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EDITORIAL: Adoptees have right to birth records

EDITORIAL: Adoptees have right to birth records

New law giving adopted children access to full birth certificate takes effect Jan. 15.
EDITORIAL: Adoptees have right to birth records
Photographer: Adobe Stock

Susan Moyer of North Syracuse was 16 when she learned officially that she was adopted in Albany. 

Like most 16-year-olds, she needed her official birth certificate so she could get her driver’s permit. Later in life, as she became a mother and then a grandmother, she wanted something to pass on, a legacy, to her family.

She began to view obtaining her birth certificate as more than just a form of identity, but as a civil right, she told syr.com in April.

Maureen Sheridan had a different reason for looking into her past.

She began looking for her biological mother in the late 1990s after she had a precancerous mole removed. Her doctor suggested she find out about her medical history, she said in a 2014 interview with The New York Times.

The 38-year-old was further compelled to seek her medical history when her two sons had medical scares.

Whether it’s for medical reasons, identification reasons or just a deep yearning to know who they are and where they came from, adopted children have long sought their birth certificates to help them find the answers they were seeking.

But state law has made it virtually impossible to get unrestricted access to that information. And even when they could, it usually required a long, costly drawn-out legal battle.

But on Jan. 15, that will all change, as New York becomes the 10th state in the country to allow adoptees unrestricted access to their original birth certificates. 

Under the law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month, adoptees over the age of 18 will be able to request their certified, long-form original birth certificates in New York without having to go before a judge for access.

As many as 600,000 people may be eligible next year.

The signing of the legislation represents a monumental shift in the fight for adoptee rights.

The full birth certificates contain information that post-adoption, amended birth certificates do not, and allow adoptees to avoid having to undertake extensive investigations like costly DNA tests and time-consuming ancestral searches to find out their medical history and ethnic backgrounds, according to The Chronicle of Social Change.

Much of the argument against granting access to full birth certificates rested on the issue of privacy — for the birth mothers and the adoptive parents.

But the opposition has largely since melted away over the years as states with open access to full birth certificates found few negative repercussions in practice, and as health professionals recommended against secrecy to both birth mothers and adoptees.

Even state lawmakers who had long opposed the access came around.

This law is a major victory for the rights of adoptees. New York is privileged to be among the states that have taken this monumental step forward.

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