When Catherine Robishaw found out her birth mother’s name in 1993, she discovered the Lisbon Falls woman had been dead for 10 years.

The woman who had placed her for adoption died of cancer at 35. The news made Robishaw more vigilant about her own health, getting regular check-ups and tests.

Two years ago, at age 35, Robishaw’s doctor detected that same disease in the pre-cancerous stage.

“It saved my life. I really feel in my heart it did,” Robishaw, of Falmouth, said Tuesday. “I think it’s really important that everyone have their medical history.”

She and a handful of others, inspired by success in New Hampshire, are behind a new push to open the original birth certificates of people adopted in Maine.

Since those records became available in New Hampshire on New Year’s Day, 512 people have requested copies.

Eleven parents have written the New Hampshire Division of Vital Records to indicate they do not want any contact with the children they gave up, Director William Bolton said.

Any Maine law would be structured the same way, said Bobbi Beavers, Maine’s representative to the American Adoption Congress. If a birth parent wished to have no contact with their adult adoptee, the parent would be required to file an updated family medical report.

“This is not about reunion. It is about the human right of everyone else except adoptees to have access to their original birth certificates, access to their medical history,” said Beavers, of South Berwick, who gave birth to a child after a rape and placed the boy for adoption.

Five states allow adoptees open access to their birth certificates: Oregon, Alaska, Kansas, Alabama and New Hampshire. Supporters in other states have pushed the issue for years without success.

Beavers and others have named their effort ACCESS 2006. She believes a year is enough time to get the change passed in Maine.

Adoption records have been sealed here since 1953.

Since 1979, Maine has maintained an adoption registry. If two parties each add their name to the list – an adoptee and birth parent, an adoptee and sibling – the state makes the match.

More than 1,700 people have put their names on the list.

It has resulted in 59 reunions, according to the state’s vital records office.

That “is not a lot, over 26 years,” said Beavers. “If either party is deceased, it doesn’t work. We don’t object to (the registry), we’re just saying it’s not enough.”

The small group has been to the State House to rally support and find sponsors to introduce legislation.

At the time of an adoption, birth parents make decisions, adoptive parents make decisions, but, Robishaw said, “What about the child? Their rights were signed away by everybody else.”

A public gathering for supporters and organizers of ACCESS 2006 is tentatively planned for the end of April. More information may be obtained by sending e-mail to Bobbi Beavers at [email protected] or Catherine Robishaw at [email protected]


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