Birth certificates have been a frequent (and surprisingly controversial) topic of conversation here. You can poke around a read older posts. The key thing to understand is that, for better or worse, in this country birth certificates are generally used to establish legal parentage. I emphasize legal here, because it’s a critical term. A birth certificate is not a historical record of who gave birth. It’s a document that satisfies a school district, for example, that you have the right to register a child for school.
I am happy to agree at the outset that it doesn’t have to be this way. You could have a different system where other documents were demanded by school districts, soccer teams and the like. You could treat the names of parents on birth certificates as historical facts that wouldn’t be changed. For the moment, however, this isn’t what we do in this country.
The end result is that every state in the US (as far as I know–correct me if I’m wrong) generally issues adoptive parents a new birth certificate with their names on it upon completion of an adoption. (I say “generally” because there are some contested points. Louisiana will not issue a new birth certificate if the adoption has been completed by a gay couple, for example, and other states follow this rather discriminatory practice.)
This new birth certificate allows the adoptive parents to function in the world as legal parents. When they get that new birth certificate, the original certificate is typically sealed. This can frustrate efforts by the adopted child to locate her/his birth parents. And so the relationship between adoption and birth certificates is important.
So here’s a story about a new law Washington State is considering. It’s an effort to strike a slightly different balance between birth parents and adoptive children. I think it fair to say that it tilts a little more in favor of the adoptive children while still offering some protection to birth parents. It also addresses some of the issues that have been raised here about medical needs for family history.
I think it is an interesting bill, and the story of its crafting (as a result of conversations between legislators with their own life experiences) is also noteworthy. I don’t know if it has a chance of passage this year–there’s a lot going on in Olympia and it is a short session–but I thought it might interest you all anyway.