Cover image for Adoption politics : Bastard Nation and ballot initiative 58
Adoption politics : Bastard Nation and ballot initiative 58
Carp, E. Wayne, 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, [2004]

Physical Description:
xvi, 238 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
The problem -- New kid on the block -- A tale of two bastards -- Qualifying the initiative -- The rise of the opposition -- The bastards strike back -- The legislature weighs in -- "The land of noodle-heads" -- Victory.
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HV875.56.O7 O37 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The passage of Measure 58 in Oregon in 1998 was a milestone in adoption reform. For the first time in U.S. history a grassroots initiative restored the legal right of adopted adults to request and receive their original birth certificates. Within a day after the law went into effect, nearly 2,400 adoptees had applied for these previously sealed records, elevating their right to know over a birth mother's right to privacy.

E. Wayne Carp, a nationally respected authority on adoption history, now reveals the efforts of the radical adoptee rights organization Bastard Nation to pass this milestone initiative. He has written an intimate history of a passionately proposed and opposed initiative that has the potential to revolutionize the adoption reform movement nationwide.

Carp follows the campaign from its inception through the hard-fought signature drives of proponents Helen Hill and Shea Grimm to the electoral campaign and ensuing court battles. The opposition was formidable: government officials, adoption agencies, news media, the ACLU, religious organizations, and ad-hoc citizen political groups. Using correspondence and his own candid interviews with all the key players, Carp shows how both sides mobilized their constituencies and formed their strategies. In describing challenges to Measure 58's constitutionality, Carp reveals legal arguments that were never publicized by the Oregon media and remained unknown to the American public until now--issues centering on privacy rights that are crucial to understanding both sides of the controversy and the hazards of initiative politics.

As Carp shows, Measure 58 was important because it framed the issue of adoption reform in terms of civil rights and equal protection of the law rather than in terms of psychological needs or medical necessity. The resulting law now gives adult adoptees access to birth certificates but it also allows birth mothers to indicate whether or not they wish to be contacted. Carp not only chronicles a milestone initiative and a model piece of legislation for other states to emulate, he also proposes a sensible way to cut the Gordian Knot that bedevils adoption reform today.

Author Notes

E. Wayne Carp is Professor of History, Pacific Lutheran College.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Carp (history, Pacific Lutheran Univ.) provides an extremely detailed recounting of the successful 1998 passage of Oregon's Measure 58, which made it possible for adopted adults to receive their original birth certificates. He traces the interconnection between radical adoptee rights organization Bastard Nation (BN) and the efforts to pass the ballot initiative. The heart of the Oregon movement was its commitment to open records as an individual civil right of the adopted child, superseding birth mothers' right of privacy. The author reviewed prior legal cases, many government documents, archival records, newspapers, and more than a dozen interviews with principals both for and against the initiative and involved in the legal cases that followed. Carp's significant access to BN and other proponents' electronic communications gives readers a more open, sometimes sympathetic--though not always uncritical--view of one side. This uniquely thorough treatment frequently bogs down on minute detail, and thus unfortunately avoids some larger issues. Carp never dissects the victory by analyzing where the decisive votes came from. Over what key constituencies were the pro- and anti-initiative forces battling? For those interested in state political initiatives, privacy issues, and family legal history. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Larger public collections, undergraduate and graduate academic libraries, and relevant specialized collections. C. K. Piehl Minnesota State University, Mankato

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Principal Participantsp. xv
Introductionp. 1
1. The Problemp. 5
2. New Kid on the Blockp. 25
3. A Tale of Two Bastardsp. 33
4. Qualifying the Initiativep. 47
5. The Rise of the Oppositionp. 67
6. The Bastards Strike Backp. 97
7. The Legislature Weighs Inp. 114
8. "The Land of Noodle-Heads"p. 130
9. Victoryp. 146
Conclusionp. 163
Appendix Text of HB 3194p. 171
Notesp. 173
Bibliographyp. 219
Indexp. 229