2021 Session Brings Surprises, Struggles
Image: Pieter van de Sande, Mississippi State Capitol Dome Interior
With the nation more hopeful due to vaccine rollouts, but still in the throes of the pandemic, many advocates were anticipating a quiet legislative session in terms of records access and reform bills. Wrong!
Legislators have introduced bills in 14 states, with at least another one or two in the works.
Perhaps the most surprising and exciting of the bunch is MS (yes, that Mississippi) SB 2205,
which was recently passed by the Senate unopposed on Third Reading. The bill's language is a bit quirky, in that it allows access to the original birth certificate 18 years after the creation of the amended birth certificate. As the sponsor pointed out, this means that if an adoption is finalized one year after a baby is born, their OBC would become available to them at age 19.
Bills that would prospectively and retrospectively provide "the whole enchilada" to adult adoptees have been introduced in Arizona, Minnesota and Texas:
The AZ bill has been amended by a powerful lobby group against the wishes of sponsors and advocates to exclude unrestricted access for adoptions finalized between June 20, 1968 and July 20, 2021. The amended bill looks like its chances of passage are strong, and will still provide records to tens of thousands of adoptees.
Minnesota bills have historically languished after introduction without so much as a committee hearing, but with stronger sponsors in place, here's hoping that things will be different this year.
Texas advocates are working diligently to round up cosponsors and, most importantly, thwart opposition from adoptive mother and State Senator Donna Campbell, whose influence has stalled an otherwise widely supported bill in recent years.
Bills that would repeal "sandwich" laws and replace them with full unrestricted access for all adult adoptees, regardless of date of adoption, have been introduced in Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts, while Indiana and Tennessee legislators will consider bills that remove birth parent nondisclosure preference provisions. A similar precedent-setting bill passed unanimously in Colorado in 2014.
A Rhode Island bill would lower the age of eligibility for an adult adoptee to request their OBC from 25 to 18, and would grant access from the adoptees DOB prospectively for adoptions finalized on or after July 1, 2021.
Bills introduced in Iowa and West Virginia would dramatically increase access to records, but also include a name redaction option for birth parents who file a revokable Contact Preference Form (CPF) and select that preference. Iowa's bill allows adoptees age 50 and older to avoid the wait period required for those who are younger in order to allow time for CPFs to be filed
An Idaho bill would provide prospective access to adult adoptees whose adoptions are finalized after July 1, 2021, the bill's effective date. While the bill does not help past adoptees, it does stop the madness for future generations and help to educate legislators about the issue.
Expect more pernicious Baby Box bills this session, like the one introduced in Florida. Last year's bill was thankfully killed in a Senate committee by the chair, but this year's Senate version has already moved through two subcommittees, and appears to have wheels. Advocates have already reportedly persuaded at least one Florida institution to install a baby box (see preceding link), euphemistically called a "newborn infant safety device," without formalizing the practice in statute. Reports from the Safe Haven Law community say that most Safe Haven advocates do not support the extreme step of instituting Baby Boxes, but the driving force behind them, an Indiana-based adoptee, continues to press that agenda with growing success. To read more about what we do and don't know about Safe Haven Laws after 20 years, click here.
The Adoptee Citizenship Act did not move forward during the last session of Congress, but national support is growing, and advocates are dedicated to see it through. Read more about the struggle here. The Adoptee Rights Coalition wholeheartedly supports this cause, and wishes our intercountry adoptee sisters and brothers every success.