Council Health Chair Levine: City Should Support Abuse Survivors by Amending Birth Certificates

**FOR RELEASE**

December 20, 2018

CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY -- Today, New York City Council Member, and Health Committee Chair, Mark Levine introduced legislation that would require the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Office of Vital Records to redact from birth certificates the name of physicians whose license has been suspended, surrendered or revoked by the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), which licenses and disciplines physicians.

Council Member Levine was moved to sponsor this legislation after hearing survivor advocate Marissa Hoechstetter’s story, as she unsuccessfully sought to have the name of the OB/GYN who sexually assaulted her while she was pregnant removed from her twin daughters’ birth certificates but was denied. Without a clear precedent for how to eliminate a physician’s name from the record, the Council Member’s office attempted to intercede on Ms. Hoechstetter’s behalf, but was told she would need an order from the State Supreme Court to have the doctor’s name stricken from her children’s birth certificates.

Robert A. Hadden, listed on the certificates as the “Name of Attendant at Delivery,” plead guilty to multiple criminal sex acts in 2016. After 19 women accused him of assault, he admitted guilt as part of a plea deal with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office that included surrendering his medical license and registering as a sex offender. For Hoechstetter, the visible reminder of Hadden’s connection to her daughters’ birth proved traumatic. Eight other women who were Hadden’s patients have also since stepped forward anonymously to request this change.

“We cannot undo the damage done by abusers who exploit the vulnerability of women in an OB/GYN’s office,” said Council Health Chair Mark Levine. “The least we can do is not subject survivors--and their children--to the pain of seeing their abuser’s name on a document as foundational and meaningful as a birth certificate. This simple legislative fix is a small but important step towards justice for brave women like Marissa Hoechstetter.”

“This legislation is a concrete example of a lawmaker taking action to directly support survivors. I am grateful to Council Member Levine for taking the time to understand why having the name of a doctor who sexually assaulted me on my children’s birth certificates would be so difficult,” said Marissa Hoechstetter. “Access to my body and delivering my children was a privilege that Hadden abused. While I now live with the reminder of his actions, I refuse to leave my daughters with his name on the document that marks their entrance into this world. The impact of an assault is still felt long after the occurrence. With this legislation, I can now find comfort knowing that my daughters will not continue to carry my abuser’s name into their lives.“

“Sexual assault or other abusive behavior from one’s own doctor is a profound violation. Thanks to Council Member Levine’s legislation, survivors like Marissa Hoechstetter will no longer be forced to remember their abuser every time they look at their child’s birth certificate. I commend Council Member Levine for fighting for justice for survivors like Marissa,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Chair of the Committee on Women.

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