Proposed Ohio legislation would open adoption files
Written by By Associated Press   
Sunday, 24 March 2013 06:57

CLEVELAND (AP) — Bills now in the Ohio legislature would clarify confusing rules governing birth certificates and help adoptees get access to medical and other information from adoption files, according to supporters of the proposed legislation.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on House Bill 61, and a companion bill is expected to be taken up in the Senate next month. The proposed legislation would allow most Ohio adoptees access to their original adoption files once they become adults, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.

Birth parents would have the option of providing family health information that would be released to the adoptee upon request, and could fill out a form that lets the children they gave up for adoption know if they want to be contacted and what method of contact they would prefer.

The legislation, if approved, would not go into effect for one year to give birth parents time to fill out the contact forms.

The bills' supporters say changes to Ohio law through the years have resulted in inconsistent rules that limit access to birth records for some adoptees and not for others.

Currently, those adopted before Jan. 1, 1964, have full access to their adoption file once they become adults and only have to request the file and pay a $20 fee. But those adopted from Jan. 1, 1964 until Sept. 18, 1996, can't get their birth certificates unless they have a court order — something rare and difficult to get, said Betsie Norris, executive director of Adoption Network Cleveland.

Lisa Buescher, who falls into that second category, has been trying to get her birth certificate and medical information about her biological parents for 11 years, and says "it's been frustrating."

Buescher, of Moreland Hills, was adopted in 1968. She told the Plain Dealer that she has three children and there have been times when a doctor has needed a medical history "and 50 percent of it is missing."

The current law also allows those adopted on or after Sept. 18, 1996, to obtain their adoption files for the $20 fee, unless their biological parents asked that the files be sealed.

Under the proposed legislation, original birth certificates for adoptees would only be open to the adoptees and their descendants. Adoptees still would not have access to files in cases where birth parents gave their children up for adoption as of Sept. 18, 1996, and asked that their names not be released.

But approval of the legislation would mean that an estimated 400,000 Ohioans adopted between Jan. 1, 1964 and Sept. 18, 1996 would finally have access to their official records birth and adoption records.

"''The issue is about equity and fairness for the adoptee to get access to an original birth certificate," said state Rep. Nickie Antonio, a Democrat from Lakewood and a primary sponsor of the House bill.

Republican Sen. Bill Beagle, from Tipp City, is a primary sponsor of the Senate bill that he expects to be approved. He said he doesn't expect any significant opposition, although anti-abortion groups opposed similar attempts in the past.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, told The Columbus Dispatch earlier this year that while Ohio Right to Life historically had opposed disclosing birth parents' identities, "that position has thawed."

Gonidakis said many people can now find information on the Internet that they couldn't get in the past.

Dale Fellows, of Willoughby Hills, was adopted in 1955 and had no trouble obtaining his birth certificate.

"It basically started the ball rolling for me to do my research and eventually reunite with my biological mother, which was phenomenal," said Fellows, who was reunited with her about a year before she died.

He said to deny that right to someone "just because of the year they were born, is absolutely wrong."


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

 

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