GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — New bills in Lansing are aiming to make birth certificate access more equitable for adoptees in Michigan.
With a mother who was adopted, Michigan Rep. Kristian Grant, D-Grand Rapids, has seen the impact of not having access to important birth records.
“Throughout my life, I have seen her run into dead-ends when it came to finding out issues about her health and other things because she didn’t have access to her vital records,” Grant said.
Those challenges were created by a Michigan law that prevents people adopted between May 28, 1945 and Sept. 12, 1980, from obtaining their original birth certificate without a court order or other tough guidelines.
“You have less access to your information and a more complicated path to take than others. My mom was born in that, they call it the donut hole,” Grant said.
While Grant said her mother was able to eventually connect with her birth family, there are plenty of others throughout the state who haven’t had the same opportunity.
In response, Grant and State Rep. Pat Outman, R-Six Lakes, introduced two new bills that would allow adopted people to obtain their original birth certificate through the state registrar after they turn 18.
“So, it gives that adoptive family time to have that conversation and time to build their relationship,” Grant said.
The legislation also gives birth parents the right to say whether they’d like to be contacted.
“If you’re able to access the information that’s important to you but also know that this person would not like to be contacted and you’ve known that throughout your life, it makes the process different. You’ve had time to take it in and handle that,” Grant said.
The Michigan Adoptee Rights Coalition, comprised of the Adoptee Advocates of Michigan, Michigan Adoptee Collaborative, and the Adoptee Right Law Center, has pushed for this type of legislation.
Erica Curry Van Ee, the founder and president of the Michigan Adoptee Collaborative, was also adopted and said when her home state of Ohio allowed access to original birth certificates, it had a major impact.
“I gained information about my medical history that I believe will extend my life,” Curry Van Ee said. “I found biological relatives that died of breast cancer at the age I’m at today. As a result of that, I was put in a high-risk breast health program.”
Curry Van Ee said Michigan’s current adoption records laws are “striking.”
“It doesn’t make any sense that we’ve got different laws and regulations for different times in history in the state of Michigan but it’s not unique to Michigan,” Curry Van Ee said. “I think it is indicative of the views and perspectives about adoption over time.”
Curry Van Ee added that 15 other states have already streamlined their process and she said adding Michigan to that list is about basic human rights.
“For every person to know who they are and where they came from,” Curry Van Ee said. “It’s very difficult to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you came from.
The bills have been referred to a House committee and Grant said testimony on the legislation is expected within the next month.