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Published Thursday July 2nd, 2009 at 4:28pm

Original Article by Philip Marcelo

Providence, Rhode Island -- The state Senate Health and Human Services Committee is taking up a bill on Wednesday that would give adopted adults access to their original birth certificates.

There are at least eight states that currently allow open suchinformation to adoptees: Maine, New Hampshire, Alabama, Alaska,Delaware, Kansas, Oregon and Tennessee.

But under Rhode Island law, adoption records are sealed once a child is adopted and can only be opened by a court.

In 1993, the General Assembly created "a voluntary adoption reunionregistry" where adoptees who want to find their biological parents cancontact the registry when they turn 21. If their biological parentshave given the registry permission to be contacted, the state can helpreunite them.

The proposed Senate bill (S-0779) would repeal that registry program, granting adoptees access, at age 21, to their birth certificates outright.

It also gives birth parents the option to have the state releasetheir current contact information to their biological child so that thetwo sides may reconnect.

Proponents of the bill say the birth records (and accompanyingmedical information) would allow adoptees a better idea of theirgenetic dispositions and chances for developing health problems in thefuture.

They also argue that it is a human right to know who they are andwhere they come from. Adoptees are often willing to pay thousands ofdollars to an investigators to glean such information, but not everyonecan afford that, proponents say.

Opponents of the bill, however, argue that opening up the birthinformation violates the privacy of birth parents who counted onsecrecy when they put up their kid for adoption.

(Proponents counter that Rhode Island law makes no such promise ofconfidentiality since birth certificates are not sealed until a childis adopted, so that the only guarantee to a mother when she gives herchild up for adoption is no future legal liability.)

Opponents also say that the stigma of having others learn that amother had a child out of wedlock, while it has diminished over theyears, can be detrimental to those that have started new lives.

The bill, which is being sponsored this year by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry (D-Providence),has been proposed a number of times in recent years. Perry chairs theHealth and Human Services Committee, which is taking up the bill at theSenate's rise.

A version cleared the House in 2001, but never made it out of theSenate. That bill would have only provided original birth certificates,at age 19, to children born after July 1, 2001.

A bill similar to the one currently being proposed was also introduced in the Senate in 2005.