Maryland Bill Would Give All Adoptees Access To Original Birth Records

Maryland Bill Would Give All Adoptees Access To Original Birth Records

Video Transcript

DENISE KOCH: Well, it is something that most of us take for granted, an original birth certificate. But for many people who were adopted here in Maryland, that piece of paper isn't so easy to come by. And WJZ is live tonight. Rachel Menitoff explains the legislation that is trying to change all this. Rachel.

RACHEL MENITOFF: Denise, anyone adopted before the year 2000 has to get a court order to unseal his or her original birth certificate, and that's not even a guarantee. This is the rule that many are trying to change.

SUSIE STRICKER: This is my life, you know, and it's missing piece.

RACHEL MENITOFF: Peggy Klappenberger and Susie Stricker have copies of what's called an amended birth certificate.

SUSIE STRICKER: I never knew where I was born, what hospital I was born.

PEGGY KLAPPENBERGER: And I still don't know.

RACHEL MENITOFF: Both were born in Baltimore in the 1960s and '70s, but you'll see there's a lot of information they're missing, like the hospital where they were born and the names of their birth parents, information they say is fundamental to who they are.

SUSIE STRICKER: It's a document that speaks our truth.

RACHEL MENITOFF: Maryland's law says if you were adopted between 1947 and 1999, you have to go through the courts to get an original birth certificate, and many times, those court orders are denied. This rule eventually changed for anyone 21 years old, adopted from 2000 on, but leaves many still wondering where they came from.

SUSAN LEE: We see this as a human rights, a social justice right.

RACHEL MENITOFF: Senator Susan Lee sponsored a bill, which would give all adoptees access to original birth records. It failed in the Senate, 31 to 16, with opponents raising concerns about privacy.

CHERYL KAGAN: This was about making sure that adoptions and adoption law is not radically changed without informing birth mothers and giving them any right to privacy.

RACHEL MENITOFF: Advocates argue that easy access to DNA testing nowadays make this a moot point and promise to keep sharing their stories with the decision makers in Annapolis.

PEGGY KLAPPENBERGER: It may take another time or another time or another time, but we will keep coming back because we believe this is a fundamental right.

RACHEL MENITOFF: Advocates of this bill were not able to testify in person because of the pandemic. They say they're now going to regroup and come back, hopefully, even stronger for the next legislative session. Reporting live tonight at 5:00, I'm Rachel Menitoff for WJZ.