People adopted in Louisiana could have access to their birth certificates

A Louisiana lawmaker has proposed legislation that would allow adoptees to get copies of their original birth certificates once they turn 24. It would follow a national trend to reform decades of secrecy surrounding adoption records.

House Bill 450, filed by Rep. Charles Owen, a Republican from the Fort Polk-area town of Rosepine, proposes that an adopted person who is at least 24 years old no longer have to ask a court to unseal their birth certificate. original birth. They could instead obtain an uncertified copy on request from the Civil Registry.

In a closed adoption under Louisiana law, most if not all records, including the original birth certificate which often contains the identity of the biological parents, are sealed and inaccessible to the adopted person. The state issues an adopted child an amended birth certificate with the legal fiction that the child was born to adoptive parents.

Closed adoption records can only be unsealed with a court order. Such a process typically requires hiring a lawyer and providing a compelling reason to convince a judge to make the records available, Owen said in an interview.

Owen pointed out that access to consumer DNA testing is inexpensive and widespread on websites such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe.com. It allows almost anyone to trace their genealogy and find their biological family members for around $100, he said.

The state doesn’t really have a good reason to require an adopted person’s birth certificate to remain confidential forever, Owen said.

“They arbitrarily think they have to keep them sealed,” Owen said. “No one has given me a good reason yet, although I am told they will come.”

Owen, who was adopted as a baby and didn’t know his birth mother until she found him when he was 35, said he heard from a number of voters and others residents who have unsuccessfully attempted to obtain copies of their original birth certificates. . He said his main reason for introducing the legislation was for transparency.

“Where else does the government keep a file on you that you can’t see?” Owen asked. “Everyone should have the right to know their own story. I don’t like the government keeping secret files on me or anyone else.

Louisiana adoption records weren’t always sealed. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the state passed its gated adoption law that banned birth certificates, Owen said.

This trend began in other states during the post-World War II baby boom, when “more out-of-wedlock births occurred to middle-class families than was the case at the start of the century,” according to the University of Oregon. Adoption History Project.

The original purpose of confidential adoption records was not to prevent adoptees from obtaining the information on their original birth certificates. In 1949, the United States Children’s Bureau, which advocated for the sealing of records so that the child would not suffer the social stigma associated with illegitimacy, recommended that adults adopted as children should have access to their full birth certificate, according to the research.

However, “mortified parents argued that their daughters should be given a second chance at a normal, married life”, and the proliferation of maternity homes to shield non-marital pregnancies from public view helped make adoption “a subject of embarrassment and shame”. Confidentiality was eventually converted to secrecy, and although the intentions were benevolent, “the sealed records created an oppressive adoption closet,” according to research from the University of Oregon.

Many states have since reformed their laws to allow adults who were adopted as children access to their original birth records. Louisiana only allows release of non-identifying medical or genetic information in case the adopted person needs an organ or bone marrow transplant from a genetically compatible family member, according to the HB summary 450.

Owen’s bill will go to the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee over the next ordinary session which starts Monday.

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