Last November, Governor Tom Wolf signed HB 162 into law. Which means, beginning this November adult adoptees born in Pennsylvania can file for a non-certified copy of their original birth certificates. Current law states that an adoptee is able to petition the courts for a copy of their original birth certificates for a “good cause”, however a judge had the ability to deny it.
Pennsylvania Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, argued that this new legislation will give adoptees and their birth parents a chance to connect if they wish to do so. “Legislators often don’t understand how deeply the issue affects adoptees and how many people’s lives can be enhanced by having birth parents and children they gave up for adoption make contact.”
Pennsylvania was one of the last states to seal OBC’s from adoptees, back in 1984. Today only nine states allow adoptees unrestricted access to their birth certificates, while others give limited access. And in twenty states, including California and New York, adoptees cannot obtain any of their original birth records.
Opponents of the bill state that records should not be opened to adoptees without the biological parents’ consent. They believe that open records will violate the privacy of a birth mother who may not want her information disclosed.
However, advocates for the bill note that there are laws established to protect birth parents. Most states, that permit open access, omit the birth parents’ identity altogether, while some states allow birth parents’ to have their name redacted upon request.
The National Council for Adoption, believes there are pros and cons with opening records to adoptees. The group is in favor of voluntary registries and confidential intermediaries. However, they are concerned that full access could overstep the privacy of birth mothers.
Although, beginning this fall Pennsylvania-born adoptees can request and receive copies of their original birth certificate, it comes with pre-requisites. An adoptee must be at least 18, graduated from high school/GED, or have legally withdrawn from secondary schooling.
If the biological parent(s) have requested a redaction, the adoptee will receive an OBC without the idenity of his/her birth parent(s).
While many adoptees believe this new legislation is groundbreaking, there are others who do not support the law. The Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights group (PAR) called the bill “bitter sweet”.
“While we do not support any legislation that continues to treat adopted citizens differently under law to all non-adopted citizens, we do understand that others are willing to accept a legislative change such as this one,” said a PAR rep. “For those who will end up receiving redacted copies of their OBCs, please know that we did everything we could to pass fair and just legislation”.
For more information on obtaining a non certified copy of an original birth certificate in PA, visit: http://www.health.pa.gov/MyRecords/Certificates/Pages/11596.aspx#.WWOtHITyuUm