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For week ended March 12, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 07Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Adoptive LDS Attorney Fighting To Protect Birth Mothers
Portland OR Oregonian 6Mar00 D6
By Janie Har:The Oregonian staff

PORTLAND, OREGON -- LDS Attorney Franklin Hunsaker, 57, is at the forefront of a lawsuit over a controversial new Oregon law that would allow adoptees to discover the identity of birth mothers. The law, known as Measure 58, was passed by a voter referendum. It give adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates. The Oregon Supreme Court could issue its decision on Hunsaker's challenge to the law as early as today.

This Oregonian article profiles both Hunsaker and Thomas McDermott, 57, who represents the state of Oregon in defending the law. Both men have adopted children, and therefore have a personal connection to the issue. Hunsaker represents six anonymous birth mothers who say they were promised confidentiality when they gave up their children for adoption.

Hunsaker has four adopted children, the oldest 30 and the youngest 16. He never shielded them from the fact that they were adopted, and each has a scrapbook about his or her adoption.

But Hunsaker thinks that birth mothers should be viewed as brave women who love their children so much that they give them up. He says they do so based in part on the promise of confidentiality so they can move on with their lives. "The fact that I'm an adoptive parent doesn't mean that I shouldn't have and don't have and can't have compassion for birth parents," says Hunsaker. About eight years ago the family took in a pregnant teen who planned to give up the baby for adoption. Through that experience, Hunsaker gained sympathy for birth mothers.

He has been criticized publicly for his position and called a lackey for the National Council for Adoption. The Council is backed by the LDS Church and wants to make sure that no state can unseal birth certificates to adoptees. Hunsaker bristles at the charge, saying that the council has only provided support, nothing more. His only responsibility is to the six anonymous birth mothers.

Hunsaker converted to the LDS faith as a teen while growing up in Northeast Portland and Beaverton. He got a business degree from BYU in 1964 and went on to the University of California at Berkeley's Boalt Law School, but dropped out after his first year. That left him open to the draft, and he ended up joining the Marines and flying missions over Vietnam. His plane was shot down over North Vietnam, and while he hid behind a rock for an hour, he thought hard, deciding then to return to law school, determining to use the law to contributed to society.

He has no objection to adoptees contacting their birth mothers, and in fact he helped his oldest daughter contact her birth mother through an intermediary. But he says birth mothers need a voice in the process, "Each of my children knows if they ever want to locate their birth parents, I will help in whatever way I can that doesn't breach the confidentiality of the birth parent who doesn't want to have the information exposed."

His children say they are proud of their father, a man who studies all angles of an issue before making up his mind, who gently chided his daughters for gossiping about others, who quizzes his children on current events at the dinner table every night and coaches their sports teams, who prefers a breathing bank teller over an automated teller machine, no matter how long the line.

Hunsaker believes this is a very important issue that must be resolved with care, "It's a once-in-a-lifetime matter, to feel so strongly about something," he says. "I've got a personal stake in it, if you will. That's a good feeling, to give voice to people who didn't have it. And again, win or lose, I will feel I fought the good fight."


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