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N.Y. bill would facilitate access to birth records for adoptees

ALBANY, N.Y. — A 20-year-old bill that would make it easier for adoptees age 18 and older to get their original birth records is up again in the New York Legislature, where backers say it has more momentum than in the past.

Supporters of the Bill of Adoptee Rights argue that information from unsealed birth records is vital to the medical and mental health of adoptees, while opponents contend that easing disclosure rules could violate a birth parent’s privacy.

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The bill, first introduced during the 1993-1994 session, had not gained much support in the Assembly until recently.

Assemblyman David Weprin, a sponsor of the bill, said: “An adoptee has the right to know basic information about themselves. Why should they be discriminated against for a missing piece of the puzzle that is their identity?’’

The proposed law would give adoptees the right to get copies of their unsealed birth certificate and medical history form, if available.

Unsealed birth certificates contain their original birth name, the name of their birth parents, their address at the time of birth, the date and location of birth, and religious and ethnic heritage.

Adoptees and birth mothers testified at a recent hearing held by the Assembly Health Committee. Among them was Ellen Mohr, 88, a Charlottesville, Va., resident who grew up in New York and began the search for information about her biological parents four years ago fearing that she ‘‘might not live much longer,’’ and because she did not want to offend her adoptive family.

Opponents of the bill say that the measure could leave biological parents who were promised confidentiality vulnerable to unwanted interaction with the adoptees.

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