Testimony by Sheila Ganz

by Sheila Ganz

On Tuesday, April 17, 2001, Sheila testified to the California House Judiciary Committee along with Ron Morgan, adult adoptee, in support of AB 1349 authored by Assemblyman Anthony Pescetti.  AB 1349 would give adult adoptees unconditional access to their original birth certificate and adoption records.  After much debate the Judiciary Committee voted to hold-over the Bill until the next session when amendments could be made to the Bill.  

Here is the testimony Sheila gave.  Because she ran out of time she could not read all of it.  The * indicates the two paragraphs she had to omit.

“Good morning, my name is Sheila Ganz and I am a birthmother.  I have been a resident and voter in San Francisco since 1979.

When I was 20, I was raped and got pregnant.  This was in 1968, before abortion was legal.  When my parents found out they wanted to put me in a home for unwed mothers.  I didn’t want to do that, so I got a job, saved my money, bought a car and headed out for California from Massachusetts to have the baby by myself.  In January 1969, I totaled my car just east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I was pinned under the car with a fractured pelvis.  I was five months pregnant.  I spent two months in the hospital recuperating and then with no place else to go went into a Booth Memorial Home for Unwed Mothers.  It was on a hill and I was on crutches.  I had no way to make a plan to keep my baby.  Being from a middle class family I didn’t even know about welfare.  Two days after I gave birth to my daughter, I got to hold her, for about ten minutes.  I then immediately when down the hall to the pay phone and called my parents to ask if I could bring her home.  They said, “No.”   The day I signed the relinquishment, no one promised me confidentiality.  But I secretly made a promise to myself that some day I would find my baby – to know if she was all right and to tell her that I love her and how much I’ve thought about her.

After that, I have to admit I spent a lot of years feeling like a victim. But when I started to tell my story and when I found my daughter, I began to feel the power of the truth.

In 1999, I was one of 500 birthmothers who put their names on a full page ad in The Oregonian in support of Measure 58, which gives adult adoptees in Oregon unconditional access to their original birth certificate.  For a brief moment, I thought I would be the only one to sign who had conceived in rape.  It turned out that many birthmothers put this beside their name.

They realized that keeping secrets lets the abuser get away with it.  There are hundreds of birthmothers and birthfathers in California who support the civil right of adult adoptees.  And there are some who have not yet joined our ranks.  But, their silence cannot deter you from this historic hour.

We, adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents, are here today to ask the Judiciary Committee to pass AB 1349 so it may go to the House floor and give the state of California the opportunity to restore the rights of adult adoptees, which have been denied them since 1935.  It’s time for adult adoptees in California to be recognized as full citizens.  To graduate from the children’s table.   So that they, too, may know the power of their truth.

In 1988, the same year I found my daughter, I was inspired to make a documentary “Unlocking the Heart of Adoption” that examines the lifelong impact of adoption on adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents in same race and transracial adoptions.  I will be screening the nearly completed film at the 5th Pan Collegiate Conference on the Mixed Race Experience at Harvard University this coming Saturday.

*In all of the research and people I have talked with over the years I have never heard of an adoptee maliciously outing their birthmother.  But I have heard about lots of abuses in the adoption process.  Where birthparents have been told their child had died and they hadn’t.  Where birthparents were lied to about the kind of adoptive family their child was placed with.

Where adoptive parents were lied to about the health and cultural background of their adopted child.  And where adoptees have been lied to about everything from the fact of their adoption, to their race, their ethnic culture, to their birth date.  AB 1349 is not about reunions.  It’s about rights.

*As a parent, I am appalled and saddened that my daughter is discriminated against by a law that denies her the full rights as all other citizens, just because she is adopted.  I ask the committee members here today who are parents, would you sit back and do nothing if your child was being discriminated against?

We are asking the House Judiciary Committee to bring some measure of accountability to the adoption process.  By recognizing the civil rights of adult adoptees you will enrich our society by giving all of our adult citizens equal and full rights and privileges under the law.

Birthparents and their children do not need protection from each other. But, we do need you to break the shackles of second class citizenship and arm us with our truth.

Thank you for voting Yes on AB 1349.”

AB 1349 did not pass.

On May 1, 2001, Sheila testified to the California Senate Judiciary Committee along with Denise Castellucci, adoptee, Alicia Lanier, birthmother, Ellen Roseman, adoptive mother and Elizabeth McGovern, National Organization for Women against SB 104 authored by Senator Jack Scott.

SB 104 would cut the revocation time where a birthmother has a chance to change her mind after signing to relinquish her child for adoption through a private independent adoption agency from 90 days to 72 hours.  After much debate and emotional testimony SB 104 was amended on the spot to a revocation time of 30 days, which is the way the law now stands for department of social service adoptions, and was passed unanimously out of Committee.  Upon leaving Senator Scott was heard saying that he would “be back next year.”  Supposedly to cut the time to 72 hours.  You can bet we will be there also!

2022 (c) Sheila Ganz