Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday he intends to sign legislation opening access to the original birth certificates of people adopted after October 1983.
“That bill was drafted appropriately because it was cognizant of the the fact that from 1983 . . . and moving forward, people who put a child up for adoption were given notice that that information might be shared,” Malloy said. “I think it’s an appropriate compromise piece of legislation that’s been reached. I intend to sign it.”
Currently, adoptees in most states can only access amended birth records that omit the identities of their birth parents. That’s been the case here in Connecticut since 1975 when legislation passed sealing the original birth records of adoptees.
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 will open those records for people adopted after Oct. 1., 1983 when biological parents began signing a form acknowledging the child may, as an adult, access documents that could identify them. The bill was negotiated to ease the concerns of lawmakers who feel the change violates the trust of birth mothers who expected the state to respect their privacy.
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. Until Friday, Malloy had not indicated whether he was supportive of the change.
Karen Caffrey, president of Access Connecticut, a grassroots organization that pushed for the legislation, said 24,000 Connecticut adoptees were born after Oct. 1, 1983, and will benefit from the new law. All told, there have been about 65,000 people adopted in Connecticut since 1919, she said. It’s unclear how many of them are still living.
Many of the 24,000 people who will be helped by the bill are currently children and will not gain access to their original birth certificates until they reach adulthood.
Caffrey said she was grateful Malloy intended to sign the legislation and hoped it will be a precursor to Connecticut opening access to the birth records of all adoptees, including people who had access prior to 1975 then lost it when Connecticut changed its law.
“We are hopeful that this bill is a first step. We’re grateful people were willing to do it,” she said. “What we think is going to happen is people will discover there aren’t any catastrasphic or worrisome consequences . . . It’s going to convince people that this is the right thing to do.”
Rep. David Alexander, an Enfield Democrat who was adopted as a child, said this year’s bill is a “great win for adoptee rights.” He said he may want to draft legislation on the issue again at some point, but for the time being he is content to see how the new law is received when it takes effect in July 2015.
“This compromise made as many people as possible comfortable,” he said. “Let’s celebrate today then see what happens.”
Even after it was amended to reach back only as far as 1983, the bill was controversial with some lawmakers. During the floor debate in the House, Rep. Noreen Kokoruda, R-Madison, said she was concerned about women who chose adoption over abortion believing their identity would not be revealed.
“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,’” Kokoruda said.