A proposal to give Missouri adoptees a way to get their original birth certificates is being considered again this year in the state legislature.
Backers say having a copy of a birth certificate would allow adoptees to research medical histories, genealogy, and other important information. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Don Phillips (R-Kimberling City) considers having a copy of a birth certificate a basic right. He told a House committee about a women he met named Diane.
“Diane is a great-grandmother. She can’t get a copy of her original birth certificate,” said Phillips. “I’m telling you folks that’s a crying shame. We’ve got people in their 80s. They don’t want anything. They don’t want to go stalk somebody. There’s nobody to stalk. They just want a copy of something that’s rightfully theirs.”
Heather Dodd with Missouri Adoptive Rights movement told the committee birth parents would still have a say in whether to be involved with an adoptee.
“It’s best, I think … to allow the adopted person to know that his mother’s name was Jane Smith and he can go directly to her and say, ‘I think I’m your son. May I have information for my medical history, and would you like a relationship,’ and she has the opportunity and the same rights as everybody else to say yes or no,” said Dodd.
Some say the idea infringes on the rights of a birth parent that doesn’t want to be found, and believes his or her identity will be kept confidential under the agreement signed when the adoption was finalized.
Laura Long works as a confidential intermediary dealing with cases of adoptees trying to find birth parents.
“I came into this thinking, ‘Well of course every birth mom is going to be overjoyed at my contacting them that my child is looking for them,'” Long told the committee. “I learned very quickly that is not the case.”
“I’m here to speak on behalf of those who say, ‘No,'” said Long. “By reason of their anonymity they won’t be here. I could fill the room with birth moms who don’t want to be found, but of course they can’t do that because then they’re found.”
Catholic Charities of Missouri also opposes the bill. General Counsel Tyler McClay says that’s because it is retroactive.
“Those women that were promised confidentiality and who made their adoptions at a time when the law said it would be confidential ought to be respected,” said McClay.
A Missouri adoptee has to appeal to the court that handled the adoption to seek an order that his or her birth certificate be unsealed.
Last year Phillips’ bill didn’t advance past a hearing.