Legislature passes bill to let adoptees access birth certificates

Proposal awaits governor’s signature

By: - June 6, 2022 1:56 pm
Adopted people in Louisiana will soon have access to birth certificates

Louisiana birth certificates. (WES MULLER/LOUISIANA ILLUMINATOR)

The Louisiana Legislature passed a bill Sunday that would allow adopted people to obtain copies of their original birth certificates when they reach age 24.

House Bill 450, sponsored by Rep. Charles Owen, R-Rosepine, received final passage with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers, though some lawmakers have called it the most difficult piece of legislation they have ever considered. The legislation next heads to Gov. John Bel Edwards for consideration. 

The bill proposes that someone 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 vital records registrar once they reach age 24.

The proposal overcame opposition from anti-abortion groups and others with financial interests in the adoption industry, both arguing the proposal might discourage women from giving their babies up for adoption.

Owen, an anti-abortion conservative, said his legislation was purely about correcting an injustice. Adopted people are the only Louisiana residents denied the right to access their true birth certificates.  

A 1977 Louisiana law sealed nearly all records in closed adoptions, including the adoptee’s original birth certificate that often contains the identities of their biological parents. Under current law, when an adoption is finalized, the state issues a new birth certificate with the legal fiction that the child was born to their adoptive parents. 

Bill to give adoptees access to birth certificates advances to Senate floor

Over time, some began to perceive the law as necessary to protect the anonymity of birth parents. The advent of affordable consumer DNA testing in recent years, through websites such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe.com, has dismantled any expectations of anonymity. Nearly anyone can track down their biological relatives, even if they have never submitted a DNA sample or used the online service. 

The bill contains a provision that would allow birth parents to request a contact preference sheet at any time from the state Department of Children and Family Services. It would state whether or not the parents wish to be contacted by the adoptee, and the sheet would then be provided to an adopted person who requests their birth certificate.

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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. Much of his journalism has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and coverage of municipal and state government. He has received recognitions including 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, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus and a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his two sons and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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