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Pennsylvania law now allows adoptee to search for birth parents

For the past 33 years, adoptees have not been able to request a copy of their original birth certificate. This past week, a new law passed that ended that restriction. Adult adoptees — those over 18 and out of high school — can now request a copy of their birth record the same as anyone else.

Why were they unable before? A previous law sealing birth records from adoptees was enacted in 1994. It was passed to address the privacy concerns of parents who were giving their children up for adoption. The law was based on an assumption that the biological parents would not want their identities revealed to their children later in life.

Why did the law change now? For many reasons, according to Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, who was the main sponsor pushing it. He claims that preventative medicine is one of those reasons. "...For people with chronic illnesses, this is vital information," he said. With today's current medical technology, knowing a person's family medical history can help identify and possibly prevent future health issues.

The new law did face some opposition. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference objected that women who feared their identities being known might elect to have abortions instead of having babies to give up for adoption. They fear this law might increase abortions.

Previous to this new enactment of the law, adoptees could petition the court for copies of their birth records, but it was entirely up to a judge to approve or deny their petitions. Now all they have to do is submit an application along with a $20 fee to the Department of Health just like anyone else. Adoptee's lineage are also eligible to request the birth records of their parents or grandparents.

Concerns about the inability to obtain birth records, or privacy rights for biological parents, should be discussed with an attorney who is familiar with family law. They can help you ensure your rights are not abridged.

Source: The Morning Call, "Pennsylvania's new adoption law: What you need to know," Laurie Mason Schroeder, Nov. 03, 2017

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