Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ohio Almost Closes the Gap on Original Birth Certificate Access

Today, Ohio Governor John Kasich signs a bill into law that will potentially grant 400,000 adoptees born in Ohio between 1964 and 1996 access to their original birth certificates. This action marks what some to consider to be a huge step forward for the legal rights of adoptees born in Ohio--but the bill is not as inclusive as some might think.

While the bill does grant adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates, an amendment  allows natural parents a one-year window during implementation in which they can request that their name be removed from the copy provided to their sons and daughters. Natural parents taking advantage of this option must then provide their sons and daughters with a detailed medical history.

What this means is that some adult adoptees born in Ohio between 1964 and 1996 will be able to access their original birth certificates just as all non-adopted adults do, in its unaltered form. But some adult adoptees will receive an altered version of their original birth certificate for no other reason besides the fact that they were adopted as children. The amendment gives the personal desires of a few adult citizens (natural parents who do not want contact with their sons or daughters) precedent over the legal rights of an entire class of adult citizens (all adult adoptees born in Ohio between 1964 and 1996). It also perpetuates the myth that natural parents are afforded a legal right to anonymity or privacy from their own sons and daughters. As such, this bill cannot be considered one that provides equal rights under law for all adoptees.

So, while this bill and the fact that it is being signed into law is considered by some to be an improvement, it is important to consider that adult adoptees born in Ohio between 1964 and 1996 are still being treated differently than non-adopted adults. For all of the adult adoptees who will receive a copy of their original, unaltered birth certificate, there will be a few who won't because of another adult citizen. And I would like for us all to take a moment and acknowledge these adult adoptee citizens and the inequity they will continue to face.

All of this said, I ferociously applaud Adoption Equity Ohio for the group's tireless and committed efforts. As a board member of Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights, I am inspired by the unwavering tenacity of my neighbors to the west. Compromises happen. We are so often placed in legislative limbo and eventually end up having to take what is offered at that moment for the largest group of adoptees. This is not something that anyone working for adoption reform wants to do. But such is life in politics and legislation.

Once signed into law today, many adult adoptees will have access to their original, unaltered birth certificates. This is long overdue and shouldn't have to come with any compromises. It is my hope that this fight still isn't over. If there is one thing I know about adoption reform advocates, we are a tough, committed bunch. And we will continue to push forward until all adoptees are able to access their original birth certificates.

Julie Stromberg
When the time came to think about college, I decided that my career path would encompass either child psychology or journalism. Fortunately for all the young people out there, I opted for journalism and earned a bachelor's degree in communications. Since that time, I have worked as a newspaper and magazine staff writer, public relations associate, and marketing copywriter. My professional creative efforts have been acknowledged with several industry awards.

I am also pleased to be involved in several writing and advocacy projects outside of the office. As an adoptee, my advocacy work is focused on changing the common, societal discourse on adoption practices and encouraging reform that would place the emotional needs and legal rights of the children involved first.