Law will open access to adoptees’ birth certificates

Andrew Welsh-Huggins
Associated Press
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Columbus, Ohio — Thousands of Ohio adoptees are hoping to learn more about their history, including family medical information, thanks to a law granting them access to their adoption files and birth certificates.

Beginning Friday, individuals adopted between January 1, 1964, and September 18, 1996, can request the information from the Ohio Department of Health. The new law is expected to give about 400,000 people access to records which had been largely blocked without a court order.

Concerned that adoption records were open to anyone, lawmakers put them off limits in 1964, including to adult adoptees.

Following lobbying from adoptees and their advocates, lawmakers made the records public again in 1996. People adopted in all other years already had access to the records.

But the law was not made retroactive for those caught between the two laws because of pressure from groups, including abortion opponents who feared it would discourage people considering adoption, said Betsie Norris, executive director and founder of Adoption Network Cleveland, and an adoptee who led the fight to change the law.

The law taking effect Friday finally opens the records for those 1964-1996 adoptees. It also gives birth parents the ability to say whether they want to be contacted, and allows birth parents to update their medical information through the state.

“It’s about adoptees having the civil right to information that all other Americans can have about themselves,” Norris said. “It’s a social justice issue.” Ohio is the ninth state to make all its records available to adoptees, she said.

Under the law, birth parents who placed a child for adoption between 1964 and 1996 had a one-year period to request that their names be redacted from the birth-certificate information that would be released to the adult adoptee.

Adoptee Sarah Bear says her priority is getting information about her family’s medical history. Her children, a 19-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, only have half that history now, said Bear of Westerville in suburban Columbus. She planned to be at the state Department of Vital Statistics first thing Friday morning.

Beyond the medical information, she’s curious about her heritage. Bear, 37, grew up in Lima and is close to her adopted family, which supports her efforts.

“My adopted family is very German, so my way of thinking is along those lines, but it would be nice to know what is in my blood,” said Bear, 37, an instructional designer at Ohio State.

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