Pennsylvania has joined a growing number of states that have opened sealed birth certificates for adoptees. Their new law allows adoptees over the age of 18 access to their original birth certificates. Access is also given to children and grandchildren of adoptees. Siblings and adoptive parents are excluded from eligibility.
Under the law birth parents are able to have their names redacted from the document at any time. They may also file a contact preference form with the original birth certificate. Pennsylvania sealed original birth certificates in 1984, so this is the first time in 33 years adoptees have been able to get their basic legal documents in the state.
In previous years when adoptions took place, the original birth certificates were placed in a sealed file. The adoptees were given an amended copy of the form with the birth parents’ names replaced with those of the adoptive parents. The original documents include the names and ages of the birth parents, as well as the child’s birth name and the county the child was born in.
There have been some arguments back and forth on this issue. Much of the country is still in a heated debate over the subject. Some people fear the changing of these laws will result in more abortions. Some argue for the privacy of the birth parents. Others argue that allowing any redaction is only a half win for adoptees. According to Representative Kerry Benninghoff, “The fight has always been about fairness and the fundamental right of Pennsylvania adoptees to have access to the one legal document that legitimizes their existence here on this earth.”
In the first week 1,100 applications for original birth certificates have been received from adoptees. There have been 10 redaction requests from birth parents. Adoptees can submit applications at the Department of Health with a $20 filing fee. Requests take about 45 days to process.