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March 4, 2013

Oklahoma adoptee speaks out for change in law

NORMAN — At age 36, Norman resident Kevin Lewis knows he will take action to be screened for a genetically inheritable form of cancer. His biological father died from cancer in 2005, and that puts him in a high-risk category.

Taking precautions based on medical history is not unusual. What is unusual is that Lewis only learned this important information last year. Lewis, like many Oklahomans who were adopted, did not have the right to his own birth records or medical history under state law. Proposed legislation this session could change that.

House Bill 1118, as authored by Rep. Wade Rousselot, D-Wagoner, creates the Oklahoma Truth in Adoption Act which, beginning July 1, 2014, would allow adult adoptees born in Oklahoma or their descendants to obtain a noncertified copy of their original birth certificates.

The measure would allow a biological parent to file a contact preference form accompanied by an updated medical and social history with the Registrar of Vital Statistics to be made available to the adult adoptee.

“I’d always known I was adopted,” Lewis said. “As a little kid, I had two birthdays, my actual birthday and a special day. I think that was, all things considered, the true genius of my adopted parents.”

He now knows this life-saving medical information about his biological father’s cancer because his birth mother, Jackie Dawes, tracked him down at great time and expense.

“She reached out to me,” he said. “I got a letter in the mail on Feb. 15 last year and my mother read it to me over the phone. I had to pull off the road. I started uncontrollably crying.”

Hearing from his biological mother after all those years was a dream come true.

“Every day after that and probably six months after that, I felt like I was in a movie. It felt very surreal,” he said. “Not every day is always wine and roses, there are days as you replay your entire life in your mind and you think about the way that you were and you understand why you are the way you are.”

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