JEFFERSON CITY — Adoptees are urging Missouri lawmakers to grant them greater access to their birth and medical records, casting their cause in terms of the civil rights movement.
Currently adoptees born in Missouri must go through the court system or get consent from their birth mother to get their official birth certificate.
Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow some adopted after Aug. 28 total access to their birth and medical records once they turn 18. The bill would also give birth parents the choice of whether they want to be contacted by their adult child or to communicate through a third party.
People adopted before Aug. 28 would only have access to available medical history. The state registrar would still have to attempt to contact the birth mother for permission to release the original birth certificate.
Every other Missouri citizen has complete access to their birth certificate, said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Rita Heard Days.
"People who are adopted should not be a separate class of people," Days, D-St. Louis, said.
For $15, Missourians can obtain a birth certificate through the state Division of Vital Statistics or through their local health department. Adoptees have to get permission before they can get access.
Missouri is one of 26 states to require a court order for adoptees to get access to their original birth certificate. Four states — Alabama, Alaska, Maine and Oregon— allow adult adoptees to request their records. Twenty other states stipulate some form of consent or eligibility requirements.
"We are made second-class citizens for something we adoptees had nothing to do with," adult adoptee Bob Haight said during a Senate health committee hearing earlier this week. "I'm 60 years old, they are in their 80s, if they die before signing an affidavit I have no proof I was ever born."
Supporters say having access to medical records could give adoptees the chance to prepare for genetic medical problems.
Ann Padmos told the committee that when she gave her baby up for adoption at age 19 she didn't know she would get breast cancer twice or that she would become diabetic. Padmos said she eventually reconnected with her son, and now he has the opportunity to warn his daughters of the family history.
The bill would give birth parents the option of filling out a report that would list chronic diseases, allergies and other medical information.
Similar legislation has been proposed in both chambers for several years, but has not made it past the committee level.
Tyler McClay, a spokesman for the Missouri Catholic Conference, said child placement agencies are better suited to reconnecting parents and adopted children.
The current Department of Social Services adoption registry does not have the same resources as the agencies, he said.
The state registry connects adoptees with their birth families if both parties request it. Less than 50 people a year reconnect with family members this way, according to the department.
McClay said he supports a House bill that lets adult adoptees request a copy of their birth certificate and lets child placement agencies attempt to contact the birth parents.
Days said it can cost up to $500 to have a private child placement agency do the search, and it is less expensive for the state to charge adoptees for making the inquiries.