A Mothers’ Bill of Rights
Expecting? Considering adoption? The adoption agency may not have told you all your rights!
If you are considering surrendering your baby for adoption, remember that you are still the only mother that baby has until you have signed the surrender papers and until any revocation periods have passed (this varies from within 30 days of birth in British Columbia, to no revocation period at all in some states such as Florida and Illinois). Some adoption agencies publish “Birthmother Bills of Rights,” which invariably neglect to inform the “birthmother” that she has rights that every other mother takes for granted – including the right to change her mind.
This list below is provided so that expectant mothers considering adoption can take this to adoption agencies and potential adopters and ask right-off-the-bat if they’ll honour these rights. And if they refuse to, then mothers go to a different agency or different potential adopters that will. According to an article (“Love for Sale”) in Adoptive Families Magazine, there may be up to forty couples vying for every baby available, so there is no lack of choice if one couple says “no” to you. And in fact, the best parent for your baby may well be you!
As a mother, maybe being called a “birthmother,” these are your rights.
~ Your Rights as an Expectant and New Mother ~
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO:
- … see your baby after he/she is born.
- … choose to hold, nurse, and care for your baby in the hospital.
- … decide if the potential adopters can be in the labour or delivery room, and the right to change your mind and ask them to leave at any time.
- … have independent legal counsel (i.e not also representing the potential adopters, known as “dual-representation”) to explain the surrender papers and to be present when you sign them.
- … choose to care for your baby without feeling pressured to decide about adoption within ANY certain time period.
- … choose to take your baby home from the hospital if that is what you want to do.
- … say “No” to adoption at any point before or after the birth without fear of hurting or disappointing the potential adopters.
- … adequate financial support from the state which would enable you to keep and raise your baby.
- … expect child support from the father of your baby, and take him to court for enforcement if this is not provided.
- … be free of any monetary obligation, such as repaying living or medical expenses, should you choose to keep your baby (potential adopters can buy insurance to cover all costs if a mother changes her mind, it is a risk they knowingly take).
- … choose to decide on adoption after recovering from birth and any post-partum depression.
- … be treated as the mother and a parent of your baby until and unless papers are signed, and to be thus treated with the respect granted any other mother.
- … be a mother. No matter if you’re unmarried, young, or financially strained, you still have the right to be a mother.
These rights come from the application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (at http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html), which since 1948 has guaranteed these protections to ALL citizens of the U.S., Canada and all other nations that signed it. Articles 12, 16 and 25 of the Declaration specifically guarantee protection and social support to mothers and families:
- Article 12. – No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, FAMILY, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
- Article 16(3) – The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
- Article 25(1) – Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Copyright © B. Lake 2004. This article may be reprinted on other not-for-profit websites as long as it is reprinted in its entirety with copyright statement included.
Reprinted with Permission of the Author