House Votes To Grant All Adoptees Access To Birth Records

The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to grant all adoptees in Connecticut access to their birth certificates, following an emotional and personal debate over whether the privacy rights of certain birth parents should trump those of adoptees seeking information about their past.

The bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 115 to 28. It now awaits action in the state Senate.

Current state law allows access to original birth certificates for people, 18 years and older, whose adoptions were finalized on or after Oct. 1, 1983. That's the date when the state adoption form was changed and a clause added, warning that birth parents' identities could be disclosed.

While opponents of the bill contend it's not fair to the women who made the difficult decision to give up their children for adoption years ago, expecting it would be kept secret, proponents said adoptees have a right to the information. Also, many noted that commercial DNA testing services have made it difficult anyway to protect the privacy of birth parents.

“What's happening today is that people are accessing information and contacting multiple other family members," said Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield. "So even if we wanted to provide that kind of privacy and protection for all of those birth mothers, we're not able to do so through the law alone.”

State lawmakers, including adoptees and adoptive parents, recalled personal stories during Tuesday's floor debate. Rep. Tom Delnicki, R-South Windsor, spoke about learning at the age of 12 that he had been adopted by his grandparents and his belief that it's his civil right to have access to his original birth certificate.

“You can't compromise that away,” he said. “There's some things in life that you just can't compromise.”

Yet Rep. Irene Haines, R-East Haddam, also an adoptee, said even though she doesn't know the identities of her birth parents or their medical histories, she doesn't need her original birth certificate to know who she is as a person.

“Let's keep our promises and realize and give everybody you meet an opportunity to be what they want to be," she said. ”That piece of paper isn't going to change it one way or the other."