Is anyone under any obligation to give out their medical histories to family members? Of course not. If you ask your grandmother if she ever had a life threatening disease and she tells you to go sit on ice, will you be filing a non-disclosure of medical history suit against her? Of course not.
What does medical history have to do with obtaining your original birth certificate? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. If, from that original birth certificate, you decide to search for birth family and become reunited, then it is possible that you might find out some medical history information. That discovery comes from searching and reuniting, not from OBC access.
I am under no obligation to tell my biological daughters any medical history information about myself. Nor should adoptees expect that it is their “right” to have their birth families provide them with medical history information. Some will and some won’t. When a Contract Preference Form is included in legislation, there is a trade off that is inherent in the form. IF a birth mother prefers not to be contacted, in order to get her wishes included in the adoptees file, she must fill out a medical history form. The only reason that it is an acceptable practice, is because the birth mother wants something in return (her wish for no contact to be passed on to the adult adoptee).
Anyone who uses medical history as an argument for OBC access is just opening the door to trouble. The legislators will be quick to look at the adoptee and suggest that if they want medical history, then why not create an anonymous medical history registry. That would satisfy the adoptee’s request, while at the same time let the legislators off the hook regarding the emotional subject of OBC access. We all know that registries don’t work. We all know that they are not well maintained, financed or updated. We also all know that dead folks can’t register whether it’s anonymous or not!
It’s beyond time that all adoptees band together and simply ask for what we want. We are adults now and we don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for what is rightfully ours. We need no argument further than the fact that these are OUR birth certificates and we should have them; just like all other adults. Don’t muddy the waters with search, reunion and medical issues. Focus on the simple fact that these should belong to us. Period.
Janet Allen is a member of the Bastard Nation Executive Committee and a second term member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. She was the first person to receive her original birth certificate on January 3, 2005 under New Hampshire’s open records law.