Hey New York: I Want My OBC!

Adoptees from closed adoptions are the only group who cannot receive their original birth certificate.

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As an adoptee, I am denied one of the most basic fundamental human rights known to mankind: access to the information about who I am and where I come from.

When I go to the doctor, I am always asked if I have a family history of certain health issues such as cancer, heart disease, and many others. Unfortunately, I always have to say I don’t know. I hope that this lack of information doesn’t impact me in a negative way some day.

But in all honesty, health history is not the main reason why I am so upset about the denial of one of my most basic fundamental human rights. It’s the unquenchable yearning of knowing the innermost basic elements of my very existence.

I love my adoptive parents, no question about it. But when I look at my birth certificate, it contains their names and my post-adoption name, and that’s just not authentic. I know it must be difficult for anyone who is not part of the adoption triad (adoptee, biological parent, and adoptive parent) to truly understand how we feel, and I don’t know how it can be that decisions are made on our behalf about what our rights are.

Let me cut to the chase. Those opposed to the fundamental right of adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates so they might have a chance to find their biological parents are just dead wrong. They hide behind the cloak of secrecy and supposed “confidentiality” that was “promised.” In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

I have spoken to many biological mothers about this issue and, in most cases, they were told, forced, coerced, and more to ensure they would give up their babies to adoption because of the stigma associated with out-of-wedlock pregnancies 20, 30, 40, or more years ago. They were typically told something like, “Don’t worry; you’ll forget soon” or “Just sign this relinquishment paper, and you’ll never have to think about it again.” In many cases, these were scared, young teenage girls or twenty-something women who didn’t even have the support of their own parents. They were hidden and shamed.

Even if it were true– and it most definitely was not– what is the right of a lawmaker to make such a one-sided decision to require confidentiality? Where is my right in that process? When was I asked whether I wanted confidentiality? That’s right– NEVER!

Is there a place for lawmakers to make decisions about the well being of children? Yes, absolutely. But once those children are adults, there is absolutely no justification for those lawmakers to decide whether information about them should be hidden. It should be solely on us, as adults, to decide that.

In addition to the completely “smoke and mirrors” confidentiality issue, lawmakers who oppose open records for adoptees (who, by the way, are few and far between), argue that “biological parents don’t want to be found,” which is completely untrue for the vast majority of biological parents. They think they are “protecting” them from being harassed.

Here’s a quick newsflash. There are anti-stalking laws in place, there are orders of protection that can be issued, and there are plenty of other existing laws to make sure the privacy rights of individuals are protected. And adoptees are not in this to harass anyone! We just want to know who we are and where we come from! Let’s use these existing laws to protect privacy rights, not ones that protect those privacy rights at the expense of another’s human rights.

Think about this, too. Adoptees are the only group to be denied access to their original birth certificates. If a child is born out of wedlock and never adopted, he or she has the right to obtain an original birth certificate. If a child is in foster care, abandoned, or otherwise not in the custody of one or both biological parents for some reason, he or she has the right to obtain an original birth certificate. The only thing that takes this right away from an individual is adoption. And that is just plain wrong.

There is certainly a time and place for secrets: when all parties to the secret are in agreement that a secret should be kept. Ironically, in most cases, all parties to the secret of adoption typically don’t want the secret to be kept! But the denial of the right to obtain original birth records makes it difficult, if not impossible, for any of them to unveil the secret.

Look at the level of sponsorship in both the Senate and Assembly on S.2490-A and A.909, which would end this unjust denial of original birth records. It’s clear that there is significant support for ending this injustice, so tell your legislators and legislative leaders that this bill needs to be brought to the floor for a vote so this human rights injustice can be ended once and for all.

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