Friday, May 21, 2010

Adult adoptees granted access to birth records

By Rachel Wells

Adopted adults will soon have greater access to their own birth certificates, under a measure signed into law today by Gov. Pat Quinn that will open most records beginning in November of 2011.

The law will allow adopted adults born before 1946 to access their birth certificates immediately and will allow most people born after January 1, 1946 to access their birth certificates after a year-long informational campaign.

Through public service announcements and driver’s license notifications, the state will attempt to notify adopted adults and birth mothers, who will have the option of maintaining anonymity by submitting the appropriate paperwork. New mothers will also have the option of partial or full openness or complete anonymity. If a mother chooses to make birth records open, her child would not be able to access them until he or she turns 21. The measure’s House sponsor, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, a Chicago Democrat who is an adoptee, said most birth parents prefer openness.

“[Seeing your birth certificate] is a right that a lot of you who are not adopted take for granted,” Feigenholtz said at the bill signing, describing access to the document as a basic human right. “My story began on a piece of paper that I have never been allowed to see. When Gov. Quinn signs this legislation today, I -- like any other person -- will be able to walk into the office of vital records, put my $15 down on the table and get a copy of my original birth certificate for the first time in my life.”

Opponents of the bill have said making open birth records the default could cause more young pregnant women to choose abortion instead of adoption.

Read more about the measure in the upcoming June print edition of Illinois Issues magazine.

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