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Bill To Give Adult Adoptees Access To Their Birth Certificate Advances

by Hugh McQuaid | Apr 17, 2014 11:09am
(7) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Health Care, Legal

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Rep. David Alexander, center right, listens as Sen. Terry Gerratana discusses the bill to Rep. Al Adinolfi

Rep. David Alexander stood outside the House chamber Thursday morning and listened as his colleagues debated whether he should be permitted access to his original birth records.

Alexander, an Enfield Democrat in his first term, was adopted as a young child and adoptees in Connecticut and most other states are only allowed access to amended birth certificates which omit the names of their biological parents.

Town administrators in Middletown, where Alexander was born, keep his original birth certificate and it’s a source of frustration for the Marine Corps veteran that various government entities can view his personal records even as they are kept secret from him.

“I can’t get access to my birth certificate. Doctors, social workers, and government agencies can,” he said. “When I did my secret clearance for the Marine Corps, they had access to it but I didn’t, which I found — tough.”

Adoptees argue the redacted birth records create health risks for them. Without knowing their family medical histories, they cannot be screened for illnesses they are predisposed to based on family medical history and genetics. Even with symptoms of certain diseases, Alexander said many can’t get their insurance companies to cover screening because they can’t prove the condition runs in the family.

Lawmakers have drafted bills to change the law in Connecticut many time over the years but none have been signed into law. The legislature approved a bill to open up the records in 2006, but former Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the bill.

Alexander said he has worked with other supporters to craft a bill that various state agencies consider to be a workable policy. It would give adult adoptees the right to obtain their original certificates.

The Judiciary Committee was debating that bill Thursday morning before a House session. Although he’s not on the committee, Alexander stood outside the chamber and listened to the positions of other lawmakers.

The committee voted 19-11 to allow the bill to move forward in the legislative process with support and opposition coming from both sides of the aisle.

Opponents argued the bill impedes on the privacy rights of birth mothers who did not expect to have their information released when they made the choice. Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, opposed the bill and said adoptees currently have the option of petitioning the probate court that approved their adoption for their birth certificates.

“I’m trying to balance the interests of both parties,” she said. “I don’t know the lives of these mothers. I have know idea if they were the victims of rape or incest” or other circumstances.

Rep. Mae Flexer, D-Danielson, agreed with Rebimbas.

“I have some serious concerns about this bill . . . Birth parents are missing from this conversation. There’s no voice for them at the capitol,” she said.

The bill allows mothers to fill out a form indicating whether they are willing to be contacted by the child later in life. Either way, the form is not binding and the child would still be able to access the birth certificate.

Alexander said it’s a difficult topic for many people on both sides of the debate.

“It’s a tough, emotional issue. It’s not a political partisan issue, it’s an emotional issue,” he said. “For me, it is difficult when emotions come up because I have my own emotional feelings. It’s something where I need to obviously step aside. I respect everyone’s opinions.”

Although the committee approved the legislation as it was drafted, Alexander said it’s likely to be amended on the floor if it is called for a vote. The new bill will only reach back as far as 1983, when biological parents began signing a form acknowledging the child may, as an adult, be able to access documents that could identify them.

The change is a compromise, which Alexander hopes will make opponents more comfortable with the concept and perhaps willing to consider opening up all birth records in the future. If passed, Connecticut would be the fifth state to change their policies on adoption records. Alexander said he believes the change may catch on around the country.

Alexander said he feels lucky that he has been able to maintain contact with his family on his biological mother’s side.

If passed, the bill would also give Alexander access to information on his biological father for the first time. Asked how he felt about the prospect of accessing the information, he paused then said he believes the option should be a fundamental right.

“I don’t even know if I would look at it — I don’t even know. But the fact that I, under the law, could not have access to it is very alarming under the principles of natural rights and fairness,” he said. “I don’t think the state, or any government, should be in the business of hiding the identity of people from them.”

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(7) Comments

posted by: IOU | April 17, 2014  1:56pm

IOU

Alexander the Brat. More woman will terminate with this bill. Kill the bill and be Alexander the Great.

posted by: TMDC | April 17, 2014  6:15pm

I agree that many women relied on anonymity when they made this difficult decision.  I don’t think the rights of the children trump the right to privacy of the parent. We need to stop revisiting everything to suit someone’s personal fancy or angst.

posted by: Historian | April 18, 2014  7:56am

What rights does a birth mother or father have to anonymity after a certain period? Do adoptees have to spend their entire lives looking over their shoulder wondering who or what they really are?
  No one is suggesting that adoptee info be published in any news media as birth announcements, so privacy is not an issue. And when every govt agency, etc can view the unaltered birth certificate you demonstrate the hypocrisy of the system. The child not only has the right to the info but the obligation of get it - what about his children and grandchildren - all victims of a foolish secrecy..

posted by: mysticsol8 | April 19, 2014  9:49am

Saying abortion rates will increase with unsealed OBC is a Fallacy often used to oppose OBC legislation. In every state that has unsealed Adoptee’s OBC no increase in abortion rates has ever happened…EVER. In fact abortion rates have fallen. Every human has a right to know who they are, its a civil rights issue.

posted by: mysticsol8 | April 19, 2014  10:08am

In addition, the vast majority of adoptions conducted today are OPEN adoptions, not CLOSED. As for ‘birthmother’ privacy, they have never been guaranteed privacy in surrender documents ever. In a study that looked at documents from the 30’s to the present day, never once was anyone guaranteed privacy. Adoptee records were originally sealed to shield the adoptee and adoptive family from the “stigma of being a Bastard”. Times have changed and the laws of CT need to change with it. Ohio just signed into law unsealing OBC’s, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Alabama allow unrestricted access. IL changed its law in 2010. Children grow up, do you think its really fair to tell people who are adults they don’t have a right to know who they are? Follow Ohio & Illinois and the rest of the states who have unsealed adoptee OBC’s. FYI adoptees only make up 2% of the population, we area minority in this country and we are treated like 2nd class citizens.

posted by: Carol Hudak | April 20, 2014  11:44am

When I met my full birth sister at Catholic Charities in 2008, we sat and watched the social worker, A TOTAL STRANGER, hold our file and say:
  “I’m sorry, but I cannot tell you who you are.”

We stared at her!
  “What do you mean,YOU are a stranger and you have access to our birth name, but we can’t know???”

She said: 
  “I could be fired for telling you - law of the State of CT.”

We left and I hired a searcher - for a lot of money. Just like Rep. David Alexander . . . STRANGERS ARE ALLOWED ACCESS TO OUR IDENTITIES BUT WE ARE NOT!!!

Surely this breaks at least a half dozen laws!! It’s time for CT. adoptees to pursue every legal avenue available. This is a disgrace; it is demeaning and totally insulting. BTW: states that have access do NOT HAVE MORE ABORTIONS!! Get your facts straight!

I finally learned my birth brother died at 40 of a heart attack. Heart disease is genetic. But, according to the State of CT. I have NO RIGHT TO KNOW MY OWN MEDICAL HISTORY.
In CT., the inmates are in full control of the asylum.

posted by: kwquilter | April 20, 2014  1:10pm

This birthmother is speaking up.  When I surrendered my daughter to adoption in 1966, I was told many things—that life would go on as if my pregnancy never happened, that my daughter would have a better life than I could ever give her, that she would be happier with her adoptive family than with me—but I was NEVER told that she wouldn’t search for or find me.  And I have never wanted to remain unknown to her. 

Adoptees are searching and finding all the time.  DNA has made the process easier.  Allow adoptees access to their original birth certificates.

In the states where OBCs have been made available, the abortion rates have gone down.  There are no reports of hysterical birthparents being accosted by their children.  Over 99% of birthparents want contact! 

Talk to us.  We will happily respond to any legislator with questions.