PORTLAND - She was raped, had a baby girl and put her up for
adoption. It took nearly 20 years for mother and daughter to deal
with the emotions, research and red tape to find each other again.
Now, an Oregon ballot measure would make it much easier for
adoptees to find their birth parents. And the mother fears her
daughter will now go looking for her father - bringing a rapist
back into their lives.
"It's really frightening, and I can't tell you how powerless I
feel," said the woman, now in her mid-40s, who wouldn't give her
She and others who oppose the measure contend that allowing
adoptees access to their original birth certificates would spark a
wave of potentially traumatic encounters with their birth parents.
Backers of the measure say it's not about happy reunions - but
allowing access to records every adoptee should have.
"When you seal up someone's records, you implicitly say there is
something wrong, something to be ashamed of," said Helen Hill, an
adoptee and the measure's chief petitioner.
The proposal, known as Measure 58, would give adoptees open access
to their original birth records when they turn 21. It would be
retroactive, meaning that parents who were guaranteed privacy
years ago could find themselves revealed.
If the measure passes on Nov. 3, Oregon will be the first state
where voters - not legislators - have passed such a law. Alaska
and Kansas are the other states that open adoption records.
A statewide poll conducted for The Oregonian and KATU-TV found
that 54 percent of Oregon voters supported the measure, 35 percent
opposed it and 11 percent were undecided. The poll of 618 people
conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6 has a margin of error of 4
Warren Deras, an attorney and adoptive parent who opposes the
measure, said many voters may not realize that not every reunion
makes for a happy ending.
"The thing that hits people immediately is this warm, fuzzy Orphan
Annie story," Deras said. "But there are certain cases where open
cases just wouldn't work."
He thinks birth parents who are promised anonymity and build their
lives around that promise should be able to find their children when
the time is right.
One woman's case
The woman who was raped, for example, decided six months ago she
was ready to get in contact with her daughter.
"This was still a baby that I carried for nine months that I
wanted to meet," she said. "I had the same longing that any mother
Through the current voluntary state registry system, they began to
exchange letters and photographs - but no identifying information.
When a caseworker decided to tell the woman's daughter about the
rape, their relationship changed. Her daughter was sympathetic at
first - but then said she wanted to find her father.
"All she really wanted was to use me to get in touch with the man
who raped me," said the woman, who decided immediately to end the
The woman's brief reunion with her daughter put some of her
curiosity to rest, but she said she is thankful that her daughter
does not have the access to records that could open the door for
an encounter with her rapist.
"My fantasy daughter was gone, but at least I had a real
daughter," she said. "It just didn't happen to be someone who I
could have a relationship with."