November 20, 2007
Editorial: Adoptees birth records should be open to them
A woman in her mid-40ths once said “As a child, I would look into the mirror and wonder 'Why do I have curly hair?”
Within days of the birth of his child, a young man discovers he is a carrier for a gene that caused a birth defect in his newborn daughter.
Both are adult adoptees who knew from an early age they were adopted. Both insist their quest for learning more about their origins had little to do with disrupting their birth parents' lives. Their quests were for answers to their identity and family medical history.
A leading adoption institute is lobbying to open birth records to adults who were adopted. It proposes they are denied rights given to other Americans — access to their birth certificates.
While Kansas and Alaska never denied adoptees from seeing their birth certificates, six other states have opened their birth records to adult adoptees since 1996. Those states - Alabama, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Tennessee - have reported few problems with the new policy.
Maine is the most recent state to opt for open records. Adoptees born in that state will be allowed access to their birth records starting in 2009. A sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Paula Benoit, is an adoptee who uncovered her own biological background while working on the bill. She learned that two lawmakers she was working with were her nephews.
Another advocate of open records is Eileen McQuade of Delray Beach, Fla., who placed her daughter for adoption in the 1960s. “Secrecy was the way it was done at that time - it was not a choice or a preference on the part of the mothers,” she said.
The Donaldson report portrays adopted people as the only class of Americans not permitted to routinely obtain their birth certificates. Giving adult adoptees full access to their birth certificates is a step toward placing everyone connected with the adoptees on a level playing field without the stigma, shame or treatment they have experienced in the past.
Oklahoma should join other states opening their birth records to adult adoptees. Give them a choice in learning more about their origins.