5 May 2012
The Honorable Edward C. Braunstein
Assemblyman - District 26
213-33 39th Avenue
Bayside, New York 11361
Dear Assemblyman Braunstein,
I hope this note finds you well. I’m writing in the hope that you might consider supporting recently proposed legislation in the New York State Assembly concerning the right of adopted adults to have access to their original birth certificates. It is my understanding that Assemblyman Weprin is now sponsoring such legislation in bill A8910.
As someone who was adopted in New York City in 1953, I have been involved over the past twenty years in efforts to change the laws that currently prohibit citizens like myself from access to the identifying information with which they were born but have been denied through legislative action that had sealed records and issued amended, i.e. false, birth certificates.
In recent years virtually all adoption professionals have advocated openness in adoption procedures and the free access on the part of the adopted and their adoptive parents to vital information concerning their natal identities and medical information. What adoption reformers, myself included, are now seeking is the same right and practice extended to those born into the closed adoption system that sealed records in most states, including New York.
The main objection, I believe, on the part of those who oppose access to original birth certificates on the part of adult adoptees has been the assumption that women who relinquished children to adoption were promised confidentiality from everyone at the time of relinquishment. Though this position is often stated, there is actually no evidence that any such confidentiality was ever promised at the time of relinquishment. In fact, my own adoption (which was emblematic of adoptions conducted in New York State at the time) suggests otherwise. When the adoption papers were issued by Surrogate’s Court and given to my adoptive parents, I was identified in those papers with my birthmother’s surname. If the state had indeed intended to guarantee confidentiality to my birth mother – from everyone, including the adoptive family - why would the state issue the adoption papers with my mother’s surname? I would submit that one could only logically infer that confidentiality, i.e. anonymity from the adopted themselves, was never intended.
Those of us in adoption reform wish to argue that the right to know your parents’ names and the facts of your own birth is a human, civil and inalienable right. I hope you would consider backing A8910 and help those of us long denied this right – a right which every other American citizen possesses, that is, the right to one’s original birth certificate - be granted.
(Rev.) Thomas F. Brosnan