namba;

Paula Reents; Lynne Schroeder; Sherry Steele

(This information furnished by Nancy P. Simpson, MA, Concerned Adoption Professionals.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN OPPOSITION

Measure 58 would destroy a critical part of Oregon's adoption laws. Oregon and almost all other states know from long experience that in some adoptions confidentiality -- tempered with flexibility -- is necessary.

A pregnant woman wanting to surrender a child for adoption may choose one of two systems. If she chooses open adoption, she will maintain contact with the adoptive family. If she chooses a confidential adoption, the adoptive family will receive essential medical information, but the biological and adoptive families have no contact.

In extreme cases parental rights are terminated by courts. The biological parents may be child abusers or have other serious problems. When that happens there will ordinarily be no contact between the biological and adoptive families, but State officials will still provide medical information to the adoptive family.

To allow confidential adoptions, Oregon law seals adoption records -- original birth certificates, court records, and adoption agency records. Measure 58 would destroy that system of confidentiality, breaking promises made to women over many years that an adoption would help permanently put behind them acts ranging from rape to a moment's indiscretion.

The initial decision to make an adoption confidential can be changed. Oregon law (ORS 109.425-109.507) requires the creation of voluntary adoption registries in which biological parents and adult adoptees can register their wish to meet. If both register, they are introduced with the help of trained social workers. The law gives voluntary adoption registries access to sealed adoption records. They will track down necessary medical information and contact biological parents for an adult adoptee to see if the biological parents wish to meet the adoptee.

Confidentiality gives some pregnant women considering adoption a choice they need. It protects them and adoptees from public disclosure of information on the unfortunate circumstances that sometimes lead to adoption. Oregon should preserve that choice.

VOTE NO ON MEASURE 58.

Warren Deras, J.D.

(This information furnished by Warren Deras.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.

ARGUMENT IN OPPOSITION

The initiative to identify birthparents simply by request of adoptees is seriously flawed. This initiative seeks to create a new "right" by destroying established rights of privacy and personal choice.

Contrary to the claim by sponsors of this initiative that the Oregon State Legislature has not been responsive to their requests to essentially open confidential adoption records automatically when adoptees reach a certain age, the Legislature has, in fact, given a great deal of consideration to all sides of the adoption records question in recent years. Legislation has been passed and implemented to make information available to adoptees, and to aid those adults who are interested in finding birth families to do so.

While some who support this initiative state their goal is not search and identification of biological relations, many others say that is their intent. In Oregon, this initiative is unnecessary for purposes of search and reunification of biological relations. Under current Oregon law, adoptees have access to medical, social, and genetic information in their adoption files. Identifying information about birthparents may be obtained when all parties are adults and consent to exchange such information. The State even administers an "assisted search" program through Services to Children and Families to help those parties to adoption wishing to reunite. By requiring that all parties consent before identifying information is revealed, the Legislature recognized that the individuals who will be most affected by release of such information are the ones to determine if, or when it should be released.

The flaw in this initiative is that control of private information is removed from the parties involved. It is wrong to assume that any one individual has a greater right to information in adoption than another. The current carefully crafted law puts all parties in an adoption on equal footing and requires that all be contacted and give consent prior to personal information being released. This initiative removes protection of personal choice and right to privacy.

(This information furnished by Steven Dahl, Friends of Adoption.)

(This space purchased for $300 in accordance with ORS 251.255.)
The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by the State of Oregon, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth of any statement made in the argument.