SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Legislation that would give adults adopted as children access to their birth certificates for the first time doesn’t go far enough for many advocates. The emotionally charged issue has pitted members of the larger adoption community against each other as the legislation traveled through the Illinois legislature, coming to a head during a Senate committee hearing last week.
Adopted persons and representatives of advocacy organizations packed the hearing room. Witnesses traveled from New Jersey and Alaska to speak to lawmakers. And though the committee did pass HB5428 to the Senate floor, opponents and supporters of the idea aren’t ready to declare victory or defeat.
House sponsor state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, says the legislation is “the best (lawmakers can do) for the most people.” She and Senate sponsor state Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi, D-Crest Hill, expect to move forward in the Senate this week. If the bill passes, it will go to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.
“As a legislator, I need to ask myself some very tough questions,” Feigenholtz said. “This is the bill that can pass. We have an obligation and that is to protect the minority while helping the majority.”
Birth mothers will have an opportunity to deny biological children access to the documents, a decision that some adopted adults say isn’t within the rights of women who gave up children for adoption.
Critics of the legislation fall in two camps – those who think it doesn’t protect birth mothers and those who think it leaves behind adults whose birth parents want to remain confidential. The second category of opponents fear lawmakers won’t revisit access legislation if the bill passes, leaving a category of adopted people without an identity.
Triona Guidry would be one of those people. Her birth mother has filed to prevent the daughter she gave up for adoption from gaining access to her original birth certificate.
“The sponsors have both presented this as a bill that restores adoptee rights,” said Guidry, now a spokeswoman for Adoption Reform Illinois. “But we all deserve rights, not just those permitted to do so by this legislation. What would it be like if you asked for a copy of your birth certificate and it had big holes in it?”
The organization prefers blanket access to birth certificates for all adopted adults, regardless of the birth mother’s preference. Guidry said the majority of adoptees only want to get a sense of who they are, not establish contact or a relationship with their birth parents.
State Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, voted against the legislation in committee and said he needed to speak with dozens of constituents who contacted him before making a decision.
“I’ve just been deluged and rightfully so by requests for meetings and phone calls,” Dillard said. “This is a highly emotionally charged issue from all sides and it needs to be well thought out, both practically and theologically.”
For more: "Wolf In Sheep's Clothing: Adoptee Voices Negated In Discussion Of Illinois HB 5428." http://www.73adoptee.com