Real birther issue is still unresolved
Joan Wheeler, born Doris Sippel, lives in Buffalo and thinks adoptees should have access to their birth records.
Published: June 10, 2011, 12:00 AM
President Obama recently released a copy of his long-form original birth certificate to prove that he was born in the United States. If he had been adopted, he would not be able to produce his original birth certificate for the public or even for his own viewing. By law, he would be able to obtain only an amended birth certificate.
Does this mean that adoptees are prohibited from becoming president?
I am an adoptee and I have two conflicting birth certificates.
As in all adoptions, the judge who presided over my adoption ordered my original birth certificate sealed and replaced with an amended one. The registrar of vital records switched most of my birth facts onto a new document, but the amended certificate does not contain the attending physician’s signature attesting that he
witnessed the birth. And it does not prove who my biological mother and father were.
In the aftermath of 9/11, to obtain a passport or an enhanced driver’s license, one must present documentation of birth filed within five days of birth. Many adoptees’ amended certificates were issued a year or more after birth; delayed birth certificates are not acceptable proof of birth. And amended certificates don’t prove who actually gave birth to the individual named. Adoptees cannot obtain documentation of birth and adoption because these records are sealed.
Birth records for adoptees have been sealed and altered since the 1930s to hide illegitimacy for mother and infant, and to protect adoptive parents. The adoptee rights movement began in the 1950s to change these laws. Two states never sealed records; six states have varying degrees of open records. New York has been a closed-record state since 1935.
I, like many adoptees, want unrestricted access to my original birth certificate. Adoptees are the only group of people denied access to their own birth record. This is a matter of civil rights, social inequality, personal dignity and genealogical knowledge. Non-adoptees can obtain their birth record, but adoptees cannot get theirs.
Opponents to open records claim mothers’ identities must be kept secret because they were promised confidentiality. Mothers who have lost children to adoption say that secrecy was imposed upon them. Additionally, the stigma of illegitimacy doesn’t hold true for full or half orphans (like myself) or step-parent adoptees. Adoptees say that stigma in adoption is unwarranted.
So, how did I get my short-and long-form original birth certificate if the records were sealed?
My widowed father, at the time he relinquished me, gave my birth certificates to my adoptive parents. When I turned 18, they, in turn, gave the documents to me.
Despite this, I am still legally prevented from obtaining my original birth certificate.
All amended birth certificates state the adoptee’s new name, replace the parents by birth with the names of the new parents and include most facts of the birth. A registrar of vital statistics certifies the facts are true. They are not, since no adoptee is born to the parents named on the amended certificate.
New York State adoptees are supporting passage of Senate Bill 1438 and Assembly Bill 2003, which would give adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates. This is half of the solution. For true adoptee equality, falsified amended birth certificates should be replaced with honest adoption certificates.