National Council for Adoption, “Protecting the Option of Privacy in Adoption”

NCFA does not oppose the opening of past adoption records when birthparents and adult adopted persons consent. We do oppose the unilateral and coercive opening of adoption records without the knowledge and consent of both sides. Both birthparents and adopted persons should be able to control the release of their identifying information and whether and when contact occurs.

The principle that should guide the opening of confidential adoption records is mutual consent, not unilateral coercion. Unwanted, unilaterally imposed reunions are often very disruptive and painful for everyone involved. Through the courts and adoption agencies, adopted persons can obtain medical information confidentially, without exposing birthparents’ identities.

For understandable and legitimate reasons, some women facing an unplanned pregnancy prefer the option of confidential adoption. They should have the right to choose this option. Removing the option of privacy in adoption would mean that any woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, who wanted to protect her privacy, would have no private choice but abortion. As observed by Jeremiah Gutman, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and former Chairman of the ACLU’s Privacy Committee: “A pregnant woman unable or unwilling to rear a child may find her choice of options limited if she cannot rely upon the promise of confidentiality and secrecy to protect her privacy. She may be inclined to bring the pregnancy to term rather than secure an abortion, but, if she cannot rely upon the adoption agency or attorney and the law to protect her privacy, and to conceal her identity for all time, her choice to go the abortion route may be compelled by that lack of confidence in confidentiality.”

At least nine state legislatures in 2002 considered the controversial policy of unilaterally opening confidential records of past adoptions and eliminating the option of privacy in future adoptions. Not one of the nine states decided in favor of this harmful policy. Despite the persistence of a small but vocal and organized group of activists over many years, states continue to reject this policy, whenever they hear the arguments against it. They reject it because it would violate the basic human right to privacy and harm the institution of adoption and the countless children, birthparents, and families it serves.


Source: National Council for Adoption,

Page Updated: 2-24-2012
Site designed by:

To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
Department of History, University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 97403-1288
(541) 346-3699
About the Project and the Author
© Ellen Herman