An original birth certificate is about truth: nothing more, nothing less.
Truth for adoptees can get complicated. We are born, and our births are recorded like any others: place of birth, time of birth, parent names, often our own original names. Things change months later, when we are adopted. That first birth record on file—still containing all of our information and truth—is replaced by a second birth certificate. Our names are changed, our truth is amended, our birth parents’ names are replaced by those of adoptive parents.
Don’t get fooled by groups that promise access to an original birth certificate but ultimately deliver black boxes. Get the truth here or contact me with questions. Or sign up here to get ongoing updates and advocacy new in Florida.
All of this was done years ago as a way to suppress the truth and promote a very specific fiction: that we were born “legitimately” to adoptive parents. For these reasons our first birth certificate is placed under seal and made unavailable, even decades later, even when you become a grandmother. And that first record, the original birth certificate, remains unchanged. It is what we call the OBC.
The OBC is our truth. It should be ours, without restriction.
Get Informed and Step Up
Get informed about who holds the truth in your own state. Our summary of the laws of all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, includes specific information about access to OBCs. We also highlight the barriers most states have constructed to deny or limit adult adoptees to their own truths, including disclosure vetoes, complex registries, mandatory counseling, or redaction.
Understand the difference between a birth record and an adoption record. A birth record is a vital record. It is sealed only when an adoption becomes final (and unsealed if an adoption fails). So, while created as a result of adoption, the original birth certificate is never about adoption. It is always about birth. It is always your own vital record. Unchanged.
Step up for adoptee rights. Bastard Nation, the adoptee rights organization, advocates nationally for adoptees and tracks legislation and adoptee-related developments. Local groups in many states are also advocating on the ground for changes in state laws, including pending legislation in New York, Florida, and Massachusetts. Contact local groups to understand what you can do and how you can advocate for change. And, if you are not an adoptee, be supportive of what we are trying to do and understand why what we are doing is so important.
Finally, watch for issues that may lead to legal challenges. If you are denied access to an original birth certificate, let us know. If you have gone to court to get one, let me know—copies of court orders may help me understand local issues and to develop legal strategies to challenge laws that are unjust. While I am working to build a network of pro bono or low-cost attorneys who can advocate in court for access to OBCs, it will take time, coordination, and effort. But it may be an important next step to secure adoptee rights.