Since 1941, Iowa adoptees have been restricted access to their birth certificates; this may be changing.
Senate file 621 strives to grant adoptees access to their original birth certificates. While the bill did not pass before the legislative session adjourned Saturday, the bill moved further than it had in previous sessions.
For Michelle Spear, this has been a long work in progress, as she co-founded the Iowa Adoptee and Family Coalition, a Facebook page of adult adoptees, birth families and adoptive families who have been around since 2013.
Spear said members of the group wanted to change legislation in Iowa, so they created a Facebook page in order to organize and do it.
“We needed a place that we could all come together in one spot and talk about what it is that we wanted,” Spear said.
The page has almost 1,200 members, consisting of adult adoptees, adoptee families and concerned legislators all trying to create change in what they call an antiquated law.
Ames Rep. Beth Wessell-Kroeschell has been one of the legislators fighting for the adoptees.
Wessell-Kroeschell recalled how a couple of years ago a group of adult adoptees came to her asking for their birth certificates.
“They wanted a copy of a document that is solely about them,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.
Wessell-Kroeschell emphasized that for some of them it is as important as a marriage certificate, saying there’s just something about “having that piece of paper.”
The main argument against this bill is that parents who previously wished to remain anonymous would be revealed. Spear said they are just trying to put the certificates and information in the hands of adults.
However, there are compromises in the legislation, one called a Contact Preference Form.
“The Contact Preference Form is something that a birth parent can file and it gives them options,” Spear said.
Parents have the choice of giving their contact information to be given out or an intermediary of their choice can be decided. Additionally, they can decide that they do not want to give out any contact information but acknowledge that the birth certificate will be released.
“We felt that was a good compromise and that it was allowing the relationship status to be in the hands of adults, just like any other relationship,” Spear said. “If the birth parent says, ‘Don’t contact me,’ then you don’t contact them.”
Spear said the legislators, however, felt there was still the need for an option allowing anonymity. So, they compromised on a fourth option.
The fourth option, which was added as an amendment, redacts personally identifiable information from the birth certificate.
“National statistics show that less than 1 percent of birth mothers ever ask for no contact,” Spear said. “So we feel like this is a great step to show Iowa that the world is not going to collapse because you gave me my birth certificate.”
Wessell-Kroeschell said though parents may want to remain anonymous, DNA tests can be done through other family members to find their lineage.
“It is already very hard to remain anonymous even if you want to anymore,” Wessell-Kroeschell said.
Senate File 621 passed unanimously in the Senate on Tuesday, but did not pass in the House before session ended. Starting next legislative session, the bill will have to pass the House and be signed by the Governor.