Pennsylvania House Bill 162 to Open Adoption Records UPDATED
See the text of the bill here. It does not discuss medical history or contact with birthfamily, but rather obtaining access to the original birth certificate.
Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights reports here that a successful hearing occurred on July 17, 2013 and they hope that they bill will move forward in the Fall of 2013.
“Since 1985, Pennsylvania has closed adoption records to adoptees, but a a new bill introduced by State Representative Kerry A. Benninghoff would allow adoptees to obtain a copy of their original birth certificates.
KDKA’s Robert Mangino spoke with licensed psychologist Dr. Mary O’Leary Wiley about why adoption records were closed and the importance of the changes that could take place.
“When all of the adoptions records were closed back in 1985, adoptees’ birth certificates were sealed,” explained Dr. O’Leary Wiley, “and the government’s intention was to decrease abortions during that time.” [How exactly would suppressing the rights of adoptees prevent abortions? ]
This process also included foster children who were adopted. Adoptees were issued certificates with their adoptive parent’s names instead of their biological parents.
Dr. O’Leary Wiley said, “If the new bill is put into action, it would only allow adoptees to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate, not necessarily give out medical history or help them get into contact with their biological families.”
When asked why adoptees would want to seek more information, Dr. O’Leary Wiley said, “Most of those who are adopted want to contact their families and also discover their medical history or historical background. Over 99 percent of the birth parents want to have contact with their children at some point.”
The doctor believes the House could vote on the introduced bill from as soon as a few weeks to possibly a few months.”
[CBS Pittsburgh 7/30/13]
“When Pennsylvania children are adopted, the state seals their original birth certificates and issues revised certificates that name the adoptive parents instead of the biological parents.
Those documents don’t even indicate that an adoption took place.
The state has not allowed adoptees to see their original birth certificates since 1985. But a bill introduced this year by state Rep. Kerry A. Benninghoff would grant that right to adult adoptees born in Pennsylvania.
Before introducing the bill, the Centre County Republican sent a memo to House members listing several reasons adoptees might want to access their birth records.
Some want to establish relationships with their birth families or seek information about their medical history, according to Benninghoff. Others are interested in discovering their ancestral roots.
“While the legislative battle often pits an adoptee’s right to his or her birth certificate against a birth parent’s right to privacy, the movement toward access is growing, with a number of legislative initiatives across the county,” Benninghoff wrote.
Dr. Mary O’Leary Wiley, an Altoona psychologist who specializes in adoption issues, recently offered testimony at a public hearing on the legislation in Harrisburg.
O’Leary Wiley, who was adopted as a baby 59 years ago, was reunited with her birth family at age 29. She told the Reading Eagle that she supports the bill because adoptees should have the same rights as everyone else.
“Adult adoptees are the only citizens in the U.S. that are denied by law information about themselves,” she said.”
[Reading Eagle 7/29/13 by Beth Anne Heeson]
“Her mother was 20, “nice-looking” and “refined,” a department-store employee who liked charcoal drawing and writing poetry. Her 23-year-old father worked in a factory and wasn’t told he had a daughter born in or near Allentown, Pa., on April 20, 1968.
That’s about all Illinois state Rep. Ann Williams knows about her parents because Pennsylvania seals birth certificates of adopted babies. But the Chicago Democrat hopes her testimony earlier this month before a legislative committee will help change that.
“Everybody wants to know how their story begins, right? You always tell stories around the dinner table,” Williams said. “I don’t have that. I’ve got, ‘The birth parents had known each other since high school. They never discussed marriage.’”
Williams was invited to speak on proposed Pennsylvania legislation by, Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, a Republican and adoptee from Bellefonte, Pa. Original birth certificates are available to adult adoptees in 11 states – including Illinois, where 8,800 adoptees have received them since the state re-opened long-sealed records in 2010.
Williams, reared primarily in Chicago by her adoptive parents, Barbara and Richard Williams, contacted Catholic Social Agency in Allentown about 15 years ago and received the legally allowed “non-identifying information” – a social worker’s written summary of redacted records.
That’s where she learned about the drawing and the poetry. The University of Iowa journalism graduate also learned her birth mother’s older sister was a journalist and their father had owned a newspaper.
The documents don’t detail the relationship between Williams’ parents – her mother said the man was “sweet and witty” but didn’t tell him about the baby. The mother hoped the agency would care for the baby temporarily while she established herself in another town, but then agreed to give her up.
Williams said she would like to quiz her mother but mostly thank her for the sacrifice. If her mother doesn’t want to meet, so be it.
“I’ve got to believe that she’s wondered over the years how it all turned out,” she said. “It’s not something the state should have power to decide or determine … We’re adults. We can handle our own relationship. Or not – and then, we’re just two people.”
[Kansas.com 7/28/13 by John O'Connor/Associated Press]
REFORM Puzzle Piece
Update: It passes!
“The state House of Representatives has unanimously approved a bill that would enable adoptees 19 and older to access their original birth certificates without birth parents’ consent.
“It’s time to give adoptees in Pennsylvania the same access as foster children and those raised by their birth parents,” said state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, the Centre County Republican who introduced House Bill 162, after Wednesday’s vote.
Benninghoff, an adoptee himself, said advances in DNA testing and ancestry registries are making it meaningless to deny adoptees their birth records anyway.
When children are adopted, they receive revised certificates that name their adoptive parents instead of their biological parents. The state started sealing the original documents in 1984, and will grant access to adult adoptees only if the birth parents have filed consent forms.
Liz McCauley, a Kenhorst woman who was adopted as a 3-week-old baby in January 1967, said having her original birth records would bring peace of mind.
Adoptees should have the right to know who they are, she said.
At 46, it bothers McCauley that she knows nothing about her medical history, and she’s curious to know her ethnic heritage.
Those against the adoption bill say it would violate birth parents’ privacy, and some opponents say it might encourage women to choose abortion over adoption.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference opposes the bill for those reasons.
Adam Pertman, president of the Donaldson Adoption Institute, said abortion rates have not gone up in states that opened records.
The bill heads to the state Senate for consideration.”
House OKs measure to allow adoptees to get birth certificates[Reading Eagle 10/25/13 by Beth Anne Heeson]