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Women fight law requiring them to publish sexual past

A new law forces some women giving up babies for adoption to publish conception details as a notice to the fathers.

©Associated Press

August 8, 2002

A new law forces some women giving up babies for adoption to publish conception details as a notice to the fathers.

WEST PALM BEACH -- Six women who want to put their babies up for adoption but don't know the fathers' identities are challenging a new law that requires them to detail their sexual pasts in local newspapers.

A Palm Beach County circuit judge has ruled that the law should protect rape victims, but an attorney for the women, including a 12-year-old rape victim, plans to appeal to extend the protection to all women.

"When women come into my office and find their whole lives have to be exposed in the newspaper, they are like 'forget it,' " said attorney Charlotte Danciu. "They can abort without consent but they can't give the child an opportunity to live without humiliating themselves."

"Would you want your deepest, darkest secret to be published for all to read?" Danciu said. "It has a tremendous chilling effect on women having their child placed for adoption."

Danciu said she plans to appeal to the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach within two weeks.

The disclosure requirement became effective in October but its reach is just being felt, as adoption petitions filed last year proceed through the courts.

When background searches fail to locate the birth father, the mother must place legal notices about the adoption in a local newspaper where the child was conceived.

In the notice, the mother must list her name, describe herself, name or describe the possible father or fathers and list the date and place of conception.

Jeanne Tate, executive vice president of the Florida Association of Adoption Professionals, said the state previously required women to reveal when and where they gave birth.

Since the law's enactment, the Tampa-based attorney has been forced to publish dozens of the more detailed notices.

"We do these publications every week and they are horrible, degrading and they are reminiscent of The Scarlet Letter," Tate said.

Bob Tuke, president of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, said he doesn't know of any other states with the same law.

Supporters of the new law said they wanted to prevent biological fathers from challenging adoptions after the fact and disrupting newly formed family bonds.

"It's something to ensure that when couples adopt a child, it's going to be final," said state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Tamarac. The bill also had the support of the family law section of the Florida Bar and the Florida Catholic Conference.

One of the more notable cases was a fight over Baby Emily, who was born in 1992 to a Boca Raton woman who gave her up for adoption to a family in Plantation.

The birth father contested the adoption and the adoptive family ended up retaining custody after three years of legal battles.

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