This week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Bill 162. The measure would require the Pennsylvania Department of Health to provide a summary of an adoptee’s birth record without the consent of the birth parents. It would release the names of the birth parents, even if there had been a promise of anonymity provided long ago.
Pennsylvania law allows for open adoptions but also establishes a mediation process where adoptees and birth parents can establish communication if both sides agree. Open adoptions are encouraged when the parties believe that it is in their best interest. Many birth parents wish to keep in touch with their children and many adoptees desire to know details of their family history. However, each adoption is unique and what is best for one family may not be for another.
Open adoption is the right choice for many people; but some women in a crisis pregnancy choose to carry the baby to term with the understanding that their identity will remain private. For example, rape victims have been guaranteed anonymity in the adoption process in the past. This simple fact helped countless women choose life.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference cannot support HB 162 because it imposes a unilateral approach to identifying information for adoptees without respect for the concerns of others involved in the adoption proceedings. The Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU also opposes legislation like HB 162 that does not respect all parties involved in adoptions.
In a memo to House members, the ACLU asserts, “The fundamental concern with the legislation, that the law is changing for birth parents who chose to remain anonymous many years ago and could expose them against their wishes.”
The bill will now be considered by the PA Senate. Send a message to your state Senator today urging him or her to respect all parties in adoption and vote no on HB 162 in its current form.
Know someone facing an adoption decision? www.adoptionpa.org is a website that connects mothers and families with a Catholic adoption agency in their area and also offers encouragement and support to those who experience unintended pregnancies.