Adapt to the Times, Israel Moves to Allow Adoptees to Out Themselves

Knesset to discuss amendment cancelling clause in law that defines publicly revealing a person is adopted as a criminal offense.

Ofer Vaknin

New legislation was proposed Tuesday to amend the Adoption Law, to decriminalize publicly revealing the fact that a person is adopted. The law currently states that the parent of an adoptee or the adoptee who reveals this fact could be sentenced to up to six months in prison.

The bill, presented by Kulanu MKs Eli Alalouf and Yifat Shasha-Biton, who is chairwoman of the Knesset Committee for the Rights of the Child, comes following recent protests by adoptees over the law as it now stands.

Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz (Likud) has instructed his ministry to compose the amendment.

The amendment, which is expected to receive support across the political spectrum, is will probably change the existing wording prohibiting publication of an adoptee’s status “without authorization by the court” to “without authorization by that individual.”

Explanatory remarks to the bill states that it “seeks to conform to the times and right the injustice by which children conceived through a sperm bank may reveal this about themselves, but adopted children must remain oppressively silent under the law. It does not do away with the right to privacy of the biological parents or the adoptive parents. Complementary laws exist for this purpose.”

Katz told Haaretz that the need to change the law has come about because “social media have become an inseparable level of expression and communication.” This being the situation, Katz said he had instructed his ministry experts to “draft a recommendation for an amendment so an adult adoptee will have the option of revealing that fact, while maintaining the prohibition on releasing the identity of the biological parent and taking all precautions not to harm adoptees or biological families.”

Alalouf is himself an adoptive parent, a fact he was able to reveal by making use of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution. He and his wife adopted their son 25 years ago in Romania. “I only became aware of this clause in the Adoption Law when I became a Knesset member. This is a draconian clause that does not achieve its goal.

“We will make every effort to ensure that the clause is removed as soon as possible. It is the right of every adoptee to publicly tell of his life and that of his adoptive parents. That is the main purpose of the clause,” Alalouf told Haaretz.

According to new Social Affairs Ministry statistics, 42 percent of adoptees in Israel were adopted from abroad, which Shasha-Biton said is one of the reasons the law should be changed. “Today the parents of many adoptees are not in Israel at all, and concern over exposing the identity of biological parents hardly exists,” she said.