A bill pending in the state Legislature to give adopted children better access to their birth records is a solid first step toward providing these individuals with vital medical information, as well as expanding their opportunity to contact their birth parents.
The bill (A2901/S5964), sponsored by Queens Assemblyman David Weprin and Brooklyn Sen. Andrew Lanza, is designed to make it easier for adoptees to obtain their birth certificates and allow them to gain access to other health-related information that could help them avoid or fight medical problems.
It also could help lead some to their birth parents.
The main provision of the bill allows adopted children 18 years old and older to request a non-certified copy of their birth certificate or the original long-form certificate where necessary. The state Health Department then would have four months to try to track down the birth parents and obtain permission to release their names.
If the parents refuse to reveal their names, the adoptees will get a redacted version of their birth certifi cate.
In addition, the bill provides an opportunity for the birth parent to provide information about their medical history, giving the children access to such information as genetic dispositions to cancer, heart disease and other medical issues.
The bill errs on the side of privacy.
Some parents, logically, don’t want their identities known to their children. But in protecting their privacy, this bill also gives birth parents who had previously not wanted their identities revealed to the children they put up for adoption the opportunity to change their minds.
The bill also allows the parent to release a medical history without revealing their own identity. Any other issues related to privacy would be decided by the courts.
The Assembly passed the measure in June, with local Assembly members James Tedisco, Angelo Santabarbara and Phil Steck voting in favor and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner voting against it. The Senate has yet to vote on the bill, which currently sits in the Rules Committee.
While proponents of unlimited access to adoption records might not be thrilled with the limits contained in this bill, it is an important first step toward making the process more transparent. The privacy concerns of parents are just as legitimate as the desire for the children to know their identities. That’s why the privacy protections contained in this bill are reasonable and essential. In addition, the bill’s proactive approach toward the release of medical histories could help more adopted children lead healthier lives.
It’s not a perfect bill. But it is an important one. Let’s hope the Senate follows the Assembly’s lead and moves this matter forward.