“N.H., Maine adoptee celebrate original birth certificate laws”

N.H., Maine adoptee celebrate original birth certificate laws

CONCORD, N.H. —Advocates for adoptees on Monday celebrated the issuance of the 1,000th original birth certificate under a New Hampshire law that also became the model for legislation enacted just a few weeks ago in neighboring Maine.

“This is the most significant piece of legislation I’ve ever sponsored,” said state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, who’s now serving his 13th year in New Hampshire’s Legislature. D’Allesandro sees the law from a unique perspective as the father of two adoptive children, one of them born in Maine.

“I can’t tell you, the cards and letters I get from people all over the country telling me how glad they are that this has happened,” said the Manchester Democrat.

Since Jan. 2, 2005, New Hampshire has allowed people born there who are 18 and older to obtain their original birth certificates — those with their biological parents’ names — without having to get a judge’s approval first.

Monday’s observance at the state’s vital records office in Concord marked the issuance of the 1,000th birth certificate under that law, which supporters call the first of its kind passed by a New England state and the seventh in the nation.

Advocates say the law helps adoptees find out about their biological parents’ medical histories so they will have more information on whether they and their own children are prone to hereditary diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

While that is a major concern of supporters, it is secondary to the notion that having access to original birth certificates is a basic right of adoptees, said Maine state Sen. Paula Benoit, an adoptee who sponsored the legislation that Gov. John Baldacci signed June 25.

Benoit, R-Phippsburg, said Maine’s law, which takes effect in 2009, restores rights that were taken away in 1953 when Maine passed a law that required adoptees to obtain court orders in order to get access to their original birth certificates. Both Maine’s and New Hampshire’s laws allow biological parents to state that they do not wish to be contacted by a birth child.

Restoration of direct access “is a very big deal for people who have been without an identity,” said Benoit, who attended Monday’s event that also celebrated the passage of Maine’s law. “This is a right everyone has except adoptees born (since 1953).”

Benoit became the key to passage of the Maine law this year after efforts to persuade the previous Legislature to pass it foundered, according to supporters. While advocates prepared well for the previous session’s attempt, “they didn’t have an advocate in the Legislature,” said Benoit. “I was the advocate this year.”

“I had a personal conversation with every single one” of the other 150 legislators, she added.

Paul Schibbelhute, New England Regional Director of the American Adoption Congress, said Benoit “brought a civil tone to the whole debate. She was able to personalize it for the Legislature.”

Shibbelhute’s group says Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Kansas, Oregon and Tennessee also allow adoptees to have access to their original birth certificates.

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