INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 13, 2016) – Hoosiers adopted between the years 1941 and 1993 are one step closer to being able to view their birth certificates.
The more than 50-year window is known as the “closed records” period, which bans access to these adoptees, who are now all adults, who want access to their birth records, history and other personal documents.
“How much we weighed, what hospital we were born at, how long we were, what time we were born…” said Melissa Shelton, an adoptee herself and secretary of the organization Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records (HEAR). “We have no idea of any of that basic information that everyone else has on their birth certificate.”
Shelton was adopted in 1968. Now with adopted children of her own, she’s fighting with HEAR to gain access to the information that has been kept from her all her life.
Senate Bill 91, which is backed by Senator Brent Steele, went before the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee today and passed unanimously. However, this is just the first step in this year’s fight.
“This is huge,” said Shelton. “We’re one step closer to adoptees being able to walk into vital records and request their birth certificate, and be able to get their birth certificate.”
Access to these documents range from learning medical records and history, to other documents needed to even get a passport.
“[My mother] and every other Hoosier in this state deserve the right to get their hands on this information,” said Nick Shelton, Melissa’s teenage son. “It isn’t just birth certificates we’re talking here.”
The bill is in the very early stages and now heads to the floor of the Senate for voting. If gaining a favorable vote, the bill will go to the House and then the Governor for his signature. Last year’s version died before reaching the Governor’s desk.
“We’re just concerned that we’re going to get killed if the House erupts this year,” said Nick Shelton. “But we feel we have a much better chance.”
The argument against access to these records is privacy. Some mothers who kept the birth a secret may want to keep it that way.
Attorney Steven M. Kirsch of law firm Kirsch & Kirsch, P.C., fights for these mothers and provided the following statement:
“If the Indiana General Assembly is going to pass Senate Bill 91 regarding retroactively opening adoption records, I hope that it will provide significant funding to publicize the change in the law so that unsuspecting birth parents who thought that their identity would remain confidential know that they need to take affirmative action under the new law to protect their anonymity.”
Closed record adoptees say much time has passed and the time for them is now.
The next step is for the bill to go to the Senate floor, which is likely to occur later this month.