In our continuing effort to repair the damage to public education done by birthers, I want to talk about “unique identifiers” and birth certificates as identity documents.
In a recent article Margaret Hemenway (spokesperson for Terry Lakin and daughter of the sanctioned attorney in the Hollister v Soetoro case) on the Accuracy [sic] in Media article entitled: How the Media Lied about Obama’s Birth Records wrote:
Most people consider a birth certificate as a state or hospital document containing a statement by a hospital and physician, or midwife, with a footprint or other unique identifiers.
Part of that is true. Birth certificates, which certify facts of birth, are based on information collected from various sources including someone who witnessed the birth, most often a doctor. However, most information on the birth certificate usually comes form the mother, specifically the child’s name, the parents’ names and address and social-security numbers if present. The attendant adds the date, time and place of birth and the fact that the child was born alive. Most modern certificates omit the hospital name and that of the doctor when they are printed for the public. None have a statement “by a hospital” as hospitals to not talk.
Birth certificates do not “identify”
I work extensively in the field, and I have never seen a state-issued birth certificate with a footprint on it, and I have seen tens of millions of birth certificates in bound volumes or computer records. (Sometime hospital-issued souvenirs have footprints.) It is important to keep in mind that a birth certificate is not an identity document, and even if it were, infant footprints are not useful for identification after the child grows up. While a birth certificate is proof of the facts of birth, it is not proof that a person holding a birth certificate is the person whose name is on it.
The only unique identifier on a birth certificate (typically) is the birth certificate number, which is present on all modern certificates. President Obama’s birth certificate number is 151-61-10641. The format is “1” + state code + year + sequential number. (Due to clerical errors in various states not all birth certificate numbers are actually unique, but they are supposed to be.)
The social-security numbers (unique identifiers) of the parents are collected as part of the birth registration process but this along with hundreds of other items of information is not printed on a birth certificate form (either long or short).
All publicly available birth certificates are “short forms.”
Modern birth certificates contain something on the order of 500 pieces of information, from the number of drinks of alcohol the m0ther had per week during pregnancy to the child’s Apgar score after 5 minutes. The certificate has whether forceps were used in the delivery and whether the child had Down’s syndrome. That’s the kind of information on a full certificate, a document you will never see unless you work for the state health department. You see, all publicly available birth certificates are “short forms.” The only real distinction is which items of data the particular state puts on the form. Some states print multiple versions of the forms with more information on some than others. Even my birth certificate, which is a photocopy of the hospital registration with the doctor’s signature, is photographically cropped to hide the bottom half of the form where the medical/statistical information appears.
The important thing to remember about this article is that a birth certificate is not an identity document and it does not identify anyone, uniquely or otherwise.
This citation is from Minimum Standards for Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards Acceptable by Federal Agencies for Official Purposes; Proposed Rule 6 CFR Part 37.
DHS recognizes that a birth certificate is not an identity document in the true sense of the term. Instead, a birth certificate is a record that a birth took place at a particular time and place, and nothing (such as a photograph or other biometric) ties a particular person to a particular birth.
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Section 7211, mandated that minimum standards be set for birth certificates acceptable for federal purposes. The Department of Health and Human Services (of which the National Center for Health Statistics is a part) was tasked with issuing the standard. The statute defined a “birth certificate” as follows:
(a) DEFINITION- In this section, the term `birth certificate’ means a certificate of birth–(1) for an individual (regardless of where born)–(A) who is a citizen or national of the United States at birth; and(B) whose birth is registered in the United States; and(2) that–(A) is issued by a Federal, State, or local government agency or authorized custodian of record and produced from birth records maintained by such agency or custodian of record; or(B) is an authenticated copy, issued by a Federal, State, or local government agency or authorized custodian of record, of an original certificate of birth issued by such agency or custodian of record.
IRTPA specifically mandates three categories of minimum standards for vital registration, including standards on (1) the certification of birth certificates and the use of safety paper, (2) proof and verification of identity as a condition of issuance of a birth certificate, and (3) processing of birth certificate applications to prevent fraud.