In search for personal identity, adoptees push for more access to records

By Kelly McCarthy

March 10, 2014 Updated Mar 11, 2014 at 10:07 AM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) The New York State legislature is sitting on a bill that would give more rights to adopted children. The Bill of Adoptee Rights would allow people access to original birth certificates and medical history once they reach 18.

Julie Larson was born in Johnson City in 1951. Years later, she found out the name her birth mother gave her was Marion Sullivan and that her DNA shows she's Irish.

Now she's advocating for a bill that would give other adopted children like her that information once they turn 18.

"I do feel it would be important to me to fill that gap," Larson said, who now lives in South Carolina, "That's always been a gap in my life and I'd like to know."

Larson has never seen her original birth certificate or any medical history. New York State law does not allow adopted children to access those types of records.

"The birth certificate I have only has the name that I was given by my adopted parents, and the date I was born," Larson said, "And it was issued by Albany so I don't really know what my original birth certificate will say."

The Bill of Adoptee Rights first surfaced in the New York Legislature in the early 1990's, but there's been a constant battle over privacy issues.

"The issue has to do with confidentiality," said Donna Lupardo, D-123rd State Assembly, "And we're debating right now whether or not to amend the bill so that parents who don't want their names release can opt out at that time, and we think that's probably very important for people."

Supporters for The Bill of Adoptee Rights say having access to basic medical history is part of their equal rights, but others are concerned giving adopted children these documents would go against their birth parent's privacy.

The bill now has 80 sponsors in the state Assembly.

Lupardo said sharing stories like Larson's will help get the final push this bill needs.

"It's been a very highly controversial bill," Lupardo said, "We have debated it over a number of years and we hope that one day we can provide some closure by this compromise."

Larson said one of her struggles with having no access to her medical history was battling breast cancer 10 years ago. If passed, the bill would help out not only adoptees, but children of adoptees as well.

"I have a biological daughter and I did have to go through breast cancer 10 years ago," Larson said, "And so for her to have the medical health care information that I don't have is also important."