Adoptees deserve access to the birth certificate

There is a bill before the Minnesota Legislature that would allow adoptees to have access to their original birth certificate, HF 3371 or SF 3193.

The lead authors of the bill, Kathy Tingelstad in the House and Ann Rest in the Senate make a compelling case today in the Commentary section of the Strib.

For full disclosure, my sister is an adoptee, while this bill won’t help her, I strongly support it.  I also testified on behalf of one of Kathy Tingelstad’s bills last year.

The debate over whether adopted adults should have access to their original birth certificates is often mistakenly viewed as birth parent vs. adoptee rights. This is simply not true. The reality is that the debate is more about restoring the right that adopted persons once traditionally had to their birth information, pitted against the mythology that birth parents need protections from secrets and that the state and placing agencies should be the protectors of those secrets.

What is a birth certificate?  It is a document that records, certifies, a person’s birth.  Yes, the birth parents are listed on the document, but it is a document about the infant that is born.  So shouldn’t a document about you be something that you have the right to access, regardless of what the adults in your life decided was the best family for you when you were to young to even talk?  I personally think so.

Our compromise legislation honors provisions for birth parents who wish to prevent the release of a birth certificate to the children they relinquished; they may sign an affidavit of nondisclosure with the Health Department. Since 1982, when this document was first implemented, there have been 1,228 filed. That preference would be honored; these birth certificates would not be released.

So they do allow birth parents to opt out of disclosure, but this is something that must be a conscious act by the birth parent in signing the affidavit.  In fact a majority of birth parents who take action, take action wishing that their information is disclosed to the children they placed for adoption.

Our legislation is also based on new data released last month by the Health Department showing that 11,683 birth parents signed documents stating they do wish disclosure. Yes, more than 90 percent of the birth parents signed this affidavit of disclosure! Adult adoptees would be able to get a copy of their original birth certificate; this is something nonadoptees take for granted.

This is a good bill that provides adoptees with access to THEIR documents.

Now the Strib editorial board’s stance prompted this commentary by the lead authors.

The proposed bill would change a sensitive and fundamental aspect of the adoption process retroactively. Doing so could have the unintended consequence of discouraging birth parents from considering adoption in the future, even when it’s the best alternative for them and their child, because of concerns that the state might change the rules again in the future.

Come on, rules change all the time, do we really think that adoption is not a thought out process already.  This law will not be a deterrent to a birth parent considering placing her child up for adoption.

Some resources on open access:

So if you want to contact your state senator and state representative in support of this bill to provide adopted people with access to documents that are theirs, then go to this web page, Who Represents Me to find out who your senator and representative is.  Then give them a call and say you support House File 3371 or Senate File 3193.

-Josh

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4 Comments

  1. Gershom said,

    March 12, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    The problem with this bill, is that it allows the surrendering parents to keep us ( adoptees ) from obtaining our birth certificates if they feel the right or need to.

    I agree with you, that adoptees DESERVE our original, unaltered birth certificates. But I don’t support this bill, because this bill, doesn’t say that we deserve our birth certificates. This bill, says that we need our surrendering parents permission first. I’m not advocating for adoptees, no matter their age, to be required to have their parents “approve” for their access to their OBC’s. Thats ridiculous. Thats not equality. Thats a compromise to equality.

    We’re either equal, or we’re not. Currently, adoptees are only equal in 6 states, and if this bill passes, they won’t be equal in Minnesota either. This bill will give natural parents MORE of a right to privacy than they currently have under the Minnesota law. Because currently, there IS no right to privacy for surrendering parents.

    A right to a record ISN’T a right to reunion. A right to a record DOESN’T infringe on someones privacy. It doesn’t even ESTABLISH contact between the two or three parties. Reunions happen WITHOUT birth certificates. This shouldn’t be about reunion, this should be about adoptees deserving equality to the non adopted. And I don’t know one single non adopted person who can’t get their OBC. Nor do I know any non adopted people who, no matter their age, need their parents permission to access their record of birth.

    Adoption is NOT the witness protection program.

    Just a little fun fact here, the NCFA who is the largest opponent of sealed records, can’t even find ONE SINGLE document proving surrendering parents have a right to privacy upon surrender BECAUSE THEY DON’T EXIST. The courts won’t enforce ANY document that an agency uses to promise confidentiality because ITS NOT WRITTEN IN LAW.

    Another fun fact: Records, aren’t sealed upon the termination of parental rights. If surrendering parents WERE promised secrecy and privacy from their flesh and blood based soley on the fact of adoption, then the records would seal upon the surrender.
    Some children are surrendered, and never adopted. THEIR RECORDS ARE STILL OPENED. Because the records aren’t sealed until the finalization of the adoption. The records are sealed from the papers the ADOPTIVE PARENTS SIGN. The sealing of our records has NOTHING to do with ANY relationship between adoptees and our natural parents.

    Once we start settling for compromises, the state will only push for more compromises. compromises are an acceptance that we do NOT deserve equality. Yet we DO deserve it.

    How come I am a proud american, but america isn’t proud of me? When will my country and state treat ME equal?

    If I sound angry, it is because I am. Its not personal, my anger certainly isn’t directed to you, its anger from being discriminated against, and being subjected to compromises which feel like another slap in my face. I just want equality. I’m not a 2nd class citizen yet the govt. and state keep telling me I am.

  2. Theresa said,

    March 13, 2008 at 5:30 am

    I can’t possibly add anything to the comment above, she says it all. Except my agreement. But thank you for blogging about our rights to our birth certificates. I can’t support this bill either. I do not believe anyone has the right to deny another access to the document that records their birth. I can’t support a bill that has the potential to leave even 1 adoptee without their birth certificate, or any bill that says an adult over the age of 18 needs their parents permission to have what the nonadopted get –without restriction or justification for asking.


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