Stossel on Fla. 'Scarlet Letter' Law

ByABC News
September 19, 2002, 2:02 PM

Sept. 20 -- Do you want to adopt a child? Thousands of couples want to, and thousands have been waiting, hoping, for years. Now Florida legislators have passed a law they say will make adoptions more "secure." Sounds good, but lawmakers have shown us time and again that their pursuit of perfection often makes things worse.

Critics say this new law will likely lead to FEWER adoptions, more abortions, and to children being raised by parents who admit they're not ready for parenthood.

Take the case of Melissa Colleran. Colleran is an unemployed 18-year-old who's barely able to pay the rent on her Tampa home. She said she doesn't think she's "emotionally or financially ready to take care of a child." Unfortunately, she's seven months pregnant.

Colleran said she doesn't know who the father is, only that he was a stranger she met in a bar. "It was a one-night stand, something that just happened, maybe it shouldn't have happened, but it happened," Colleran said.

She decided she wanted to put the baby up for adoption, but the new law makes that harder. Florida legislators decreed that before an adoption can take place, birth mothers who don't know who or where the biological father is must advertise in newspapers to try to find him. Colleran would have to list the name of every possible father, and her name.

Colleran said she'd have to disclose "basically everything about my sexual history, within the time that I conceived. And I think this is disgusting, it makes me feel very ashamed."

So, Colleran has decided not to place one of the ads. "It is something that should be between me and the person I shared it with, not me, the person I shared it with, the guy down the block, and the guy who is reading the newspaper across from me on a bus," Colleran said.

More Shame, Fewer Adoptions?

Colleran says she plans to keep her baby and try to raise him as a single mom. "I was going to place the baby for adoption, and when I heard about this law, just thinking about people seeing my name and all these things in the paper, I decided not to," she said.