After long fight, adoptees hope amended bill will provide access to family histories

Weprin DebateFloor (Large)



The Assembly has passed a bill that would give adoptees the right to obtain their original birth records.

In New York, an adoptee cannot access his or her original birth certificate unless the adoptee goes through judicial means, and even then, the outcome does not guarantee that access will be granted.

The Adoptee’s Bill of Rights (A.2901-c), which passed the Assembly 125-19 on June 7, would allow an adopted person who is at least 18 years of age to request a certified copy of his or her original birth certificate and medical history form if available.

Sympathetic lawmakers are trying to provide adult adoptees with the power to find out where they come from as both a human right and as a way to provide crucial family health history .

“Adoptees in New York state often lack crucial information about their own lives and background, placing them in confusing and unfair situations where they might not have access to their medical records or family history,” said Assemblyman David Weprin, D-Fresh Meadows, the Assembly bill’s lead sponsor.

Not only is the legislation expanding the rights of adoptees, but giving them a chance to learn about themselves and their birth families. They will be able to gain knowledge about their religious and ethnic heritage, but perhaps more importantly, learn about their family’s medical history which is often crucial for preventative health care and treatment of certain illnesses.

Weprin said, “Providing adult adoptees with access to their own birth certificates is not only common sense, but the right thing to do in today’s day and age.”

Though this bill is expanding rights to adoptees, steps are also being taken to protect the privacy of birth parents.

For example, under the amended bill, after an adult adoptee submits a request, the Department of Health will make a “reasonable and good faith effort” to contact and advise birth parents that the adopted person has filed an application to receive their original long-form birth certificate.

If the parent has already consented to a release of information, or does not respond within 120 days, a certified copy of the long-form birth certificate or appropriate identifying information will be provided to the adopted person.

In cases where only one birth parent requests confidentiality, the other parent’s identifying information may be released to the adopted person. The consent of one parent will not be construed as consent by the other parent.

While the bill has passed the Assembly with widespread support, it is currently pending passage in the Senate. The Senate bill (S.05964-b) is sponsored by Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island.

The controversial bill has been around since 1993, but has yet to be passed by both houses.

Weprin said he is relieved that changes to the legislation may finally get it through both houses of the legislature, and that adoptees will finally have the choice to discover the truth about their family history.

“I am glad that we have taken a step towards providing adoptees with their full rights in New York state with the passage of this bill,” the Assemblyman said.