In New Jersey, the state Senate has twice voted to give adopted children access to their original birth certificates, that is, to the names of their biological mothers. Birth mothers would have one year to notify the state that they wish to remain anonymous. Even so, such birth mothers would be compelled by government to provide social, cultural and health information, or else their identities would be released regardless of their consent.
Recently, one southern New Jersey newspaper weighed in forcefully in the bill's favor: "This is not too much to ask from a birth mother ... The adoptee's right to this information is as important as protecting the privacy of the birth mother," the editors of the Courier-Post opine.
But why pick exclusively on birth mothers? If children have a right to know their own biological parents -- a claim recognized in international human rights law and one to which I am deeply sympathetic -- there is no good reason to limit this claim to the small number of women who accept the agonizing burden of giving life to children they cannot raise.
Far more children these days are deprived of knowledge of their origins by a totally difference process: artificial insemination. How can we possibly countenance placing burdens exclusively on women who give life and excuse totally the men whose sole contribution to their child was to "donate" into a little cup, usually for money?
And our laws are almost totally to blame for keeping children created by reproductive technologies in the dark about their origins. The common law remains the rule for children created by sexual acts: I cannot bargain away at the bar my child's right to the support and care of both his mother and father. The child retains the right to the support of both parents, no matter to what those parents have agreed. But if I go to a doctor or clinic for sperm, adult bargains are suddenly allowed by law to trump the child's natural right to know both his biological parents, wherever possible.
A whole lot of other rights and concerns get trumped as well. As the New York Post reported this week, "Conditions at New York City sperm banks are inconceivably bad -- with some offices not testing samples for some diseases, and others using sperm from donors who engaged in high-risk sexual behavior."
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.