The House approved legislationearly Friday morning to give adult adoptees access to previously sealed birth certificates containing the names of their biological parents.
In Connecticut and most other states, adoptees only have access to amended birth certificates that omit the parents’ names. Adoptees argue that the redacted birth records create health risks for them. Without knowing their family medical histories, they cannot be screened for illnesses to which they are predisposed based on family medical history and genetics.
The bill was brought out around 12:45 a.m. by Rep. David Alexander, an Enfield Democrat who was adopted as a child. Lawmakers approved it on a 106-29 vote around 1:20 a.m.
“This is a tough issue,” Alexander said during the debate. “It’s a very emotional issue and it’s difficult to talk about . . . but the primary motivation behind the bill and for opening up these records is for the medical history and also for the individual adoptees’ identity.”
The bill was amended to reach back as far as October 1, 1983, when biological parents began signing a form acknowledging the child may, as an adult, be able to access documents that could identify them.
Karen Caffrey, president of Access Connecticut, a grassroots organization pushing for the legislation, said 24,000 Connecticut adoptees were born after Oct. 1, 1983, and will benefit from this legislation.
“This establishes a principle that there are good enough reasons to retroactively restore access to these records,” Caffrey said as she watched the debate from the House gallery. Access to the original birth certificate wasn’t removed until 1975.
The change was negotiated as a compromise with opponents, who feel the bill violates the trust of birth mothers who expected the state to respect their privacy. Rep. Noreen Kokoruda, R-Madison, said no one was debating the importance of accessing family medical histories.
“What we’re debating about is a woman, who 15 years ago, 20 years ago, made a decision, the biggest decision of her life and she made sure that child was born and put in a good home and decided . . . to keep this private and we’re saying to her today ‘you do not have that right,’” she said.
Under the bill, birth parents would be permitted to indicate that they do not wish to be contacted. However, that contact preference form would not be binding on adoptees.
That was troubling to Rep. Mitch Bolinsky of Newtown, who told the story about how his half-brother found his family when he was 32 years old and caused the family great anxiety. His mother gave up a son for adoption four years before he was born. He said he wishes that he had never found them.
Lawmakers have drafted bills to change the law in Connecticut many times over the years but none have been signed into law. The legislature approved a bill to open up the records in 2006, but former Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the bill.
In order to reach Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s desk the legislation will need to be approved by the Senate before the session ends on May 7.