Pennsylvania House Bill 162 to Open Adoption Records

Domestic Adoption Reunion StorySee the text of the bill here. It does not discuss medical history or contact with birthfamily, but rather obtaining access to the original birth certificate.

Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights reports here that a successful hearing occurred on July 17, 2013 and they hope that they bill will move forward in the Fall of 2013.
“Since 1985, Pennsylvania has closed adoption records to adoptees, but a a new bill introduced by State Representative Kerry A. Benninghoff would allow adoptees to obtain a copy of their original birth certificates.

KDKA’s Robert Mangino spoke with licensed psychologist Dr. Mary O’Leary Wiley about why adoption records were closed and the importance of the changes that could take place.

“When all of the adoptions records were closed back in 1985, adoptees’ birth certificates were sealed,” explained Dr. O’Leary Wiley, “and the government’s intention was to decrease abortions during that time.” [How exactly would suppressing the rights of adoptees prevent abortions? Pondering and Thinking smiley (Hand gesture emoticons)]

This process also included foster children who were adopted. Adoptees were issued certificates with their adoptive parent’s names instead of their biological parents.

Dr. O’Leary Wiley said, “If the new bill is put into action, it would only allow adoptees to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate, not necessarily give out medical history or help them get into contact with their biological families.”

When asked why adoptees would want to seek more information, Dr. O’Leary Wiley said, “Most of those who are adopted want to contact their families and also discover their medical history or historical background. Over 99 percent of the birth parents want to have contact with their children at some point.”

The doctor believes the House could vote on the introduced bill from as soon as a few weeks to possibly a few months.”

New Bill Could Open Adoption Records In Pa.

[CBS Pittsburgh 7/30/13]

“When Pennsylvania children are adopted, the state seals their original birth certificates and issues revised certificates that name the adoptive parents instead of the biological parents.

Those documents don’t even indicate that an adoption took place.

The state has not allowed adoptees to see their original birth certificates since 1985. But a bill introduced this year by state Rep. Kerry A. Benninghoff would grant that right to adult adoptees born in Pennsylvania.

Before introducing the bill, the Centre County Republican sent a memo to House members listing several reasons adoptees might want to access their birth records.

Some want to establish relationships with their birth families or seek information about their medical history, according to Benninghoff. Others are interested in discovering their ancestral roots.

“While the legislative battle often pits an adoptee’s right to his or her birth certificate against a birth parent’s right to privacy, the movement toward access is growing, with a number of legislative initiatives across the county,” Benninghoff wrote.

Dr. Mary O’Leary Wiley, an Altoona psychologist who specializes in adoption issues, recently offered testimony at a public hearing on the legislation in Harrisburg.

O’Leary Wiley, who was adopted as a baby 59 years ago, was reunited with her birth family at age 29. She told the Reading Eagle that she supports the bill because adoptees should have the same rights as everyone else.

“Adult adoptees are the only citizens in the U.S. that are denied by law information about themselves,” she said.”

Pennsylvania still closes adoption records, but change may be on the way

[Reading Eagle 7/29/13 by Beth Anne Heeson]
“Her mother was 20, “nice-looking” and “refined,” a department-store employee who liked charcoal drawing and writing poetry. Her 23-year-old father worked in a factory and wasn’t told he had a daughter born in or near Allentown, Pa., on April 20, 1968.

That’s about all Illinois state Rep. Ann Williams knows about her parents because Pennsylvania seals birth certificates of adopted babies. But the Chicago Democrat hopes her testimony earlier this month before a legislative committee will help change that.

“Everybody wants to know how their story begins, right? You always tell stories around the dinner table,” Williams said. “I don’t have that. I’ve got, ‘The birth parents had known each other since high school. They never discussed marriage.’”

Williams was invited to speak on proposed Pennsylvania legislation by, Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, a Republican and adoptee from Bellefonte, Pa. Original birth certificates are available to adult adoptees in 11 states – including Illinois, where 8,800 adoptees have received them since the state re-opened long-sealed records in 2010.

Williams, reared primarily in Chicago by her adoptive parents, Barbara and Richard Williams, contacted Catholic Social Agency in Allentown about 15 years ago and received the legally allowed “non-identifying information” – a social worker’s written summary of redacted records.

That’s where she learned about the drawing and the poetry. The University of Iowa journalism graduate also learned her birth mother’s older sister was a journalist and their father had owned a newspaper.

The documents don’t detail the relationship between Williams’ parents – her mother said the man was “sweet and witty” but didn’t tell him about the baby. The mother hoped the agency would care for the baby temporarily while she established herself in another town, but then agreed to give her up.

Williams said she would like to quiz her mother but mostly thank her for the sacrifice. If her mother doesn’t want to meet, so be it.

“I’ve got to believe that she’s wondered over the years how it all turned out,” she said. “It’s not something the state should have power to decide or determine … We’re adults. We can handle our own relationship. Or not – and then, we’re just two people.”

Ill. lawmaker takes story to Pa. adoption debate

[ 7/28/13 by John O'Connor/Associated Press]

Ohio bill would open adoption files and untangle confusing law

Nearly all Ohio adoptees will have access to their original birth certificates if legislators approve new law

Lisa Buescher with her children Beckett, 3, Lance, 8, and Anna, 11 at their Moreland Hills home on Thursday. Buescher, an adoptee and board member for Adoption Network Ohio, hopes legislators will change Ohio law so she can obtain her original birth certificate and medical records that might be of help to her children in the future. Thomas Ondrey, The Plain Dealer

COLUMBUS, Ohio-- Lisa Buescher has actually been attempting to get her birth certificate and medical information about her biological parents for 11 years, ever since her first child was born.

"I have 3 children and with 2 of them there have actually been times when something strange has actually taken place and the physician has needed a case history and 50 percent of it is missing out on," says the Moreland Hills lady who was embraced in 1968.

"It's been irritating.".

When she hears tales like the one Dale Fellows informs, it's even more frustrating.

Taken on in 1955, Fellows had no trouble acquiring his birth certificate from the Ohio Department of Health's Office of Vital Statistics.

"It was wonderful," says the head of the Lake County Republican Party who stays in Willoughby Hills. "It basically began the ball rolling for me to do my research and at some point reunite with my biological mother, which was incredible. It was a significant, huge offer.

"That's an individual right I think everybody should have.".

In Ohio, not everybody does.

The state law that being sacks Fellows can have access to his adoption file says Buescher can't.

Buescher and a lot of state legislators state that makes no sense.

Thirty-four Ohio representatives and 12 senators have introduced regulation that hads untangle the confusing rules that regulate birth certificates and other details in those files.

The expenses they're sponsoring might quickly be law.

The Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 61 unanimously on March 13. The full House is expected to vote on the issue after it returns from spring break on April 8.

After that, the Senate will take up the problem. And approval there is expected next month, states Sen. Bill Beagle, among the Senate expense's primary sponsors and a Republican from Tipp City in Southwest Ohio.

"I do not expect a significant fight," he said, pointing out that there could be opposition. In the past, Beagle stated, some lawmakers have revealed concern about eliminating the privacy some birth parents thought they had always have.

If signed by the guv, the new law will offer the huge majority of Ohio adoptees access to their original adoption files once they become adults.

Birth parents also will be given the choice of offering household wellness details that would be released to the adoptee upon request.

And they could possibly fill out a Contact Preference Form that lets the children they gave up for adoption understand if they want to be spoken to and, if so, whether they desire that contact to be direct or through a pal, relative or other third party.
The law would not go into effect for one year to give birth parents time to complete those the contact types.

The existing law has changed with the times. In the end, Ohio was burdened exactly what total up to three laws in one.

One portion of the law applies to those who were taken on prior to Jan. 1, 1964. When those adoptees reach adulthood, they have full access to their adoption file. All they have to do is make a request and pay the $20 charge.

The second section puts on those who were taken on from Jan. 1, 1964 until Sept. 18, 1996. Like Buescher, they cannot get their childbirth certificates unless they have a court order. Those court orders are rare and challenging to obtain, states Betsie Norris, executive supervisor of Adoption Network Cleveland, which has been trying to change the law for 24 years.

The 3rd portion of the current law applies to those who were adopted on or after Sept. 18, 1996. They can acquire their adoption declare the $20 cost unless their biological parents asked that the files be sealed.

Original birth certificates for adoptees, unlike birth certificates for the rest of us, will not level to the general public if the brand-new law is passed. Just the adoptee and his/her descendents might acquire them.

And nothing will change for birth parents who offered their children up for adoption as of Sept. 18, 1996 and asked that their names not be launched. Adoptees will not have access to those files.

An estimated 400,000 Ohioans adopted between Jan. 1, 1964 and Sept. 18, 1996 will lastly have access to official records of their childbirth and adoption.

"This expense is not about search, it is not about discovering the opposite of the coin," says State Rep. Nickie Antonio, a Democrat from Lakewood, and one of two primary sponsors of the House bill.

"The issue has to do with equity and fairness for the adoptee to obtain access to an initial birth certificate.".

"There has not been any formal organized opposition," Norris states.

In the past, anti-abortion groups fought to keep birth records closed. If they understood the children they provided up might come looking for them later on, they fretted that pregnant females would select abortion over adoption.

Not any longer.

"If we had any bookings about the effect and this bill it would have on possibilities of women selecting abortion over adoption, I had not be standing before you in support of the measure today," Stephanie Ranade Krider, then supervisor of legislative affairs for Ohio Right to Life, wrote to your home Judiciary Committee prior to she affirmed March 6.

Jaime Miracle, policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, which has actually not opposed modifications in the past, additionally affirmed in favor of the costs.

"This system will in fact much better protect the personal privacy of birth parents by developing a system where they can reveal their choices for being spoken to ...," Miracle said.

That's good information for Norris.

Altering the law has been among her top priorities. Work by her team resulted in the 1996 modification in the law.

While she was pushing to open the records in the past, her adoptive father informed her he was responsible for closing them.

In 1960, having actually simply embraced Betsie, Brad Norris came across the fact that adoptees' original birth certificates were public records, that anyone can see them.

Wanting to secure adoptees and their households, he and other adoptive moms and dads wrote regulation to secure those records, then lobbied state lawmakers to pass their expense.

Watching the unexpected discomfort the law caused adoptees, Brad Norris began a fight to reverse it.

"Sadly, my father passed away in 2006," Norris told your home Judiciary Committee when she indicated on March 13, "otherwise he would be below today to provide this testimony to you personally.".

Norris read the remarks her dad sent out to the House back in 1994.

"The 1964 law has actually not worked out in the way it was originally intended and it needs to be changed," he wrote. "... the resulting secrecy has actually not benefited, rather it has actually hurt the most innocent parties in the process, the adoptees.".

Fellows understands how lucky he is to have actually not been harmed by that law.

When he received his original childbirth certificate, he looked for his birth mother and was reunited with her not long after she was identified with cancer cells.

A year later on, she passed away.

Not prior to Fellows got to inform her she did the right thing.

"My hope was to be able to tell her that," Fellows states, "however it surpassed that.

"We had an excellent relationship for that year and that relationship continues now with my stepfather who's 92 years old. We've become extremely, extremely close.".

Fellows found cousins, too, and traveled to England to fulfill his prolonged birth family.

"To deny that right to somebody just because of the year they were born," he states, "is absolutely wrong.".

A version of this column originally appeared in