House vote delayed on Louisiana adoption birth certificate bill

Bill would allow adoptees to get their birth certificates

By: - March 24, 2022 5:46 pm
State of Louisiana birth certificate set on table

Since a new law took effect in August, the Louisiana Vital Records Registry has processed more than 500 requests for original birth certificates from adults who were adopted as children. (Photo credit: WES MULLER/LOUISIANA ILLUMINATOR)

The sponsor of a bill that would allow adopted people to obtain copies of their original birth certificates delayed the House vote scheduled Thursday, asking his fellow lawmakers to think about the legislation over the weekend and vote for it on Monday.  

House Bill 450, filed by Rep. Charles Owen, R-Rosepine, proposes that a person who was adopted as a child would no longer have to petition a court to unseal their original birth certificate. Instead, they could obtain an uncertified copy upon request from the state registrar of vital records once they reach age 24.

Under a Louisiana law approved in 1977, nearly all records of a closed adoption, including the original birth certificate that often contains the identities of the biological parents, are sealed and not accessible to the adoptee. The state issues an altered birth certificate with the legal fiction that the child was born to their adoptive parents. The original can only be unsealed with a judge’s approval after the adoptee proves a compelling reason to make the records available. 

Owen’s legislation advanced without objection earlier this week from the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure after attracting a wealth of support from adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents. 

The only opposing voices have come from Louisiana Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that has argued the legislation could upend a birth mother’s right to privacy in an adoption. The proposal would still keep the original birth certificate, which typically includes the birth mother’s identity, confidential from the public.

Bill to provide adopted people access to birth certificates advances to Louisiana House

 

 

Owen said he recently got a phone call from the former Louisiana Senate clerk who drafted the 1977 legislation. The clerk told him the original intent of the law was to protect the adoptive parents because there was concern that birth parents might regret the adoption and come back for the children, he said. 

“Everyone I’ve talked to says, ‘I see both sides of this,’” Owen said.

Before moving to postpone Thursday’s vote, Owen asked his fellow lawmakers to take the weekend “to think and to pray” about the issues surrounding his legislation.

If the bill passes Monday, it will head to the Senate for consideration.

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Among his recognitions are McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association. Muller is an alumnus of Jesuit High School and the University of New Orleans and is a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Louisiana with his wife and two sons.

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