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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Adoptee Testimony on Bill 7

Grace Hilliard's personal testimony at the Columbus Statehouse, April 30, 2008

In the state of Ohio, when a child is adopted, their birth certificate is permanently altered. Legally, it is acceptable to lie, to forge a medical document. Why is this so? Because the law, a supposed means of affirming truth and justice has directed it so for over forty years.

What does this look like on paper? It means the parental names, information and age are fraudulent. To a bystander this may not appear to have deep consequences for a baby. I assure you there are. For an older child, for me who’d accumulated ten years of history prior to being adopted, this piece of paper resonated as insulting and absurd. In this situation and others where the child knows very well the identity of biological parents and siblings the violation feels much more preposterous.

What are the results of this horribly constructed band-aid of a lie? For starters, if siblings are separated, they are no longer related. A victim of such a circumstance cannot list their brother or sister as next of kin. Health records also become very difficult or impossible to attain if the biological parents are allowed to remain anonymous. Wrongfully, the government has legalized lying to people under the justification of privacy protection.

When a child is adopted their name is changed permanently to the name of the adoptive parents. In many cases, when the situation goes awry, the adoptee can never escape identification with the adoptive parents.

Thus far in Ohio, a name change offers no relief of this haunting reminder. In Ohio, a personal name change holds less credibility than a government falsification on a medical document.

Let’s go back to the issue of privacy. When a person engages in procreation, they should be held accountable for the ramifications. Through a person’s irresponsibility, they have already forfeited a ‘right’ to privacy. It is in no way the government’s responsibility to enable a lie which rewards the irresponsible procreation, the neglect or the abuse of children by denying adoptees the right to information about their identity as a human being.

Furthermore, the government should not be allowing adoptive parents, as wonderful as they are the option of lying to their children, concerning their origination, simply because the adoptive parents may feel threatened or insecure about their identity as a parent.

Go back with me if you will, to when you were ten years old. You’re with your brothers and sisters, maybe even an only child. Picture you’re with your family. You know who your parents are. It has become abundantly clear that your parents are incapable of raising you.

Everyone is gathered in your life, your brothers, sisters, extended family, parents and foster parents. They have all come together to see you, one last time, on this tragically beautiful spring day to say good-bye. You hug your baby brother good-bye, not fully comprehending what fourteen years without him will mean. You’ve not even experienced fourteen years of life. No, you’re not dying although maybe inside you feel this to be the case.

Fast forward with me to the bang of the gavel in the courtroom, to the finalization of the erasing of history. Legally, you could grow up and marry your brother. The one affirmation of your identity, this piece of paper, your birth certificate is a lie.

Grace Hilliard