Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens), Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), members of the Unsealed Initiative, adoptees, and birth mothers, gathered on the steps on City Hall on Sunday May 1st to voice their support for the passage of “The Bill of Adoptee of Rights” (A2003).
In New York, an adopted person cannot access his or her original birth certificate unless the adoptee goes through judicial means. Even then, the outcome does not guarantee that access will be granted. The “Bill of Adoptee Rights” will allow adult adoptees to request and receive a non-certified copy of an original birth certificate and, if available, a medical history form.
“Any non-adopted person has a legal right to obtain this information. We are simply asking that equal rights to the access of birth records be afforded to adoptees,” stated Assemblyman Weprin.
“Throughout history, adoption has been known as the kindness of strangers but in today's world these old “father knows best” laws, denying adult adoptees the right to their original birth certificates are unkind to adoptees in need of answers. Adoptees often suffer their grief in silence. The right to know is imperative for all adult adoptees.” stated Joyce Bahr, President of the Unsealed Initiative.
The Bill of Adoptee Rights allows adoptees to gain knowledge of their religious and ethnic heritage and have access to vital medical information that may be beneficial to preventive health care or the treatment of diseases or disorders linked to family history and genetics. It has long been recognized that knowledge of a person’s family history is beneficial for diagnosis and treatment of genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and fragile X syndrome. Family history has been shown to be a major risk factor for more common chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, several cancers, osteoporosis, and asthma. Without family medical histories, adopted individuals face harder times accessing adequate medical care.
“I think it is a human right to know who your birth parents are. And people should have access to their health records, in order to know genetic make-up and family history. Non-adopted individuals have first hand knowledge of this information. New York should help provide this information, not hide it,” said Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health and a co-sponsor of the bill.
“In this day and age, it is unacceptable that some are denied the right to potentially life saving information. It is time these archaic laws be amended to reflect our current reality.” stated Assemblyman Weprin.
While there are myriad benefits to the adoptee, an important party must still be considered -- the birth parent. A delicate balance must be struck between the privacy of the birth parents and the desire of an adult to know their origins. With this in mind, a contact preference form is established in the bill to protect the privacy of biological parents, if they so choose. In the event that an adoptee seeks a copy of their original birth certificate, a contact preference form would automatically be sent to the birth parents before release of any birth records. Birth parents may choose to be contacted directly by the adoptee, through an intermediary, or to not be contacted at all.
Assembly Bill A.2003 passed the Health Committee on Tuesday April 12.
“I am optimistic that the bill will be taken up by the full Assembly in May,” stated Assemblyman Weprin.