How Prejudice Harms Millions of Adoptees

The Outcast, by Richard Redgrave, 1851, Royal Academy of the Arts, London, documents the treatment of bastardy and birth mothers in England in the 1800s.

Today I  published a detailed essay entitled “Discrimination Against Adoptees Rooted in Fears of Illegitimacy.” In it I explore one of the themes that will be discussed at length in my forthcoming memoir, You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are

My essay documents how the issue of prejudicial treatment of adoptees by states, courts, the media, and adoption agencies is almost never discussed in the long-simmering debate over adoptees’ legal right to their original birth records. As I show, discrimination can be seen in how adoptees seeking their birthright to know themselves and obtain copies of their original birth records are treated. By law, they are not considered equal to others in the majority of U.S. states. Many who enforce outdated state laws treat adoptees dismissively—even as threats. (See copies of emails written by senior Michigan public health officials how they responded fearfully to my request for my original birth certificate, as just one example.)

I highlight how this prejudice demonstrates a well-documented form of sociological behavior globally and throughout history. Historic and accurate records paint a grim picture of how this human bias translates into harmful actions. Bastards, birth mothers, and illegitimate people have paid a lethal price for their status. Remnants of that prejudice are alive and well today in laws that deny equal treatment to most U.S. adoptees by law, but also in how adoptees are treated when they seek their equal legal rights.

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