Published Thursday, October 25, 2012
Did your mother receive medical care while pregnant with you and/or up to one year after your birth?
“It’s none of your business,” you’re probably thinking — and you’d be right. But if the U. S. State Department has its way, you’ll answer this very question or you may be denied a passport.
The department’s proposed “Supplemental Questionnaire to Determine Entitlement for a U. S. Passport” (Form DS-5513) also wants to know who your mother’s doctor was, what the dates of her appointments were and who was present at the “birthing location.” One line actually asks you to reveal the “length of time mother stayed at the birthing location listed above.”
For most of our history, passports were not required for overseas travel at all. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution unequivocally established “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Bureaucrats prying into your personal affairs before giving you permission to travel wouldn’t have gone over very well.
Until 1941, the only times that passport were required was during the Civil War, then during World War I and for three years thereafter. In 1921, the Harding administration abolished the requirement but reappeared in 1941 and has remained in place ever since.
From World War II until the “War on Terror,” getting a passport didn’t require much more than a birth certificate and filling out a short, relatively easy-to-complete form. The new Form DS-5513 requests information that for most people will be impossible to furnish. It should make you wonder if the State Department really wants to give you a passport at all.
“Please provide the names (as well as address and phone number, if available) of persons present at your birth such as medical personnel, family members, etc,” the form asks. In another place, it wants to know “any schools, day care centers, or developmental programs you attended from birth to age 18 in or outside of the United States” as well as “all of your residences inside and outside of the United States starting with your birth until age 18.”
It might be tempting to dismiss this as the product of some paper-pushing, low-level bureaucrat who is simply one neuron short of a synapse. But Form DS-5513 was first proposed in early 2011. After a firestorm of opposition, the one major revision the department made was to drop the question about whether you were circumcised and with what accompanying religious rituals. The department is now using the form even though it says it still is only “proposed.” Requiring someone to complete it, according to Robert Wenzel in the Economic Policy Journal, “would amount to de facto denial of their application for a passport.”
Barack Obama promised the release of information as part of “the most transparent administration” in history. Maybe what he had in mind was your information, not the government’s.