Wednesday, September 17, 2014

PA, Adoptee Rights, and an Amended Bill--What now?

Photo (c) Julie Stromberg
On Tuesday, September 16, 2014, the Pennsylvania Senate Aging and Youth Committee held a voting hearing for HB 162.  As drafted, HB 162 would restore the right of PA-born adult adoptees, nineteen years or older, to access a copy of their original birth certificate (OBC) with the same regard under the law enjoyed by every other PA-born citizen.

When a child is adopted in the U.S., a amended birth record replaces their OBC that lists their adoptive parents as their biological parents.  In 48 states, the OBC is sealed.  Every single state has a law on the books providing for the release of the OBC to the adoptee at the discretion of a judge in addition to other avenues of access. However, only six states honor the right of adult adoptees to access their OBC with the same regard as all other people.

The history of how HB 162 came to be is peculiar. Until 1985, Pennsylvania was one of three states that allowed adoptees equal access to their OBCs.  Following the passing of Roe v. Wade, concerns arose in religious pro-life communities that adoptees accessing their OBCs would increase abortion rates. They first questioned the interpretation of the law. In 1978, the PA Attorney General issued an official statement identifying OBCs as separate from sealed adoption records and confirmed that Vital Statistics should continue to release OBCs to adult adoptees.