Pa. law opens door to identity for adoptees seeking birth certificates

    In 2006

    In 2006

    A new law in Pennsylvania paves the way for adults adopted as children to get a summary of their birth certificate — and information about their birth parents.

    Set to take effect at the end of 2017, the law allows adoptees to file for a certified copy of the original record. The document will have the names and ages of birth parents, the child’s birth date and name, and the county where he or she was born.

    “Many adoptees, particularly as adults, feel that need to know everything. And that need which is very basic to human beings, has been denied to them,” said state Rep. Katharine Watson, R-Bucks.  who was adopted and is the mother of an adopted son.

    Birth parents who don’t wish to be known can ask to have their name redacted at any time, said Watson, who was adopted and is the mother of an adopted son. And if they previously withheld their names, they can reverse that choice.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Andy Hoover, the legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said he would have preferred that birth parents had had to give written, informed consent before their information goes public.

    “Ideally, it would have been done prospectively, so that for every birth parent moving forward, they would know the rules of the game,” he said, noting that he understood why adult adoptees would not have supported that.

    His group was not the only one with reservations about the law; the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape also were wary of the measure.

    Watson said outreach is planned so that birth parents become aware of the law in case they want to redact their names.

    New Jersey passed a similar law a few years ago that will formally go into effect this January. Birth parents had a two-year window to redact their information. New Jersey state Sen. Joseph Vitale said the state will hold a public event early next year to celebrate the new law.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal