There are between six and eight million adopted people in the United States and the vast majority of them will never have access to their original birth certificates. All information on their birth parents is sealed. For decades, several advocacy groups have been trying to change this, claiming that humans have a right to own their own histories.
Today, original birth certificates are widely or entirely available to adult adoptees in nine states (including in Kansas and Alaska, where they were never sealed). In about a dozen other states, some adoptees can get access to their birth certificates if they were born before a certain date. Additionally, lawmakers in at least eleven states are currently considering the issue.
But there are opponents from groups as diverse as the ACLU, New Jersey Board Association, New Jersey Right to Life, and Catholic Charities who are fighting to keep original birth certificates sealed. Among their arguments: that opening records would violate the privacy of birth mothers; and that without anonymous adoption available, more women will choose to have abortions.
Tom Snyder chairs the family law section of the New Jersey State Bar Association. Over the past several years, he's testified before the New Jersey Senate subcommittees and Assembly subcommittees, lobbying against the New Jersey Adoptee Rights Bill, which would open records sealed decades ago.
Diane Crossfield is an adult adoptee from Kentucky who's been trying to access her original birth certificate for over twelve years. She's also one of the of the founders of the Adoptee Rights Coalition, which fights on behalf of adoptees, birth mothers, and adoptive parents who believe that original birth certificate records should not be sealed.
We talk with both of them about the impacts opening original birth certificates records could have on adoptees and those who are touched by adoption.