Adoptees born before 1983 could access their birth records under legislation sent Tuesday night to the governor’s desk by the Senate, potentially ending a years-long debate weighing equity for adopted people against the privacy of their birth parents.
The bill, which had been previously approved by the House, passed the Senate on a 27 to 8 vote late Tuesday. The legislation applies to a relatively narrow group of people: the roughly 38,000 Connecticut residents who were adopted as children before 1983. Adoptees born after Oct. 1, 1983 can already access their original birth records.
Some advocates for adopted people have pushed for years for the change, arguing, among other things, that the current law denied them access to their biological family history and the vital health information that history sometimes contains.
While the bill has been controversial for years, Sen. Steve Cassano, a Manchester Democrat who co-chairs the Planning and Development Committee, said that attitudes on the issue had changed, in part due to genetic testing technology, which already enables adopted people to identify biological relatives — for a fee. Cassano said adopted people should not be forced to pay for pricey tests to access information that most people can get easily from the government.
“It’s time for people to get information on their own lives, to be able to move forward, to plan differently, to think differently medically,” he said.
However, opponents, including the Catholic Charities adoption agencies, have argued that the change would betray the privacy of birth parents who they say were promised anonymity. During Tuesday’s debate, Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said some birth mothers made the difficult decision to give their children up for adoption with the understanding they would remain anonymous.
“It’s selfless and it is a blessing for those who were able to adopt the child. But in these circumstances, when someone is promised confidentiality– a guarantee — and then we as a state go back on that, we are only as good as our word,” Somers said. “What does that mean for anything else that we promise going forward? We can just change our mind as we evolve?”
Cassano argued that opinions on the issue had evolved, both among the general public and lawmakers. He said the bill had passed out of his committee unanimously this session. The House approved it earlier in May on a 115 to 28 vote.
“The bill has tremendous support in this building. It has tremendous support in the community. I don’t think I’ve seen a group work harder and more sincerely than this particular group of people,” Cassano said. “They just want legally, the information they deserve, they’re entitled to and this bill will change that.”