Texas adoptees fighting for access to original birth certificates

Families fighting for birth certificates.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An original birth certificate can reveal so much about the person it belongs to. For adoptees, it can reveal their genetic background that is linked to life-saving medical information.

In Texas, adult adoptees cannot access their birth certificates, because current laws are blocking them from access. However, one bill being considered this legislative session may change that. Adoptee rights groups said at least 10 state senators have signed on to back Senate Bill 329.

Currently, only a judge can give a Texas adoptee access to their original birth certificate, according to Marci Purcell, board president of the Adoption Knowledge Affiliates, a support group for adoptees.

“It’s a civil right,” Purcell said. “Everyone else has access to their original birth certificates, but adoptees don’t. So, you’ve created two classes of people, one that has access and one that doesn’t.”

Original birth certificates give adoptees insight into their birth parents’ names, the hospitals where they were born and legal last names. If passed, adoptees in Texas will gain access to the document when they turn 18.

Similar bills have failed in the state legislature since 2013. Some lawmakers didn’t supported this bill in the past because it did not protect the privacy of the birth parents. Purcell said states with closed records see less privacy protection for biological parents.

“[Adoptees] are able to go on Facebook and hold up a sign and say this is my information,” said Purcell, who knew her original name and was able to track down her birth mother in New Jersey, where she was born. “So, the birth parent is outed in a very public way. Instead of me walking up to the vital statistics office and getting a copy of my birth certificate and calling them privately.”

Adoptee rights groups are pleading with lawmakers to pass the bill this time. They say having it is critical, especially when it comes to their health.

“When my son was diagnosed with epilepsy, the first thing the neurologist asked me is, ‘does this run in your family,'” Purcell said. “I have two daughters. How will we know if breast cancer runs in our family if we don’t have access to our medical history?'”

So far, 20 other states offer adult adoptees partial or full access to their original birth certificates, including New Jersey, Alabama and Colorado. Texas would be the 21st state if the bill is passed, and it would impact more than 500,000 adoptees statewide.

 

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