BATON ROUGE – After a lengthy debate, the Senate Judiciary A Committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would allow adopted persons to obtain their original birth certificate.
House Bill 450, sponsored by Rep. Charles Owen, R-Fort Polk, would allow an adopted person 24 years or older to request an uncertified copy of his or her original birth certificate from the state registrar.
Under present law, an adopted person’s original birth certificate is sealed after a final decree of adoption and can only be opened by a motion of disclosure or a limited medical exception.
The bill provides an avenue for adopted people to receive a copy of their birth certificate without going through lengthy bureaucratic hurdles.
“What I want to do today is to give the people who are grown, and I’m talking about grown people 24 years of age or older, the right to simply ask the state to tell them what they know about them,” Owen said.
After intense deliberations and a great deal of public testimony, the Senate committee advanced the bill by a vote of 4-2.
Elise Lewis, who was adopted and serves in the Louisiana Coalition for Adoption Rights, spoke in support of the bill.
“The right of access should be restored so that adopted people are treated as equal to other citizens,” Lewis said. “This lack of equality robs us of our identity and then continues to treat us as perpetual children without dignity and respect.”
Paula Davis, a professor at the LSU School of Social Work, addressed birth parents concerned about unwanted contact from the adopted person.
“If a woman is concerned about an original birth certificate being released, there is a mechanism in place in which she can make her wishes known by completing a contact preference form,” Davis said.
An amendment added to the bill would allow birth parents to file a contact preference form that specifies whether and how they want to be contacted. This form would be included in an adopted person’s request for an original birth certificate.
Many of those who supported the bill pointed out that anonymity does not exist with new DNA technologies and social media.
Opposition centered on how the bill disregards the wishes of birth parents to remain anonymous and opens the possibility for unwanted reunions.
Rev. Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, spoke in opposition to the bill, highlighting how the Louisiana Children’s Code codifies the right to privacy and how the bill does not consider the birth parents’ consent.
“I agree that what separates us from this bill, the opponents and the proponents, is a simple question of mutual consent,” Mills said. “The author of this bill said no thank you to that option.”
Article 1270 of the Louisiana Children’s Code specifies that the Legislature “fully recognizes the right to privacy and confidentiality” of biological parents whose children were adopted.
Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette raised concerns about the legality of prohibiting someone from obtaining their birth certificate.
“I don’t think that as a person reaching age majority that anybody can stop me from going down and getting my own birth certificate,” Cortez said, “I just don’t think they can do that. But again, these are legal questions that I’m going through.”
Owen closed the debate by adding that although the Louisiana Children’s Code recognizes privacy for birth parents, it also recognizes that some adults adopted as children have a strong interest in identifying information about their biological parents.
After advancing through the House and now the Senate committee, the bill will move next to the Senate floor.