Ohio to open access to 400 000 adoptee birth records

2015-03-19 22:20

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Cleveland - More than 400 000 Ohioans adopted between 1964 and 1996 will be given access from Friday to their birth certificates with the names of their biological parents.

The bi-partisan Senate Bill 23, passed by the state legislature in 2013, closed a loophole in Ohio law that allowed adoptees born after 1963 and before 18 September 1996 access to birth records, but denied those records for those born in the 32 years in between. The law included a two-year rollout that gave parents a chance to opt out of disclosing their names.

"A judge could open the records for 'good cause' like severe medical need but very rarely did," Betsie Norris, executive director Adoption Network Cleveland said. "For a long time adoption in our country was about secrecy and thought of as shameful."

Ohio was the ninth state to open adoption records as of 2013, Norris said. Alaska and Kansas always had open records, and since 2013, Colorado, Connecticut and New Jersey have passed similar laws.

Similar bills have stalled before in Ohio, said state representative Nickie Antonio, a Democrat and one of the law's advocates.

"It was some kind of generational and cultural shame surrounding adoption," Antonio said. "There were certain folks that saw it as breaking a promise to birth mothers."

Supporters of the change in the law were able to proceed without opposition from Ohio Right to Life and Catholic groups, which had opposed the legislation in the past.

"Those groups did not want to inadvertently promote abortion by making adoption less private," said Ohio state Senator Bill Beagle, a Republican co-sponsor. He added there was no public testimony in opposition to the bill.

At an event in Columbus on Friday, four adoptees will receive copies of their birth certificates, including the bill's Democratic co-sponsor, state senator David Burke, and Wendy Barkett, 42.

Barkett travelled from Texas to collect a document she has tried to get for 24 years.

Barkett had previously discovered through a records search that her mother died soon after Barkett was born. She's not sure how she'll feel when she finally gets her birth certificate.

"It is going to be a roller coaster ride," Barkett said.

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