Thursday, March 13, 2008

Legal Deceptions

Oxford dictionary defines birth certificate as: “an official document issued to record a person’s birth, including such identifying data as name, gender, date of birth, place of birth, and parentage.”  However, for hundreds of thousands of donor-conceived individuals this is in no way completely an honest account of their identity – and should NOT be considered official or original, yet it is.

So lets back up and explain what this really means in actuality.  When a donor-conceived baby is born they are given a birth certificate as in every child’s birth.  On most every other child’s certificate it has both biological parent’s names listed as mother and father.  Now, not to get caught in a loophole, there are of course cases where paternity is questioned and in that case, there may be an unintentional error recorded, or by chance mom doesn’t know who the father is and no one is recorded.  These are both sad situations, but can usually be cleared up later with paternity tests.

When a child is put up for adoption, even if adoption was the intention before birth, at least the biological birth mother’s name is recorded on the official birth certificate.  Upon an adoption being cleared, that original birth certificate (in the USA) is then sealed and a new amended birth certificate is issued with the adoptive parent’s as the legal parents.  So while I am not trying to condone closed, or secret, adoptions (far from it), I am using this as a pertinent example of how being donor conceived is even more of an atrocity in regards to tracing biological family.  Adoptees in the United States are a prime example of the efforts to despite sealed records, to reunite family members.  And some states will release a sealed birth certificate given that the adoptee demands one for whatever reason.

But for donor-conceived adults, we have no “original” or un-amended birth certificate.  Our original and thus official birth certificate is still a fraudulent legal document.  When we are born, our social parents names go on that official birth certificate with not even a mention that we are donor conceived, let alone our biological parent’s name listed.  This gets even more complicated for those children now who are born of “adopted embryos”, as now they have absolutely no biological ties to either of their parents, yet unlike traditional adoptees do not have even a sealed original birth certificate which identifies who they are.

Now, my original birth certificate was at least a little less deceptive as some other DC offspring’s, as my mom was a single mother by choice, there was no father recorded on my original hospital issued birth certificate, however when my dad adopted me at age 10 and now have an amended birth certificate (and social security card, and passport, and etc, etc….) which bears my dad’s German last name instead of my original and biologically connected Armenian last name (my mother’s maiden name).  But I won’t get into a surnames rant today, definitely another day…

The fact that there are children being born who have one or even two fake biological parents recorded, as fact, in their original birth certificate is completely horrific!!  Some states are even making this lie so simple that they have changed the format of birth certificates to instead of having two parents listed as ‘mother’ and ‘father’, they have original birth certificates which state ‘parent A’ and ‘parent B’, so that the same-sex couples are declared as both the legal parents of that donor-conceived child – as opposed to previously (and still in most states) where the non-biological mother or father has to legally adopt the child.  This is appalling, as it has completely nullifies the authenticity of birth certificates to a mere question of ownership.  They have become property rights instead of birth certificates, declaring those who shelled out the money for the child are hereby declared owners…oops, I meant parents!

Donor conceived adults across the globe are currently trying to justify that children born through assisted reproduction have the right to an accurate birth certificate, which at the very least designates that they were conceived through a sperm/egg/embryo donation, but hopefully have biological parentage recorded as well.            

The International Donor Offspring Alliance (a group of DC adults, donors, recipient parents and academics) believes that birth certificates should reflect true parentage state -

 “[w]e have concluded that a system of two-part birth certificates should be instituted. The first part, the Certificate of Parentage, would record the fact that conception had been by assisted reproduction and the names of the social and donor parents. The Certificate of Parentage would be available only to the offspring and social parents concerned.  The second part would be a Certificate of Birth, the same as the short-form certificate in use at present, recording the date and place of the individual's birth but no more. The Certificate of Birth would be acceptable as evidence for all those matters for which a birth certificate is currently required.”

This would in a sense be like what the US currently has with a short and long birth certificate, where the short form can be used for everything that typically requires a birth certificate for (school registration, passports, driver’s licenses, etc), and the long would include the biological parentage which would only be accessible to that child and his or her social parents upon request (whether or not there is a directed time, such as age 18, for this information to be dispensed, it would be recorded when that time came).


 “The fundamental proposition is that people have a right to know about their own lives and that that must include knowing who their parents are, including their biological parents - something which has been recognised in the case of adoptees since 1975 [in the UK]. That knowledge can only be safeguarded and transmitted if it is recorded. It is not open to recipient parents or anyone else to decide on a child's behalf that it does not need to know or can justifiably be deceived or deprived of information. Requiring that birth certificates record the truth does not impinge on recipient parents' lives in any way but it safeguards information, which properly belongs to the offspring. Including the name of the donor as well as the fact of donor conception is the only means by which donor offsprings' rights and their dignity as people can be honoured” (International Donor Offspring Alliance, 2007).

1 comment:

Val said...

Dear Lindsay:
Found your blog thru a link on Veronica's; looking forward to reading more soon! Looks like you have a great site...
[more in-depth explanation to follow ;-)]