Surrender and Subordination: Birthmothers and Adoption Law Reform

Elizabeth J. Samuels, University of Baltimore School of Law

Abstract excerpt:

"...this article analyzes the provisions in a collection of birth mother surrender documents assembled by the author — seventy-five mid-twentieth century documents executed in twenty-six different states. In order to establish the significance of the provisions with respect to these claims, the article first relates depictions by birth mothers of a journey from silence to legislative advocacy. The article then examines the conflicting claims about birth mothers that pervade legislative contests over adult adoptee access to original birth certificates. Finally, the article analyzes the provisions of the surrender documents."

Read full article in the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law: 20 Mich. J. Gender & L. 33 (2013). Available at:

For the Records II:  An Examination of the History and Impact of Adult Adoptee Access to Original Birth Certificates

Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute 


This report reviews relevant judicial and legislative documents; of decades of research and other

scholarly writing; and of the concrete experiences of states and countries that have either changed their laws to provide these documents or never sealed them at all.

Read the Executive Summary and Conclusions

Authors: Jeanne Howard, Susan Smith and Georgia Deoudes

Published: July 2010

Family Matters: Secrecy and Disclosure in the History of Adoption 

E. Wayne Carp

Harvard University Press

"Amid recent controversies over sealed adoption records and open adoption, it is ever more apparent that secrecy and disclosure are the defining issues in American adoptions—and these are also the central concerns of E. Wayne Carp’s book. Mining a vast range of sources (including for the first time confidential case records of a twentieth-century adoption agency), Carp makes a startling discovery: openness, not secrecy, has been the norm in adoption for most of our history; sealed records were a post-World War II aberration, resulting from the convergence of several unusual cultural, demographic, and social trends."

Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Families

Adam Pertman,  

National Center on  Adoption and Permanency 

With compassion for adopted individuals and adoptive and birth parents alike, Adam Pertman explores the history and human impact of adoption, explodes the corrosive myths surrounding it, and tells compelling stories about its participants as they grapple with issues relating to race, identity, equality, discrimination, personal history, and connections with all their families. For the first edition of this groundbreaking examination of adoption and its impact on us all, Pertman won awards from many organizations, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists, the Dave Thomas Center for Adoption Law, the Century Foundation, Holt International, and the U.S. Congress. In this updated edition, Pertman reveals how changing attitudes and laws are transforming adoption - and thereby American society - in the twenty-first century.

Understanding Why Women Seek Abortions in the US   

BMC Women's Health. 2013; 13:29 



Data for this study were drawn from baseline quantitative and qualitative data from the Turnaway Study, an ongoing, five-year, longitudinal study evaluating the health and socioeconomic consequences of receiving or being denied an abortion in the US. While the study has followed women for over two full years, it relies on the baseline data which were collected from 2008 through the end of 2010. The sample included 954 women from 30 abortion facilities across the US who responded to two open ended questions regarding the reasons why they wanted to terminate their pregnancy approximately one week after seeking an abortion.


Women’s reasons for seeking an abortion fell into 11 broad themes. The predominant themes identified as reasons for seeking abortion included financial reasons (40%), timing (36%), partner related reasons (31%), and the need to focus on other children (29%). Most women reported multiple reasons for seeking an abortion crossing over several themes (64%). Using mixed effects multivariate logistic regression analyses, we identified the social and demographic predictors of the predominant themes women gave for seeking an abortion."

Four per cent of respondents said that they simply did not want a child, or would not consider adoption as an option. Two per cent said that they did not want others to know or were afraid others would judge.


Zero respondents offered fear of future contact with a relinquished child as a reason for considering abortion in response to the open-ended survey questions.  

Similar statistics and reasons were cited in Real Choices: Listening to Women, Looking for Alternatives to Abortion and a 2014 Guttmacher Institute report