Bastard Nation and Ballot Initiative 58
E. Wayne Carp
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 mothers 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.
“Significantly extends our understanding of family law and politics. . . . Carp offers savvy and sensitive profiles of his main characters and grounds his narrative in the minutiae of daily politics and journalism while centering the story in the big picture he knows so well.”
—Pacific Northwest Quarterly
“E. Wayne Carp is the leading scholar of the history of openness and secrecy in adoption and of the adoption rights movement dedicated to opening adoption records. In this book he explores the successful effort of a very small but well-organized group of adoption activists who used the political initiative process to change state law in Oregon and secure for adult adoptees access to the identifying information in their original, unamended birth certificates. . . . Carp presents a fascinating analysis of successful grass-roots political agitation. . . . In many ways, this book is a primer for democratic political action in the internet age with a significance far beyond the issue of adoption rights.”
—Journal of Women’s History
“The author’s thorough and interdisciplinary research results in a riveting, clear, up-close and behind-the-scenes account of this complicated yet often-simplified debate. His interviews with the judges and key leaders on different sides of Measure 58, in addition to his access to internal organizational documents, personal email exchanges and discussion groups as events were unfolding, takes readers behind closed doors where ideologies and strategies were formed, internal politics played out, decisions were made, and opinions were written. Carp’s balanced and keen analysis in Adoption Politics breaks new ground by cutting a path to a well-reasoned, non-polarizing, and more collaborative center within the debate on opening adoption records.”
“A fascinating history of the fight over Oregon's ballot initiative 58, which opened adoption records . . . The struggle of adults to access their birth certificates and the opposition by some, including birth mothers, lie at the heart of Carp's volume. . . . Carl interweaves his detailed history of the ups and downs of the campaign with the human stories of the main campaigners who fought for and against opening birth records. . . . You do not need to be a member of the adoption triad or a resident of Oregon to find interest in this book. There is something in it for students of social and political theory, social work, law, psychology, and child welfare policy. Even those in the worlds of business and economics may find an interest.”
—Social Service Review
“Carp’s thoughtfully written book provides an in-depth account of an unprecedented legal and political battle over adoption rights. . . . His thoroughly researched study makes the case that the passage of this measure was historic for reasons beyond its potential for setting precedent for other states. . . . Carp’s finely detailed research tells a very good story. ”
—Journal of American History
“Adds significantly to the small shelf of literature on the ballot initiative process and on the history of adoption.”
—History: Reviews of New Books
“Carp’s fascinating account of the campaign to open up adoption records in Oregon should be of interest to various audiences—legal historians, political scientists, grassroots leaders, legislators, and attorneys. It is a careful study of the forces that promote (or hinder) legal changes, and as such, it is a must read for anyone invested in any kind of a project of legal activism. . . . Carp presents a multidisciplinary study, combining analysis of legal and historical texts, news reports, and interviews with key players which enhance our understanding of the complex issues that are at stake.”
—Law and Politics Book Review
“As this book points out, getting the initiative passed wasn’t easy. There was heartfelt opposition. Carp is a renowned expert on adoption law, and he has delved deeply into how the initiative came to be and how it was passed. His book contains a large amount of information that hasn’t been published before. An academic book, yes, but a powerful one.”
“Using correspondence and his own candid interviews with all the key players, Carp shows how both sides mobilized their constituencies and formed their strategies. . . . This is a MUST READ for everyone!”
—Bastard Nation Newsletter
“From the pathbreaking historian of adoption secrecy and disclosure, Adoption Politics provides a gripping account of local politics in the Internet age and a perceptive analysis of how a new kind of grassroots initiative transformed adoption law.”
—Barbara Melosh, author of Strangers and Kin: The American Way of Adoption
“A rich, detailed, and fascinating account. The voices of activists on both sides of the issue, framed by Carps keen analysis and elegant prose, make this book essential reading for all those touched by adoption, as well as anyone interested in the politics of private life.”
—Elaine Tyler May, author of Barren in the Promised Land
“A timely, balanced, and thought-provoking book that raises questions about adoption, citizen initiatives, and privacy rights that we cannot afford to ignore.”
—Steven Mintz, author of Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of Family LifeSee fewer reviews...
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 58s 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.