A passionate group of advocates for H.2045 and S.1144 gathered at the State House to offer testimony and support passage of the bills.
Here's some of the testimony:
To Whom It May Concern,
The American Adoption Congress (AAC) is comprised of individuals, families and organizations committed to adoption reform. We represent those whose lives are touched by adoption or other loss of family continuity. Since our inception in 1978, our mission has been to promote honesty, openness and respect for family connections in adoption, foster care and assisted reproduction. The American Adoption Congress believes that growth, responsibility, and respect for self and others develop best in lives that are rooted in truth. The AAC is committed to achieving changes in attitudes, policies, and legislation that will guarantee access to identifying information for all adoptees and their birth and adoptive families.
Allowing adopted adults access to a true and accurate copy of their birth certificates speaks to the core mission and fundamental beliefs of the American Adoption Congress. The need for this information is both practical and personal; restoring access to the original birth certificate has the ability to provide to the adopted person information pertaining to their biological origins. This information could lead to life saving medical knowledge, confirm ethnicity, and provide additional information relating to cultural background and other needed genetic information. On a personal level, individuals have the right to know their full story and the story of every human being begins with their birth.
Recognizing the crucial important of this issue, other states have restored access to this information and the data demonstrates positive results. The institution of adoption has not been harmed, abortion rates have not increased, and lives are improved when individuals are allowed knowledge of their complete and accurate history. The research has consistently demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of original parents are not seeking to remain anonymous to the child they gave birth to. Further, best practice in adoption today speaks to openness and honesty. The vast majority adoptions that happen today occur in a spirit of openness, where birth and adoptive parents have knowledge of each other and develop various types of relationships over time. This shift in practice from a confidential system to an open one occurred based on empirical and anecdotal evidence that demonstrated the harm a secret and closed system perpetuated on all members of the adoption constellation, most especially the adopted person.
It is important to recognize also that even in the absence of access to identifying information, adopted persons and their original families have searched and located each other for many years. This process has only increased with advances in technology through social media and internet searches as well as the development of more precise DNA testing methods. Search and reunion is ancillary to the greater issue at hand; the civil and human right for all individuals to keep in their possession a true and accurate copy of their own birth certificate.
The law in Massachusetts currently allows a segment of adopted adult’s access to their original birth certificate. This includes individuals born and adopted prior to July 17, 1974, and those born and adopted after January 1st, 2008. Advocates in Massachusetts are currently seeking to create equality for all adopted person by allowing access to those born and adopted between this time frame. The AAC supports these efforts and urges the government in Massachusetts to pass legislation allowing for this equality to occur. Adopted persons, like every other human being, have a right to their own vital information. We have every hope that the state of Massachusetts will recognize this inherent truth and act to support this change in the law.
Thank you for your time and attention to this critical matter. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can provide any additional information.
President, American Adoption Congress
Kimberly Paglino on behalf of the Legislative Committee
Interim Chair, American Adoption Congress Legislative Committee
Testimony of Etta Lappen Davis
Concerning H.2045 and S.1144
Joint Committee on Public Health
June 23, 2015
Committee Chairs Senator Lewis, and Representative Hogan, Vice Chairs, and Committee members, I thank you for this opportunity to offer testimony on H.2045 and S.1144.
My name is Etta Lappen Davis. I am principal of Etsky Consulting in Bolton, specializing in providing assistance to child welfare and social service organizations. I am also the (volunteer) coordinator of Access Massachusetts, a grass roots effort to restore the human right to access to their original birth certificates to ALL adopted persons born in the Commonwealth. Access Massachusetts members represent people who were adopted, birth/first/original/natural parents, adoptive parents, adoption professionals, and extended family of people touched by adoption.
Access Massachusetts is grateful to Representative John Rogers and Senator Michael Rush for filing H.2045, and to Senator Jamie Eldridge for filing S.1144. We are also grateful to the 23 additional Legislators, including members of this Joint Committee, who signed on to one or both bills.
Access Massachusetts believes that current MA law is discriminatory because it does not allow access to their original birth certificates to adoptees born between July 17, 1974 and January 1, 2008.
These bills are about restoring the human right for all persons born in Massachusetts between those dates to obtain noncertified copies of their Original Birth Certificates (OBC) from the Registry of Vital Records. All adopted persons should have the same right as all other citizens of Massachusetts.
These bills are purely and simply about ending discrimination against adopted persons who were born in MA during those “gap” years. These bills are purely and simply about treating people equally.
Access Massachusetts believes that there can be no rational justification for granting access to an original birth certificate to someone born on one date, while denying the same human right to someone born a day, a month, or a year later.
Opponents of this bill will claim that birth parents were promised confidentiality and that this bill would break that promise. In truth, birth parents’ names and identities could never be fully protected. Access Massachusetts has provided more information on this point to members of the Committee. In truth, original birth certificates are not altered until the time of adoption; if there is no adoption, identifying information about birth parents who relinquished parental rights, or whose rights were terminated, remains unsealed and accessible. There can be, and never could be, guarantees of confidentiality.
I have included two additional Access Massachusetts documents with my testimony: the statements and positions of prestigious national and Massachusetts organizations, all supporting access to birth certificates; and, a “Frequently Asked Questions” document. We also refer Committee members to our website www.OBCforMA.org, where you will find additional information and resources.
Members of Access Massachusetts are opposed to any denial of access to birth certificates to any person born in the state. With that in mind, we oppose H.2036, which would limit access and we urge you not to report favorably on it.
Finally, we urge you to champion equality and report out favorably on H.2045 and S.1144.
Access MA stands ready to assist the Committee as you consider these bills. Please contact us if additional information from us would be helpful.
Etta Lappen Davis
After the hearing, we visited the office of Representative John Rogers, who filed H.2045, and met with Chief of Staff, Bill Buckley.