Reunions happen all the time in spite of sealed record laws. Mine certainly did! Adoptees’ ability to access their own birth certificates is a matter of equitable rights, not reunion. It is independent of whether or not the parties involved select to have contact with one another. One’s adoption status should not remove a right that all others can take for granted.

Although the two are separate issues, the subject of contact often becomes entwined with that of birth certificate access when pro-access legislation is proposed. So, it should be addressed.

Equal Access Rights with a Voice

Several states that give all adopted adults the right to obtain their original birth records have contact preference provisions in place. Two such states are Oregon and New Hampshire. Adoptees’ access to birth certificates, in conjunction with contact preference provisions, can better mitigate undesired contact than withheld access can.

Here’s an example of how contact preference can work. Birth parents fill out a contact preference form. The contact preference form indicates their desire, or lack of desire, for contact by the adoptee. The form is then filed with the original birth certificate. The parents can update their preference at any time.

If an adoptee orders a copy of the original birth certificate, they’ll also receive a copy of the contact preference form. This lets the adoptee knows right away whether or not the natural parent desires contact. In turn, this greatly reduces the risk of unwanted contact. After all, most people don’t wish to pursue contact with someone who doesn’t want it.

In states that do not grant adoptees access to their birth records, biological parents and adopted people will continue to find one another. But, there will be no indication to either party as to the preference for contact by the other. That is, until that contact occurs.

I don’t know how many adoptees want to make contact with their birth parents or vice versa. I’ve known plenty in both groups that desire it. But, I’ve also known those who don’t. But, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Deciding if government should reopen birth records to adoptees shouldn’t be based on whether or not these groups desire contact. Because it’s about equitable rights, not reunion.

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