‘Sex and Babies’

01.10.2013, 10:50 AM

Where do babies come from? The state of New York seems unsure. R.R. Reno reports today at First Things.


50 Responses to “‘Sex and Babies’”

  1. Ralph Lewis says:

    Old birth certificate forms remind me of the stylus and keypad for credit card transactions that you see still in most stores. They require you to sign your name to complete the transaction, even though a signature is not required and carries no weight.

    The terminology on most states’ birth certificates stems (reasonably enough) from a time when two parents would always be a man and a woman, and, in particular, who was “mother” was clear to everyone.

    On our twins’ birth certificates from Maine, I am “mother”. However, North Dakota insists that I am “father.” This issue will persist until we as a culture either a) come up with changes to birth certificate terminology, ones that reflects the fact that there may be more than two people fundamentally involved in bringing a child into the world, or b) succeed in prohibiting donor conception and surrogacy (which is highly unlikely).

    Or we could just express shock and disgust to show how traditional we are. That works too.

  2. Schroeder says:

    I’ve seen this form (my son was born in NYC). It actually asks for the gender of the “Mother/Parent 1″ and the “Father/Parent 2.” So I think the gender follow-up question is meant to accommodate gay or lesbian legal/social parent, as Ralph indicates.

    For record keeping/health reasons, though, I do think they should also have space for the child’s biological parents. (Or, if that’s too much extra paper, a box you can check if you’re not also the child’s biological parents and a way to provide the additional information.)

  3. Diane M says:

    Why not just have three birth certificate forms and you get to choose whether you are both moms, both dads, or one of each?

  4. ki sarita says:

    “…come up with changes to birth certificate terminology, ones that reflects the fact that there may be more than two people fundamentally involved in bringing a child into the world”

    even with the most up and cutting available technology available today, 2 men can not reproduce a child together.

    you may be a legal parent, if so, like Julie Shapiro you can advocate that birth certificates simply record legal parenthood, while having nothing to do with “bringing the child into the world.” instead of conflating these two issues.

  5. Ralph Lewis says:

    Two men can produce a child together. However, they require 1-2 women to participate as well.

    Why shouldn’t a birth certificate contain information on both biological and legal parenthood? Well, until surrogacy parentage laws are uniform in this country, there’s a small risk involved in listing a donor on the birth certificate. I’m not just talking about a donor attempting to undo their parental rights release. I’m talking also about the (admittedly unlikely) chance of a state court or legislature using the presence of a donor on the birth certificate as a means to de-legitimize our joint legal custody.

  6. JHW says:

    What is the point of that First Things post? Is R. R. Reno shocked, shocked that birth certificates don’t always list biological parents? (Does he know anything about adoption?) Is he just trying to be willfully nasty to same-sex parents and bureaucratic attempts to accommodate them?

  7. Philip Cohen says:

    The old friend-of-a-friend-on-a-blog-I-like thing. I’m sure there’s no stopping it now, but for what it’s worth I don’t think this fable is true. The characteristics for mothers and fathers recorded by New York State’s Electronic Birth Registration System are list here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vr/ebrs-guide-dentry-0910.pdf. They don’t include mother’s or father’s sex. Maybe somewhere in New York some hospital or locality uses another form, but in that case it doesn’t seem to be part of the state’s vital record registration system.

    But if all you want to do is insult people who think seriously about gender, don’t let me stop you.

  8. Kevin says:

    “He reports that the New York birth certificate asks for the sex of the mother, and the sex of the father.”

    Well, if New York asks what the parent’s sex is, why would that preclude a transgender person from putting “transgender”?

    I get that this article is probably just one more cheap shot at non-conventional parents, who appear to be so threatening to the worldview of conservatives, but it really doesn’t make any sense.

    If the state of New York is indeed asking what the sex is for either parent, rather than assuming the mother is female and the father is male, I don’t see what the author’s point is.

  9. Anna says:

    Well no, Ralph Lewis, they can’t. Maybe someday there will be technology whereby two men can produce a baby in the sense relevant to a birth certificate, but it’s not here now. At present, one man can biologically produce the child, while the other offers support – financial, emotional, legal, etc., and promises to do so permanently, based on his relationship with the father.

    But when those who enter such arrangements demand a culture-wide pretense that we don’t – as Elizabeth puts it – know where babies come from, some of us find that frustrating, and yes, it disposes us to sarcasm.

    And for what it’s worth, no, I don’t think the birth certificates of adoptees should be falsified either. The only sense I can make of that practice is that it’s a remnant of the days when adoption was supposed to be kept a secret at all costs. It’s hard to see what purpose a birth certificate serves if it doesn’t record truthfully the facts of one’s birth. Which is, last I checked, a biological process.

  10. Mont D. Law says:

    It’s sort of sad to see First Things reduced to trolling for clicks.

  11. Ralph Lewis says:

    @Anna,

    Maybe someday there will be technology whereby two men can produce a baby in the sense relevant to a birth certificate, but it’s not here now.

    I understand your point, but I contend that the time is here now. A couple of the same sex can produce a child in the sense relevant to a birth certificate. They can marry, plan to have children, take the steps necessary to produce them (with the help of a member of the opposite sex), and have a child be conceived and born as a direct result of their actions and only because of their actions.

    I don’t see our two names on our kids’ birth certificates as some kind of “pretense” that in our culture we “don’t know where babies come from.” The state provides a birth certificate with entries available for only two names. If it’s anyone’s “pretense,” it’s the state’s, not ours.

    Labeling birth certificates that contain names other than the genetic parents as “falsified” validates the caution same-sex couples reasonably have about placing donor information on those documents.

  12. JHW says:

    Anna: Amended birth certificates for adoptive parents are not “falsified.” Birth certificates naming non-biological parents of children who were conceived via donor insemination are also not “falsified.” They do not say something that is not true; they accurately reflect the legal parentage of the child, and that is the information that will be most relevant the vast majority of the time. They do not record biological parentage in those cases, but they are not supposed to strictly reflect biological parentage, all the time. Biological parents are usually legal parents. But not always. And when the categories diverge, birth certificates usually reflect legal parentage over biological parentage, or can be amended to do so.

    There is no culture-wide pretense. Nobody is confused about where babies come from. What is happening here is something quite different: forms and certificates, which have for a very long time usually been about legal parentage rather than biological parentage, are now being changed to recognize that sometimes a child’s legal parents are both men and both women. Good.

  13. Maggie Gallagher says:

    Ralph I like your suggestion. The birth certificate was not originally designed to establish legal parenthood but the best guess of biological parenthood (which still carries presummptive legal rights).

    Eliminating the econnection altogether implies biological parenthood is irrelevant and means the so-called birth certificate often tells untruths.

    Adding information expresses more respect for truth.

    Adoptive parents of the heterosexual variety might not like it though. Often hey are looking for affirmation they are the real parents, frequently–something of a different category than biological, natural, or legal.

  14. Billy says:

    Sorry, Anna, parenthood is far more than simply a biological process. The appeal to biology and its limit reminds me of a wonderful letter in the Chicago Sun-Times addressed to the Roman Catholic Cardinal there.

    Steinberg calls out the Cardinal for trying equate marriage with sex in his pastoral letter calling upon Illinoisans to oppose same-sex marriage because of “natural law”: “Marriage is about sex, gays can’t have sex, at least not good old-fashioned heterosexual sex, thus gays can’t get married, and any attempt to allow them to marry — for instance, any new law passed in Illinois — is a’legal fiction.’”

    Steinberg hones in on the Cardinal’s biological insight that “Marriage comes to us from nature” and “The human species comes in two complementary sexes, male and female–their sexual union is called marital.” And asks, “Really? By whom? Because people nowadays mate like ferrets, while fewer call it ‘marital.’ What comes to us from nature is not marriage but sex. Some species do indeed mate for life, but that is the exception, not the rule. Biologists say it isn’t fidelity, but random copulation that comes from nature.”

    “Surely, Cardinal George,” Steinberg continues, “you are not endorsing random copulation, natural though it may be. Rather, this is the latest in a long history of the church trying to control sex — first straight sex, and now that effort has fizzled, roundly rejected by both society and most Catholics, you’re focusing on gays, perhaps because you can or you think you can.”

    Steinberg lectures the Cardinal that “marriage — and here you’ll have to listen to an old married guy — isn’t just about sex. Yes, that’s part of it. But someone who gets married for the sex is like someone who flies on an airplane for the meal — there are easier, cheaper ways to go about it.”

    “Sex is not the central defining element of marriage — that would be commitment a.k.a. staying together, often raising children, sometimes cleaning the house, paying bills, talking quietly at night, having a relationship recognized by society and law, a vessel solid enough to navigate the tempests and calms, storms and lassitudes of the years. Marriage is about love and responsibility. And here homosexuals are on an even playing field with straights. Yet here you are mum — as if, because you don’t see them, they’re not here.”

    Not to belabor the point, but parenting is also far more than sex or biology.

    My partner and I have two birth certificates for our adopted child. One lists the biological parents, the other lists us. The former birth certificate is under a court-ordered shield, but will be made available to our son should he desire or need to see it.

  15. Kevin says:

    “Rather, this is the latest in a long history of the church trying to control sex — first straight sex, and now that effort has fizzled, roundly rejected by both society and most Catholics, you’re focusing on gays, perhaps because you can or you think you can”

    Great point. Gays and lesbians are an obvious target for the Catholic church because they are a minority, and therefore vulnerable to political bullying. The church won’t try to get pre-marital sex, adultery or divorce outlawed, because they can’t bully the straight majority, who want to do those things, or at least have the legal option to do so. They do stand a chance at fighting legal same-sex marriage, because so many straight people are indifferent to, or even opposed to, equal legal rights and status for gay people.

  16. Karen says:

    I haven’t read all the comments except Ralph’s so I might be repeating what’s already been said but on this BC issue I agree with Ralph, that BC’s should state both legal and biological/gestational parents. BUT I realize that changes things for all of society and might normalize the practice, which I don’t wan’t to see happen (for many reasons). If the BC forms were federally regulated to include legal/bio/gestation parents then I would think “donor” conception and “surrogacy” would also need to be overhauled to treat these practices as a “pre-conception” adoption (with all the checks and balances involved with adoption (which is hugely problematic as it stands).

  17. ki sarita says:

    “A couple of the same sex can produce a child in the sense relevant to a birth certificate. They can marry, plan to have children, take the steps necessary to produce them (with the help of a member of the opposite sex), and have a child be conceived and born as a direct result of their actions and only because of their actions.”

    Not quite.
    The 2 men do not produce the child with the “help” of a woman. One of the men together with the woman produces the child; his partner may or may not help, and his help is indirect and supportive.
    All the steps that you mentioned, such as planning, marriage, purchasing or whatever else, are steps that may or may not be important in assuming LEGAL parenthood, depending on the local law, but they do not produce a child.

    Why is accurate language important? Because it’s important that when people debate and discuss issues they use accurate language, so they actually know what they are talking about.

    You may say that legal parenthood is more important that actually produce the child. If that’s your opinion, get out and defend it. Don’t try to defend your position by trying to convince us that blue is green.

  18. Diane M says:

    My mind is very practical and I do not like the idea of a birth certificate with both biological and adoptive parents on it. Here’s why:

    When your child registers for school, you have to produce a copy of the birth certificate. It is not the business of the school secretary that the child is adopted (or the principal or the teachers, etc.). It is not their business who the biological parents are.

    If you get a passport for your child, you have to produce a copy of the birth certificate. It is not the business of the state department to know that your child is adopted or who the biological parents are. And if you have to put all the names on your passport, you could get into a mess in another country.

    When you apply to get a driver’s license, you have to produce a copy of your birth certificate. Again, nobody’s business that you are adopted.

    The thing is, prejudice against adoption is real. People often treat adopted children differently and this is not fun for the kids. People are human and gossip. Granted, there are times when it is obvious that the child is adopted (like with two fathers), but changing the system would effect everyone.

    Just as children should be able to know who their biological parents are someday, they should also be able to keep things to themselves if that is what they choose. The information on who their biological parents are should be something they can control, not something that they have to produce for every bureaucrat that they meet.

    Furthermore, if lots of people know who the biological parents are, it increases the chance of things getting back to them or of legal tangles. (and I am too much of a pessimistic to say that the chances someone will use it against you are remote, RL)

    Why not simply have two birth certificates – the one of record with the biological parents that is available to the children someday and one with just the legal parents that is the legal one to use?

  19. Diane M says:

    @Billy – I don’t think random copulation is what comes to us from nature. That’s what comes to some species.

    We are humans and we have evolved to want to pair bond. That’s the most effective reproductive strategy for most men. Randomness is a good strategy for the juvenile male who can’t get a mate of his own yet.

    We’ve also evolved a lot of other things like intelligence, moral feelings, and being social animals. All of those things make it perfectly natural for us to go beyond randomness.

    Marriage is a social institution, but it is based on human nature.

    I think a better argument is that although marriage evolved as a way to deal with reproduction and childrearing, we can expand it to include other couples who love each other.

  20. Ralph Lewis says:

    @ki sarita,

    One of the men together with the woman produces the child; his partner may or may not help, and his help is indirect and supportive.

    A same-sex couple’s path to the birth of a child spans a very long arc. It begins with thought, discussion and commitment – they couple plants the seed of the idea of human creation inside themselves and try to make it grow. Once the idea has germinated, they nurture it through their actions — taking the steps necessary to bring *this* child into the world, the child whose existence will have literally begun from the choice its parents made to imagine him/her. It is vastly more than an act of genetic reproduction or legal documentation; it is an act of production.

    I agree with you that accurate language is important. But here we are arguing using basic words whose deep meaning we disagree on: child, parent, family. We don’t have other language available to use to avoid the conflict. Without a common agreement on the definition of those words, I’m afraid you are destined to believe I am calling something blue which is to your mind obviously green.

  21. Mont D. Law says:

    I don’t care what the birth certificate rules are, as long as they are the same for everybody. Adopted, biological, legal, gay straight and transgender pick a set of rules and apply them. What is unconscionable is having several sets of rules that are applied to different people based on unrelated factors. So if the rule is legal parents are listed on the birth certificate, then they are listed on everybody’s birth certificate, not just straight people’s. If the donor is listed on the birth certificate it needs to be listed on everybody’s, not just gay people’s. I’m not sure why there is any debate over that.

  22. Schroeder says:

    If the donor is listed on the birth certificate it needs to be listed on everybody’s, not just gay people’s. I’m not sure why there is any debate over that.

    Mont,

    I actually haven’t seen any debate over that. Where do you see debate over that? I thought the debate – if there is any; most people, with a few small differences, seem to agree on this thread – was over whether to include an option for listing the biological parents or not (most people here think “yes,” with some disagreement over how that should be done).

  23. ki sarita says:

    Ralph, you are are conflating metaphor with actual biological process.
    The seed of an idea is not the same as the cell from which a new person is made from.
    the planning- well all that planning is planning for someone ELSE to produce the child.

    I am not arguing with you about the word parent, child, or family here, I accept that biologically unrelated folks may become family
    .
    On the contrary you seem to be agreeing with the biological model, that “producing” the child is what makes a parent-child relationship, and thus, trying to squeeze your round model into this square definition.

  24. Mont D. Law says:

    (I actually haven’t seen any debate over that)

    The argument that same sex parents can’t be parents in every way relevant to the issuing of a birth certificate is a debate over that. As is the statement that historically birth certificates weren’t really concerned about legal parenthood, just biological.

  25. Kevin says:

    It’s just a birth certificate, not a parent certificate! It’s prime importance is that it’s the definitive document that proves when and where you were born, not who created or raised you.

  26. marilynn says:

    Kevin says:
    01.10.2013 at 7:32 PM
    It’s just a birth certificate, not a parent certificate! It’s prime importance is that it’s the definitive document that proves when and where you were born, not who created or raised you.

    Um, no, the whole point is that it is a vital statistic a health record used by the person for whom the certificate is issued and then also by the CDC for collecting vital information that will help them manage the spread of disease and get a better understanding of trends in birth defects and hereditary disease and whatnot. Then those records are also used for identification purposes and then to establish who is suppose to be taking care of that particular person while they are minors.

    Might as well just change the name of the doctor on the certificate or maybe put down the name of someone who has no medical license. Medical facts are not important what difference does the child’s race or gender or weight or length or heck what’s the darn point of recording any of it if it is not medically accurate – it is of no medical significance to the person it was issued for or to the CDC for medical research purposes if we are going to say the information is not suppose to be genetically accurate. I mean at least if it is suppose to be we build in a margin of error for fraud black market adoption etc but if it is not even suppose to be accurate, I mean if there is no baseline expectation that it be genetically accurate fk it why bother collecting all that at all? Its potentially useless just assume you cannot rely upon it.

    And if we don’t care about ethics in the chain of custody of a minor like the fact that genetically related parents is as far back as you can go…you know they did not buy that relationship, they needed no permission for that relationship. If we don’t care whether or not bio parents treat their offspring like property selling them or giving them to people as gifts or simply wandering off as if they never existed then why have those laws that say people can’t privately contract for the custody of children or parental title? What is the point of adoption? What is the point of step parenthood or laws against kidnapping? Why record bio parents prior to an adoption who cares if they made the child for sale or as a gift huh? I mean if genetic parents don’t owe their offspring anything then lets get rid of paternity suits really Why should any child be entitled to the support of a genetic parent if these kids are not?

    Oh wait, they are entitled to their genetic parent’s support as a last resort only if the genetic parent either wants to support them or if they have not found a suitable buyer, someone who commissioned them to make them a child.

    Sheesh.

    Oh and in case anyone infertile thinks that the kid they are raising would not exist were it not for them having caused it all to happen with their magic wand full of marriage and intention….You may think it was you that caused two people to reproduce to make the child your raising and that without your bright idea the kid would never exist but you are just a novelty item they did not need you in order to reproduce and that kid could still exist. What you did was influence the parents decision to reproduce and you are only getting to play a roll in that kid’s life because they let you. That’s right they did not have let you help raise their kid you are there entirely at their discression and they are humoring you if they suggest otherwise. You could not exist at all and that kid could still exist, you could be someone else some different partner or spouse and the kid could still exist. If you were really their parent you would not have needed anyone’s permission to be a parent to that child you are raising. There would be no donor agreements relinquishing parental obligations and there would not need to be a marriage liscense in order for the state to chase you down and call you Dad or Mom because being responsible for creating a child makes you responsible for taking care of one too.

    Whose your Daddy? Means Whose in Charge? Kids know that parents are suppose to be the last in the line of permission granting there is no higher authority no manager nobody granted them their authority it came as a result of their obligation because they caused the child’s existence. I have a friend who said to her mother “so what did you need Dad for? Why couldn’t you and the donor raise me if he had the ingredient needed to make me? Why wouldn’t he just make me with you and raise me what was the point of involving Dad? You and the Donor are letting him help you raise me”. Yup

    The third party in third party reproduction does not exist. Two people reproduce and that is it. The third party can stomp and command all they want but they won’t be making any babies unless the fertile people reproduce.It was their idea to want to reproduce, or it was their accident and if it was not their idea and not an accident and you really forced them to reproduce against their will – well you committed a crime but you still did not cause the child’s existence because they are still the ones who reproduced not you.

    They don’t need anyone’s help they involved a doctor for novelty sake and involved you for novelty sake. Its just a nice gesture to let you think you conceived a child with your spouse but marriage does not entitle you to your spouses child – think man….would they have to let you claim to be the kid’s parent if they did not want to? No. They gave you permission.

    Now. Whose your Daddy? Whose in Charge?

  27. marilynn says:

    Hey Mont! Same for everybody. Everyone hear that? Equal lets see where it gets us.

    OK so on every birth record put the words “The state and federal government does not assume that person named on the certificate is the genetic offspring of the parents named. Birth data has not been used as the statistical basis for medical research in the area of hereditary disease or birth defects or infant mortality. Birth records are not used to establish the number of children born in the US each year since they can be revised and reissued at any time and that would give a double or tripple count for adopted people so we don’t count births at all any more. Not valid to establish U.S. citizenship if born outside the United States. Birth certificate is not a valid medical record for the person named or either of the parents named and should not be relied upon as such. Names of witnesses have been changed to protect those individuals privacy. The date and time of birth as well as the exact location are subject to change at the descretion of persons who wish to be named as parents. Certification of the birth record by the state is based upon proof of purchase or charitable presumption. ”

    You guys got that right? Government does indeed keep track of who the real parents are for pete sake they count the real birth certificates – honestly you think everytime a kid gets adopted they like add another person to the population? Of course the amended certificate is a fake its worthless to everyone for every purpose except the people with the giant egos that just have to be called parents because they are raising a kid. They would not do the work without the title. God no. Raising a kid EARNS YOU THE RIGHT TO KEEP THE CHILD ALL TO YOURSELF.

    Earn yourself a person. That’s just dandy. Bio parents don’t earn the ‘right’ to be parents by doing anything – they have the obligation to take care of their offspring because they caused them to exist put them in the predicament of needing to be clothed and fed and taught to take care of themselves. And no you cannot take responsibility for someone else reproducing its just not possible. You are responsible for another person’s life on this earth if you are essential to them existing nobody else could have caused that particular person to exist but you. Earn yourself a kid because your married to someone that has a kid. Sorry but they are in charge they did not have to let you earn jack squat. Its all such a sham.

    Let people live an authentic existence and stop being so arrogant as to think you deserve to have and keep a person – even if it is your offspring you don’t deserve them, they deserve you. They are not yours to hand out to people less fortunate than you for criminy sake its your duty to take care of them not your darned privlge through genetics or marriage or money or technology. Yall need to realize your talking about people as if they were property.

  28. marilynn says:

    “A same-sex couple’s path to the birth of a child spans a very long arc. It begins with thought, discussion and commitment – they couple plants the seed of the idea of human creation inside themselves and try to make it grow. Once the idea has germinated, they nurture it through their actions — taking the steps necessary to bring *this* child into the world, the child whose existence will have literally begun from the choice its parents made to imagine him/her. It is vastly more than an act of genetic reproduction or legal documentation; it is an act of production.”

    Oh that is so special. So the child would not exist were it not for the shared commitment of the people who desired them to exist. The child then has the right to have them be their parents because they both wanted to be parents. That is so beautiful for children who are wanted by someone other than their genetic parents and simultaneously not wanted by at least one of their genetic parents. Tell me, how does that work out for children who are unwanted by one or both genetic parents and are unwanted by anyone else? Who do they get to have the right to be their parents? I mean who should children rely upon when they are unwanted by one or both genetic parents? Pretty much then people would only have an obligation to care for their young if they felt like it. OK so let’s make abandonment legal for everyone with offspring. Its working out killer for donors and their offspring. Why limit the joy machine to just the donor offspring? If we stop recording birth stats then nobody will have a right to information that was never recorded so donor offspring and adopted people will no longer be singled out and denied evidence of their identities and existence. Live and let own. The people with the most power can make all the decisions for the people with the least power. Keep them and grow them like pets for entertainment.

    If you have to destroy a family in order to make one for yourself your doing something wrong. Not a family if not raised together? OK then you won’t mind if the kid you raise dates their first cousins or their uncle or their nephew or their parent because that’s not real family. Your real family because you what? Paid to have the chance to build a personal relationship with that child? Paid to keep the rest of their family at bay? Untie the ties to their genetic family so that if they want to run they’ll have nobody to run to. Tie them to you and when they go to run don’t expect them not to trip and blame you.

  29. ki sarita says:

    Kevin- you write that the point of the birth certificate is where and when the child is born? Why do you think that is more important than who the child was born from???? Indeed why are any of these details important at all? Who needs a birth certificate?

    The reason birth certificates are important is as a form of ID.
    The birth certificate is the very first form of ID a person has. At the time of birth a person has not yet built up a social identity, including not being known yet by a particular name. The only way to identify this child is “the baby of such and such sex, born at such and such weight, in place wherever, time whenever, to person whoever.”

    I think the use of birth data to collect medical information by the CDC is a secondary purpose.

    As time goes on, the connection to the LEGAL parents will be more important in identifying this child TO SOCIETY which is why it is the legal parents are most often named in the birth certificate. (There generally is no need no change the time of birth for instance, because as the child grows and accumulates a social identity, the time of birth becomes irrelevant).

    However, though the original information may not be of use in identifying the person to society, they are still significant to the people themselves. They should therefore not be altered. I”m for a long birth certificate form that can be obtained by the parent or child, and a short form for legal identity use.

  30. Kevin says:

    ki sarita, I meant that as far as anyone needs or uses a birth certificate, it has been for the purpose of proving citizenship, or time or place of birth. It is rarely, if ever, used to prove who your parents are.

    I guess a discussion of what a birth certificate is for would help the discussion. And it certainly would be easy for the government, who issues these documents, to clarify what adults get named on it.

  31. Diane M says:

    @Kevin “It’s prime importance is that it’s the definitive document that proves when and where you were born, not who created or raised you.”

    Actually, in practical terms it is also used to prove who your parents are. As I said, you use it to get your kids into school and to get a passport. If they aren’t your children, they don’t get to go to school where you live. If they aren’t your children, you don’t get to take them out of the country.

    So again, I think you need to have a birth certificate that you can show to people that does not have all the information about biological parents, when there has been an adoption.

    Two forms as ki sarita suggests might work. However, in the age of the Internet, government forms tend to be available online to anyone who wants to look at them. I would be concerned about that.

    There is a difference between secrecy and confidentiality. People should be able to find out who their biological parents are, but the adopted person should be able to control that information if they want to.

  32. ki sarita says:

    Birth certificates are most certainly used to prove who one’s parents are, in childhood. Parents sometimes have to show that they are authorized to enroll this child in school, make medical decisions, permit the kid to get a drivers license, and so forth.
    It is also necessary, in my opinion, to have a record of who a person’s biological parents are, if the legal parents are persons other than the biological parents- there needs to be transparency of records to show that this occurred legally.
    As well as for the individual named in the birth certificate themselves- they often look to these documents for information about their parents.

  33. Diane M says:

    @Kevin – our posts crossed. Just to clarify – as an adult you use it to prove your citizenship or age. As a child, your parents may use it to prove that you are their child.

  34. ki sarita says:

    I feel like the short form should be public record and include only the legal parents, and the long form which includes all those other details should be able to be ordered only with the consent of the parent or child.

  35. ki sarita says:

    Regarding time and location of birth- I can’t imagine any circumstances why those would need to be changed, but if they did there is no reason to treat that information as any more sancrosanct than the birth parents.
    I would still say that the original information should be left intact in the closed record, once again for purposes of transparency as to what transpired.

  36. Diane M says:

    @ki sarita – Your suggestion for two forms, one confidential sounds good to me.

    I think the only reason you would change time and location would be if someone made an error.

  37. Ralph Lewis says:

    @ki sarita,

    I feel like the short form should be public record and include only the legal parents, and the long form which includes all those other details should be able to be ordered only with the consent of the parent or child.

    I like this idea very much. Having children be potentially dependent on retail third-parties to retain information on their genetic background seems pretty fraught with risk.

    And from earlier,

    I am not arguing with you about the word parent, child, or family here, I accept that biologically unrelated folks may become family.

    When my step-mother adopted me at age 2, she and I “became” family. When our children were conceived and born, they were our children from the outset (depending on when you define the beginning of life). They didn’t “become” family. This is what a short form of a birth certificate would reflect.

    On the contrary you seem to be agreeing with the biological model, that “producing” the child is what makes a parent-child relationship, and thus, trying to squeeze your round model into this square definition.

    You’re right, in that for the same-sex families that I know, donor conception is closer to biological reproduction than it is to adoption. That is not to say that in individual familes, issues about biological vs. non-biological parentage don’t arise or can’t be very serious.

  38. Teresa says:

    Diane M says:

    It is not the business of the state department to know that your child is adopted or who the biological parents are.

    Diane, I respectfully disagree with your statement here. It’s of paramount interest to the State to know who your biological parents are. Biology drives the data gathering of the CDC, drives health science as to disease, aging, race, genetic inheritance … and, all the other nuances of genetics.

    Families live within the State. The family is an imperfect institution and cannot accomplish its end without the help of the State … and, that help comes in a myriad of ways; not the least of which is through genetics.

    If I’m Jewish, I’d certainly like to know my biological parents were Jewish, because I’d be at greater risk for Tay Sachs disease. I’d sure like to know if I’m at risk of Huntington’s Chorea, Sickle Cell, etc., and if I were to marry, I’d like to know ‘who’ I’m marrying in that regard, also.

    Nuts and bolts do matter, and the State, to accomplish its ends, in “providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare” has an integral right to know its citizenry in some intimate ways … and, that does encompass genetically.

    Your thoughts?

  39. Diane M says:

    @Teresa – I was thinking specifically of the State Department that issues passports. (I should have capitalized.) I don’t think anyone in a foreign embassy or back in D.C. needs to know that a particular child was adopted or conceived with a donor. They just need to know who has the legal right to bring the child into or out of the U.S.

    However, I don’t think the government in general needs to know that Jane Smith was adopted. I’m not sure how the CDC collects data, but I think if they were studying any particular individual, that person could tell them that they are genetically different from their parents. If they are looking at data on a group, would they be using people’s birth certificates? And if they were, how much difference would it make that some children have different genes than their legal parents? Also, right now, what can they see for adopted children?

    I favor individuals being able to get the data, not the state having it to use for its own reasons.

  40. Teresa says:

    Thanks, Diane, for the reply, which helped me to understand better your point: how do families exist with due privacy within a state that has a right to know some intimate details of our lives?

    A further question for you or anyone, and one that involves a question that is no longer an uncommon experience:

    What about a child that was conceived (?) through IVF (str8 parents) but ‘rented’ a womb of another woman? We well know now that intrauterine development greatly impacts a child. Who are the biological parents? Do we dismiss the ‘mother’ who housed the child and brought the child to term?

  41. Diane M says:

    “What about a child that was conceived (?) through IVF (str8 parents) but ‘rented’ a womb of another woman? We well know now that intrauterine development greatly impacts a child. Who are the biological parents? Do we dismiss the ‘mother’ who housed the child and brought the child to term?”

    Good question, and maybe the long form of the birth certificate should have space for that kind of information. (You might then also want information on prematurity?)

    I think that would be very controversial, though.

    P.S. Could someone clarify the policy on number of comments and limits? I know someone said it has been lifted, but has it? If so, are there any guidelines on how much someone should post? I don’t want to overtalk.

  42. Just to be clear – as interesting as the discussion is – the premise it’s based on isn’t true: http://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/yes-mothers-and-fathers-still-exist/. For what that’s worth.

  43. Kevin says:

    “Just to clarify – as an adult you use it to prove your citizenship or age. As a child, your parents may use it to prove that you are their child.”

    So there are a lot of cases where adults tried to get a child who wasn’t theirs enrolled in school? That sounds far-fetched to me. It also sounds far-fetched that the biological parents might be in conflict with the adoptive parents to specify school enrollment. Even more far-fetched is the idea that couples would claim someone else’s child as their own.

    I think you’ve crossed over into the area of child custody, which isn’t decided by the birth certificate, which is superceded if other documents are available.

    Again, a birth certificate is definitive for when and where a person is born, and the accurate spelling of a person’s name, not who controls his or her fate while he’s a child.

  44. Diane M says:

    @Philip Cohen – good reminder. I do think the issue of how to record biological parents is an important one, though.

    @Kevin “So there are a lot of cases where adults tried to get a child who wasn’t theirs enrolled in school? That sounds far-fetched to me.”

    People try to get children enrolled in school systems other than the one they live in when the school system is better. One way to do that is to use the address of a relative or friend who does live in the good school district. That’s one reason you have to prove relationship to the child.

    School systems and passport officials may also be trying to avoid any possible custody disputes.

    My concern is not that someone would try to take their biological child back and enroll them in school somewhere. Although that would be bad, it does seem unlikely to me, too.

    My concern is about privacy. If you are an adoptive family, you should have some control over the information about your child’s biological parents.

    Government bureaucracies commonly require parents to prove that they are the child’s parents. Then they xerox the birth certificate and file it away somewhere. I don’t think it’s really their business if the child is adopted or not. In cases where the adoption is obvious (like a same sex couple), I still wouldn’t want them to know the names of the biological parents. It’s just not something they need to know.

    I think this is something that affects the privacy rights of all adoptees and their adoptive families, but it might matter most for the families of same sex couples.

  45. marilynn says:

    They should issue adoption certificates that, when shown in concert with the minor’s birth record identify the adoptive parents as having authority that superseedes that of the child child’s parents. That would be just fine and the child would retain their identity as a member of their own family while gaining legal rights as a member of their adoptive family. No different than the way we gain rights as an in-law and are treated as part of the spouse’s family or like step children are treated as part of the spouses family with various legal rights and responsibilities so long as the marriage should last.

    Ammended certificates with adoptive parents names on them are fakes and are fraudulent because the certificate does not indicate that it was not used to establish the number of persons born in the state or country by the government that it was not used as a vital statistic or as the source of data used for medical research it does not indicate that the government does not recognize it as being a real birth certificate. It does not indicate that it is useless as a medical record. The only thing its good for is making adoptive parents feel more like real parents.

    Its so funny that adoptive parents are all like its nobody’s business that they are adopted. Nobody’s business how they became parents. Really because its everyone’s business how people became parents if it’s genetic we don’t get to conceal that fact I mean the government snaps up those long form certificates and its all assumed that the child I’m caring for is mine because I reproduced why does someone else get some special right to conceal how they came into custody of the kid they are raising if I can’t. Don’t say that birth certificates are not assumed to document genetic parentage if that was the case then we would not bother counting the number of people born or collecting facts about the parents for medical research. If the info on the record is false its falsified. It is a lie and you don’t really have to have your name on a child’s birth certificate to have authority over your spouses child since the authority to be in their life is granted by their spouse anyway and that makes them a step parent. We have step parent status to show that their authority was granted by their spouse. they would not be in the child’s life without their spouse’s permission which needing permission means they are not the child’s parent they have no automatic obligation it came through their romantic relationship.

  46. Kevin says:

    “People try to get children enrolled in school systems other than the one they live in when the school system is better. One way to do that is to use the address of a relative or friend who does live in the good school district. That’s one reason you have to prove relationship to the child.”

    Again, you’re confusing custodial rights with parenting. When parents try to get their kids into a school district fraudulently, they lie about their address, not by saying someone else is the parent(s). They may relinquish custodial rights to someone else who lives in the better school district but that doesn’t change the birth certificate.

  47. Diane M says:

    @Marillyn – ” That would be just fine and the child would retain their identity as a member of their own family while gaining legal rights as a member of their adoptive family. No different than the way we gain rights as an in-law and are treated as part of the spouse’s family or like step children are treated as part of the spouses family with various legal rights and responsibilities so long as the marriage should last. ”

    Marilyn, being an adoptive parent is profoundly different from being an in-law or step-parent. With adoption, you are the parent. You live with the child, you make the decisions, you do the work, you take care of them. The biological parent has absolutely no authority or responsibility. When the child grows up, they can contact the biological parent and have whatever relationship they want to with them.

    In-laws have basically no legal status at all. You try to get along with them. If you’re lucky over time you will become family. However, you can have absolutely nothing to do with them ever.

    Step-parents do a lot of work, but they aren’t the parents. The parents still have the legal authority and responsibility.

    “Its so funny that adoptive parents are all like its nobody’s business that they are adopted.”

    Well, I’m not an adoptive parent. But anyhow, I have seen people say absolutely horrible things in front of adopted children. Many Americans don’t see adoptive families as real families. If they know a child is adopted, their attitude may change and they may say some really hurtful things.

    This does not help the children.

    Adopted children are better off if they can control the information. Let them tell people when they want to, but don’t force them to share the information with every nosy parker bureaucrat.

  48. Diane M says:

    @Kevin – it doesn’t really matter to me why the school system makes me show them a birth certificate.

    What matters to me is that they do.

    The school secretary and the principal don’t need to know that a child is adopted and they certainly don’t need to know the name of a biological parent. They don’t need to have it xeroxed in their files.

  49. kisarita says:

    the idea of the long form isnt my original idea but i can’t rememner who i picked it up from

  50. John D says:

    Since some of the comments have talked about a need for birth certificates to be “true,” I’d like to throw this in.

    A while ago the New York Times Magazine did a piece on men who found they had no biological relationship to the children in their marriages. The ex-wife of one man revealed to him that their daughter, born several years before their divorce, was actually fathered by her new husband. He proved her assertion through DNA testing, but too much time had passed and he could not legally change the birth certificate. Since the child was legally his, the court has obligated him to pay child support.

    So, before we get all bothered about families who want the legal status on the birth certificate (because it helps them), maybe we should consider that birth certificates aren’t necessarily based on some Absolute Truth.