Utah's loose adoption laws have drawn lawsuits and torrents of bad publicity for cutting out unwed birth fathers from a chance to raise their child. Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, passed a bill Wednesday out of committee to require birth mothers give better notice to fathers and stay longer in the state, instead of quickly flying in, giving birth and heading out of the Utah adoption mill in a matter of days.
Salt Lake City Weekly first reported on Utah's controversial adoption laws in the 2010 story “Some Call it Kidnapping,” telling the story of a mother who came to Utah to give up her bay for adoption and under the current law was able to only notify the father to say: “I’ll be in Arizona with my family for the holidays and will stay on in Utah for awhile.”
The mother never had to expressly say her trip to Utah was to give up their child for adoption, leaving the father no warning that he needed to file with Utah courts his rights as a father. The issue has been percolating on the capitol for several years, but now Sen. Weiler's Senate Bill 229 would close some of these loopholes.
His bill would now require that a birth mother coming to Utah for an adoption would either have to stay in the state for 90 days, or the adoptive family would have to stay in Utah that long. Otherwise they would have to notify the birth father and give explicit notice that she's planning on giving up the baby for adoption and give the father 30 days to file his rights as a parent in Utah.
Weiler's bill would allow the 90 days to not have to be consecutive, and by requiring it to be applied to either the mother or the adoptive families he hoped to encourage more adoptions with Utah families.
“There's a reason why birth mothers are flocking to Utah, there's a reason why agencies are popping up here and putting a mother from Detroit together with a family from California--they are taking advantage of our adoption laws,” Weiler said, adding that unfortunately the children born here don't stay in Utah because the California family can likely pay more than a Utah family.
In public comment family law attorney Jason Barnes challenged the bill saying that examples of fraudulent adoptions are rare, isolate incidents. He also said adding new burdens like the notice requirements infringe upon the privacy of mothers and could lead them to choose abortion over adoption.
“If she has an alternative to abortion we should allow that, we should encourage that,” Barnes said.
Weiler, however, countered that there are 49 other states that offer adoptions, but that his bill would still allow adoptions in the state but would do so in a way fair to all parties.
“If you want to adopt your baby out of the state, fine, but one of [the parties] on either side of the equation has to have a three-month connection to Utah or just give notice to the birth dad,” Weiler said. “It's not that hard to give notice.”
The committee agreed and the bill was passed out with a favorable recommendation and now heads to the Senate floor for further debate.
To read SB 229 click here. To contact Sen. Weiler about his bill click here. To find your legislator to contact them about this bill click here. For more updates from the hill visit CityWeekly.net and follow @EricSPeterson and @ColbyFrazierLP on Twitter.