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Birth Mothers' Rights


Birthmothers' right, the rights of women who place their children for adoption, change as the process moves forward.

Prior to Placement

Before placing her child for adoption, a woman is a mother and has the same rights - including legal rights - as every other mother or expectant mother, unless she is of diminished capacity (in which case she has a parent or guardian acting on her behalf) or unless her child has been removed from her care by due legal process.

During the adoption process and before she relinquishes her parental rights, these same rights apply. Adoption professionals must respect the rights of women to participate in the process, choose open adoption, select their child's future adoptive parents, choose who will and who will not be at the hospital and/or in the delivery room, indicate how and when the baby will be moved into the care of the adopting parents, etc. Until relinquishment papers have been signed and any waiting period has passed, parental rights of birthmothers remain intact. (More on the placement process.)


In some cases, a child will be placed in the home of the adopting parents before a termination of parental rights for the birthmother has occurred. During this time, the birthmother is still the child's legal parent and retains parental rights.


The termination of parental rights (voluntary or involuntary) marks the end of the birthmother's legal parental rights. From this point forward, although she and her child share the most intimate biological and emotional connection, they are considered to be legally unrelated.

Rights in Search

One of the stickiest issues to arise in the world of adoption has been the rights of birthmothers in the search and reunion process, as adult adoptees challenge existing laws in an effort to obtain the right to know the specifics of their origins through the release of original birth certificates and other adoption records.

There are two main issues regarding birthmothers' rights:

  1. the right to privacy, which is the right to not have information revealed without their consent;
  2. the right to equal access, since states do not always allow birthmothers the same right to information that they do to adult adoptees and adoptive parents.

(More on search and reunion.)

Additional Reading

  • Divorce During Adoption
    In an interesting article, attorney Diane Michelson addresses the issue of a birthmother's rights if, during the adoption process, the adopting parents divorce or start divorce proceedings.

birthmothers.net, Birth Mom, Birth Mother Journal, Birth Mother Support, Birth Mothers' Rights, Birthmother Letters,

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