A bill that would restore access for adults who were born and adopted in Texas to a non-certified copy of their original birth certificate is currently making it’s way through the Texas legislature. Senate Bill 329 and House Bill 547 are the bills to support for this proposed restoration of rights.
Most people assume adoptees get their information when they become adults, but in Texas this is not so. However, because adoptees come from all walks of life and from across the political spectrum, this bill is currently enjoying bipartisan support.
So far, 13 senators and counting have heeded the many constituent requests to sponsor SB 329, whose co-authors include Central Texas lawmakers Sen.Kirk Watson (D) and Charles Schwertner (R). The group who put the bill forward, Texas Adoptee Rights, has mobilized thousands across the state.
Those in support of restoring access include birth parents, adoptive parents and adult adoptees. Many professional and medical groups also recognize the need for adults to have their information, both for medical reasons and for personal identity information, such as ethnicity and biological lineage. Others support simply on the grounds that it is discrimination to bar one group from accessing the document everyone else has a right to access.
The biggest catalyst for an improvement in the law has been the emergence of DNA testing companies and social media. With closed records, adoptees and some birth families now turn to these public venues to search for biological family members.
This often results in extended families, including half siblings and social media “friends” being contacted before the birth parent even knows there is a search. Restoring access to birth certificates allows the process of reconnecting to be private once again, and to be a one-on-one communication instead of a public “outing.” SB329 restores privacy for all involved and removes the need for public searches.
Some argue the current system provides sufficient information, but if that were true advocates would not have such a strong case to amend the law. Advances in DNA technology have made the registry and court system a liability to time- sensitive searching and there are those who just want their information, with no interest in searching for birth mothers. As for the registry, it does not include people who have died . If a birth parent has died of an inherited disease there is no way an adoptee has access to this information.
The language in adoption documents and societal cues leave adoptees and birth parents feeling they have no right to know each other even though they may have the desire, so many avoid registering. The court system can be degrading and yields unpredictable results depending on the judge’s perception of the vague term, “good cause,” for a search as is written into current law.
With this information age comes a need to overhaul how we view confidentiality and what actually preserves it for those involved in adoption. Secrecy is never a real solution. The concept of anonymity is from a bygone era.
With the discovery of how vitally important family medical history can be, adoptee’s lives hang in the balance. Some are in a race against time to discover what medical issues may be in their future. Worse, they may be struggling to diagnose a disease without the necessary information for their doctors to solve their medical mystery.
With so many senators signed on, things look good for SB 329. The support is there and the bill is making good progress through the legislative labyrinth. The further good news is this bill generates money for the state of Texas, instead of adding costs.
I, a long time Texas resident who was adopted in New Jersey, received my birth certificate just days ago. The birth certificate law in that state went into effect January 1. It seems odd that the geography of my birth affects what information I am permitted to know about myself. I cannot wait until my fellow Texans can enjoy the same feeling of legitimacy that comes with access to one’s own birth record. It is a profound experience.