House Bill to Restore Birth Certificate Access to Pennsylvania-born Adult Adoptees Goes to House Committee with Amendment Added

For immediate release
HARRISBURG, PA—June 22, 2015

On Thursday, June 25, the Pennsylvania House Children and Youth Committee voted on a bill that would allow adult adoptees to access their original birth certificates. The bill, HB162, has been amended from its original form.

The amendment would allow birth parents who relinquished prior to the legislation going into effect a six month window after the bill goes into effect to redact their names from their relinquished son or daughter’s original birth certificate. Once the six month period is over, there will be no further opportunity for birth parents to make redactions, and all original birth certificates will be provided upon request to adult adoptees age 18 and over. Every five years, adoptees subjected to redactions can request that the PA Department of Health contacts their birth parent(s) to see if the redaction status has changed. Should the department not be able to make contact with the birth parent or finds (s)he is deceased, the original birth certificate will be provided to the adoptee without redaction. All adoptees with adoptions finalized after the legislation takes effect will be able to access their original birth certificates at age 18 without redactions.

“We have been informed that we cannot move our cause forward without this amendment,” stated Amanda Transue-Woolston, founder of Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights. “Although we appreciate that the amendment seeks to protect future generations of adoptees from being affected by past legislative injustices, we cannot accept that it would leave some adult adoptees behind.”

Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights no longer considers HB162 a bill intended to restore equal rights under law to adult adoptees born within the Commonwealth.  While PAR supports the language of the amendment that ensures future generations of adoptees will have unimpeded access to their original birth certificates, we oppose name redactions, as this does not treat adopted citizens equally under the law. Therefore, we stand in opposition to the bill in its current form.

The organization intends to suggest alternatives to the amendment at every point in the process that allows for revisions to be made. We believe in working with the Pennsylvania Legislature to ensure that future generations of adoptees will have access to their original birth certificates, but without denying original birth certificate access to adults and youth who have already been adopted.

Should HB162 be voted out of Committee, PAR will release a call to action for adoptee rights supporters to encourage the PA House of Representatives to amend the bill back to its original form.

“Changing our position on this bill does not mean we’ve given up on Pennsylvania adoptees,” Transue-Woolston clarifies. “If our General Assembly isn’t willing at this time to pass a bill that’s fair to all adoptees, we will switch our focus to providing education rather than trying to pass legislation. We will come back and try again.”

When a child is adopted in the state of Pennsylvania, the adoptee’s original, factual birth certificate is altered–or amended–to make it appear as though the adoptive parents actually gave birth to the adoptee. There is no indication on the amended birth certificate that an adoption even took place. The original, factual birth certificate is sealed away and not legally recognized. Currently, Pennsylvania-born adult adoptees (age 18+) are not allowed to access their original birth certificate. In contrast, all non-adopted adults born in Pennsylvania can obtain a copy of their original birth certificates through a simple request process.

Prior to 1984, adult adoptees born in Pennsylvania were able to access their original birth certificates just as all non-adopted adults who were born in Pennsylvania. This equality under law changed upon the enactment of Act 195, The Adoption Act of 1984, which took away the right for adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificates. Because of The Adoption Act of 1984, all Pennsylvania-born adult adoptees have been treated differently from all Pennsylvania-born non-adopted adults under law for over two decades.

PAR is a grassroots group of adult adoptees, original families, adoptive families, and allies who share the common goal of influencing positive legislation that restores original birth certificate access to adult adoptees born in Pennsylvania.

For more information on HB 162 and to view the guide to adoptee rights in Pennsylvania, visit www.pennsylvaniaadopteerights.org.

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A grassroots advocacy group empowering adoptees and their families since 2009.

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