COLUMBUS — An estimated 400,000 Ohioans adopted between 1964 and 1996 would have access to their original birth certificates after having been largely blocked by state law from that information absent a court order, under a bill overwhelmingly approved by the House on Wednesday.
The measure unanimously passed the Senate earlier this month. With the 88-2 vote in the House, the bill heads to Gov. John Kasich’s desk.
“This is unlocking the door to their original birth certificate, providing an essential piece of the puzzle of someone’s own personal history,” Rep. Nickie Antonio (D., Lakewood) said. “They have been living in an unfair limbo up to this point, because they couldn’t access that essential document.”
A primary sponsor of Senate Bill 23 is Sen. David Burke (R., Marysville), whose 26th District stretches north to Sandusky Bay. He was adopted at the age of 3 months.
Under the bill, those adopted between January, 1964, and September, 1996, or their adult direct descendants, may request their adoption files from the Ohio Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics and pay a $20 fee in much the same way those adopted before and after those dates can.
“The birth certificates prior to 1964 were public record,” said Betsie Norris, executive director of Adoption Network Cleveland and co-chairman of the Ohio Adoption Planning Group. “Anybody could go and get the original and amended birth certificates. ... Nobody was advocating that these are open to the public, but [lawmakers in 1964] went further than anyone had expected.”
When the law was changed again in 1996, it was not made retroactive to those caught between the two laws.
The bill will take effect one year and 90 days after the governor signs it into law.
Biological parents will have the opportunity to place a form in the adoption file indicating whether they want to be contacted by those they put up for adoption. The law also would allow them to have their names redacted from the birth certificate, if they wish.
But it also provides for a medical history form to be placed in the file and requires the state to develop a system in which the adoptee can ask a medical history question of his biological parent through the Ohio Department of Health.
“Time and time again, we’ve heard testimony from people who truly needed that medical information,” Ms. Antonio said. “It’s a critical part as they establish and create their own families to know the medical history so, as they go forward, they’re better equipped and better informed.”
In 1996, anti-abortion groups fought the change in the law to loosen some restrictions on adoption records, fearing fewer women would opt for adoption over abortion if they believed the information would not be kept private. Anti-abortion groups supported this bill this time.
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