Script to Use When Contacting Legislators
While you may feel awed by your first contact with a legislator, remember that he/she works for you and needs your expertise about one of hundreds of bills he/she will consider this session. Your personal connection to adoption makes you an expert. Before contacting a legislator, practice what you will say, summarizing and quickly stating your group's position. Condense your personal story into a few sentences that tells why your situation would have been remedied by passage of your bill.
If the visit is in person, if possible take along someone who lives in the legislator’s district.The strongest message for a legislator is "I care about access to the original birth certificate for adopted adults and I vote along these lines" or "I am a member of (NAME OF YOUR GROUP), a coalition that votes along these lines."
- Expect a legislative aide to answer. Legislators rarely answer their own phone. The aide will pass along your message or may be counting the number of calls that support or oppose your legislation.
- Introduce yourself and say how you are connected to adoption (birthmother, adoptee, adoptive parent), and if you are from the legislator's district, say so.State that you are calling to support the adoption bill number _______, a bill that would allow adult adopted persons an uncertified copy of his/her original birth certificate.
- If you are a constituent, you may be asked to give your phone number and address as proof.
- Some legislators prefer e-mail over phone calls. If so, design a quick e-mail message, much like the phone message.
- Address the email, using the proper salutation.Do not write to "Dear Legislator" or "Dear Senate Member," but "Dear Representative Smith," "Dear Senator Green," "Dear Assemblyman Johnson" or "Dear Assemblywoman Jones."
- In the subject line, if you are a constituent, say so: "Constituent from your district supports adoption bill number _______." Legislators are inundated with e-mails and may only read those from their constituents.
- Handwritten letters to legislators from constituents can be powerful and often get the attention that mass-generated letters fail to garner. Include the main talking points, but try to make sure that the letters are original and not a copy of someone else. Request a response. Five constituent’s letters per legislator is ideal.
- A letter writing campaign is also effective. Again, try for originality and for letters to come from constituents.
Visiting in Person
- Some groups may elect to visit in threes, with each role in adoption represented. If so, elect a main spokesperson, but allow time for each person to quickly state his/her role in adoption and a one to two minute description of why he/she supports the bill.
- Bring along documents of surrender for birthparents, altered birth certificates and/or redacted histories issued by an adoption agency as visuals.
Prepare a One-Page Handout
Using the one-page handout that explains your bill (or a page adapted from AAC materials), the spokesperson can highlight and explain your bill. You may choose to say something like:
- Adoption should be child-centered and benefit the child for life. Since YEAR, our state has relied on legislation that has resulted in long term harm for adopted children and adults. The laws that sealed birth records away from adoptees were not passed to protect birthparents, but primarily to protect adoptive parents and adopted child at a time when adoption was considered shameful.
- The legislative solution – sealing the original birth certificate of an adopted child and creating a second altered birth certificate – has resulted in:
- Adopted adults being the only American citizens denied access to their original birth certificates.
- Adoptees lacking vital medical and health history.
- Separating siblings, a relationship that researchers now believe to be one of the most important and enduring of all human connections.
- Lifelong difficulties related to identity-formation for adopted persons.
- Ultimately harming birthparents with lifelong grief, unresolved and unaddressed by those who facilitated the adoption.
- Reform is needed to:
- Put the best interests of adoptees in the forefront.
- Provide adoptees with information to meet their own best interests.
- Restore the once assumed right for an adoptee to access the original birth certificate.
- Provide information and contact that the overwhelming majority of birthparents accept.
- End your conversation with: "Do you have any questions about this bill?" Listen to your legislator’s concerns and opinions and if possible, counter them. If they ask a question you can’t answer, say, "I can verify that and call you with answers, if you’d like."
- If they have concerns about birthmothers from yesteryear, offer the only conclusive data available. In states that have opened access, less than 5% of birthmothers who were contacted indicated a preference for having no contact. Within one year of passage of reform legislation, the percentage of birthmothers indicating a preference for having no contact drops to less than .01%.
- Women with unplanned pregnancies today who choose adoption do not want or need the protection of secrecy. Research, registries and data from states where access has been enacted show that the vast majority of birthmothers want contact. Workers at pro-life centers such as Birthright report that young women today will only choose adoption if they are assured of updates or contact with the adoptive family.
- Thank the legislator for his/her time and interest and offer your expertise or assistance in the future. No matter the outcome, follow up the visit with a thank you call, letter or card.