June 13, 2018
Dear Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie and New York Assembly Members:
Please assure that A9959B, the Adoptee Rights Bill currently in the Codes Committee, advances to the full Assembly for a vote.
A9959B will restore to all New York adoptees the unrestricted right to obtain their own original birth certificates upon request. This is personal for me and I ask for your leadership on this important issue.
I would like to present to you my story, which is very different from the usual illegitimate bastard adoptee wanting a copy of their sealed original birth certificate to know the names of their mother and father, date and time of birth, and location of birth. You probably have already heard that mothers were never promised confidentiality, that opening records will not increase abortion rates, and that adoptees deserve to be equal to non-adoptees in access to our sealed birth certificates.
I was not born a bastard, yet the law that existed in the year of my birth (1956) is the same law that revokes, cancels, annuls, rescinds, and seals all adoptees’ birth certificates since 1936. The birth certificates of all New York State adopted persons are replaced with a false-fact birth certificate issued after adoption. Since the law was written to hide the stigma of an illegitimate birth by creating a new identity for the adoptee who is then considered to be legally reborn – legitimized – through adoption to a married woman and her husband, this law should not apply to me.
I was born the 5th child to married parents in 1956. Our mother had cancer while pregnant with me and died when I was three months old. My father received no supports to keep his family together. He followed his parish priest’s suggestion that “the baby needs two parents.” I hold no anger toward my father for giving me away.
What I am opposed to is the fact that I was born legitimately – I had a name, I had a home, I had a family – and my government took all of that away from me. We know now that family preservation, kinship care, or custodial guardianship are better alternatives to adoption. I was not a blank slate on which a new identity could be legally stamped. All 5 children conceived and born to the same mother and father have birth certificates that link us as family, including me. I am the only one who was relinquished and adopted out. After my adoption, my birth certificate was revoked and sealed and replaced by a false-fact birth certificate. My four older, full blood siblings have the legal right to obtain their birth certificates, I do not, yet we were conceived and born to the same parents.
This has nothing to do with the love and affection my adopters had for me or me to them. This has everything to do with moral and ethical right action. New York State wronged me.
In 1974, when I was 18 years old and still in high school, 4 older siblings I did not know I had found me. They initiated our reunion. I was shocked that my adopters knew but chose not to tell me. The reunion had its difficulties (no need to discuss that here – a dysfunctional reunion points to my broken natural family as well as to the dishonesty of my adoptive family). I have no contact with my older siblings. One died. The other 3 are still abusive to me. I do not want them in my life, yet they harass me through social media, even though I blocked them.
A few days into the beginning of my reunion (1974), my adoptive mother angrily threw all of my personal papers at me: amended birth certificate, original birth certificate, baptismal certificate, falsified baptismal certificate, hospital birth certificate, and final order of adoption. This was the first time I had seen any of these papers. This left me devastated. Not only was my adoptive mother fearful that I’d leave her, but I realized that my government stole my identity.
All 4 of my parents are now deceased.
I have owned my certified original birth certificate since 1974.
In 2016, I legally changed my name back to my full name of birth. Together with the name change court order and my certified original birth certificate, I changed my name and parents’ names with social security, the DMV, and all other government entities that require updating my name with the same social security number.
BUT I DO NOT HAVE THE LEGAL RIGHT TO USE MY STILL SEALED ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE.
I used it anyway.
My operable birth certificate in Albany is in my adoptive name of Joan Mary Wheeler with my adoptive parents falsely named as my parents of birth. Not only is that document a legal lie, it does not match all of my other current and corrected forms of ID, including my passport.
Do you understand NOW what adoption does to adoptees?
Not all adoptees were born illegitimate bastards. Many children of divorced and remarried parents are adopted by their step-parent. Children who are orphaned by the death of one or both parents are adopted. Some children are adopted by their grandparents, or an aunt, or an uncle, or an older sibling. These non-bastards are targeted by the outdated birth certificate law that binds all adoptees into one category. Even those adoptees who are the products of unmarried parents or of rape do not deserve separate treatment concerning the verifiable facts of conception and birth.
This has absolutely NOTHING to do with the misperceived natural parents’ rights to confidentiality. All parents who sign relinquishment papers give up all parental rights. To then turn around decades later to give legal authority to parents who gave up their parental rights the right to redact their names or to prevent all adoptees access to their sealed birth certificates is an absurd notion. That is why Governor Cuomo vetoed that “Mother-May-I” bill in December of 2017.
Adoptees’ civil and human rights to access the truth of our births are rights that the Adoptees’ Rights Bill A9959B will allow. I am asking you to take the stance that you will vote to pass this bill for the advancement of adoptees’ rights to know the truth of our births.
I realize that the passage of Bill A9959B will not revoke adoptees’ amended birth certificates. That is exactly what I demand of my amended birth certificate. I am legally now Doris Michol Sippel (and should have been since birth), yet my legal birth certificate is in my adoptive name of Joan Mary Wheeler.
I will go back to the judge who signed my court order of name change to ask him to unseal and reinstate my original birth certificate to its intended purpose – because the passage of the Adoptees’ Rights Bill A9959B will provide adoptees certified copies of their original birth certificates but it will not allow adoptees to use it as identification.
That will be the next step that New York State will take. There will come a day when all adoptees are respected for who we are at birth and no amended birth certificate will be issued upon adoption. Instead, a truthful adoption certificate will replace the issuance of a falsified birth certificate because no one deserves the stigma of illegitimacy – especially people like me who were born legitimately but labeled as bastards because we were adopted.
Please PASS A9959B.
Doris Michol Sippel
author of Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity
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