New Law Allows Illinois Adoptees to Obtain Original Birth Certificates

CC image Elinor Schneider Birth Record by AnnieCatBlue on FlickrA monumental change to Illinois legislation now allows adult adoptees to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate.

Similar laws are going into effect in other states, and proponents of the bill say it will make it easier for adoptees to reconnect with blood relatives. Those opposed to the bill say it will now be harder for parents who don’t want to be found to stay hidden.

Looking at the Law

Before the change in legislation, it was next to impossible for adoptees to dig up information on their birth parents. In most adoption cases, the hospital seals the birth certificate when the child is placed up for adoption. Once a family adopts the child, a new certificate is issued with the adoptive parents’ names listed on it. The hospital maintains the original birth certificate for their records, but they cite privacy and HIPPA regulations when adoptees request an original copy. Under the new law, an adult over the age of 21 can now acquire their birth information.

The bill was written by Illinois Democratic State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, who said she created the legislation after hearing personal stories from many adoptees.

“I passed this law because I felt the pain and was approached by many other adoptees in Illinois who had no idea how to get any information,” said Feigenholtz. “(There were) a lot of adoptive parents who had children who were adopted who wanted to get medical information about the children they adopted, people who wanted to reconnect to get life-saving medical information were unable to do anything, and why?”

Not All Agree

Although the new law can be used to reference past family medical history, and in some cases, save a life, not everyone believes the measure should have been passed. Those who oppose the bill believe it is an invasion of privacy for the birth parents. Others, like Adam Pertman, executive director of the Adoption Institute, said some birth parents are opposed to the bill because they could soon be confronted with the past.

“What people are concerned about, I think, is the knock at the door. That somebody who doesn’t want intrusion on their lives is suddenly going to have to have a relationship with a child they relinquish,” said Pertman.

Family Law Attorney Sean Sullivan comments

This change in the birth certificate legislation won’t really affect the adoption process as it’s currently constituted. Where I see a greater effect is in the emotional processing of someone’s decision to place a child up for an adoption.

The reasoning behind the laws forbidding the reissuance of the original birth certificate was to a make a difficult decision on the part of the biological parents somewhat easier by providing them some anonymity. By reissuing a new birth certificate bearing the names of the adoptive parents, the original parents could remain out of the equation.

Clearly there is a rational argument to be made that the adopted children may need to know their biological parent’s medical histories in case of emergency or serious illness. But, by removing the protection of anonymity from the birth certificate, there may be a shift in the number of children placed up for adoption. Some parents may not place their children up for adoption if they know their child could eventually track them down, even if placing the child in adoption services is what’s best for the kid. We never want to discourage someone from an option that would best benefit the child. Perhaps a compromise could be made in the process.

I would propose that we add a section of medical history to be filled out by the biological parent as part of them terminating their rights to the child. We could make this past medical history questionnaire discoverable to the adopted child without revealing the names of the biological parents. The birth certificate could then be changed to reflect the new parents. I think this is a good solution to preserve the privacy and anonymity of the biological parents, but still allow the adopted child access to the important medical information they may need.

Related source: CBS News