Council to Pass First-in-the-Nation Bill Providing Relief to Sexual Abuse Survivors by Amending Birth Certificates

**RELEASE** March 28th, 2019
CONTACT: Jake Sporn // 516-946-5253 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY -- Today, the NY City Council is expected to pass legislation—initially opposed by the Administration—sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine 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 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. At least eight other women who were also his patients have also since stepped forward anonymously to request this change.

Said Marissa Hoechstetter, “I am overwhelmed with gratitude that the New York City Council is responding to survivors of sexual assault in such a specific and meaningful way. This bill is the result of a legislator listening directly to victims’ needs and using the government’s power to support us. I refuse to leave my abuser’s name on the document marking my children’s birth. I have to carry that pain; they should not. Now, because of Council Member Levine and Speaker Johnson’s commitment to finding a fair solution to an unprecedented yet simple request, I—and others like me—will be able to remove this traumatic reminder from our families’ lives.”

“We can never undo the damage done by abusers who exploit the vulnerability of women in an OB/GYN’s office. 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,” said Council Member Mark Levine. This legislation is a small but important step towards justice for brave women like Marissa Hoechstetter, and sends a clear signal that our government is here to support survivors in any way we can. I’m glad the administration reversed their position on this bill, and I’m grateful to Speaker Johnson for his support in passing it.”

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