By Tami Fitzgerald
Christian Action League
During the 2007 Session state lawmakers approved a bill that allows people who are adopted to find their biological parents, even if those adoptions were “closed.” The law allows adoption agencies and local departments of social services to act as “confidential intermediaries” between adult adoptees and biological parents of adoptees, but only after receiving the written consent of the parties involved.
Now almost two years later, the sponsor of the original bill, Rep. Margaret Dickson (D-Cumberland), is back with another bill seeking to expand the Confidential Intermediary process. HB 1463—Expand Access/Confidential Intermediaries —would make two changes in the existing process: (1) It would open up the process to siblings and half siblings of adult adoptees and to family members (defined as a spouse, child, stepchild, parent, stepparent, grandparent, or grandchild) of deceased biological parents and deceased adoptees; and (2) It would allow the person who requested the services to obtain a copy of the death certificate once the person who is the subject of the search is deceased.
The concern over such a broad expansion is twofold: (1) Expanding the availability of the process to so many family members creates a situation whereby confidentiality will be hard to protect if either the adoptee or the birth parent wishes to maintain it; and (2) Allowing release of the death certificate in closed adoptions would override the birth parent’s choice (made while she was alive) to keep the adoption confidential. These two concerns have temporarily impeded the progress of the bill’s journey through the legislative process.
The bill passed the House on May 6th, but it is held up in the Senate Judiciary II Committee, where it has been sent to a subcommittee for further refinement and study. Members of the Senate Judiciary II subcommittee met last week to discuss the bill, and the problems listed above surfaced. Rep. Dickson argued that if the birth parent is deceased, there is no place for an adult adoptee who might want to make contact with siblings or discover medical history to seek this information. But, the Christian Action League pointed out that there is already a mechanism in place for adult adoptees to obtain medical records once the birth parent is deceased by filing an action in court. Those in favor of the bill countered that confidentiality should not be an issue beyond the grave.
Senators Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe) and Doug Berger (D-Franklin) expressed concern about violating the birth mother’s right to privacy and her expectation of confidentiality, even though it might occur after her death. Sen. Jim Jacumin (D-Burke) stated: “We ought to respect the desire of a young mother who wants to choose life. That may be a life saved.” He pointed out that if the only confidential option for a young woman with an unwanted pregnancy is abortion, she might choose that instead of adoption.
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The subcommittee will meet again on Tuesday, July 21st to discuss whether there is a suitable compromise. Members of the subcommittee may be contacted by telephone. Below are the members and their legislative phone numbers:
Sen. Don Vaughan (D-Guilford), Chair (919) 733-5856
Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe) (919) 733-5745
Bob Atwater (D-Chatham) (919) 715-3036
Sen. Doug Berger (D-Franklin) (919) 715-8363
Sen. Jim Jacumin (R-Burke) (919) 715-7823
Sen. John Snow (D-Cherokee) (919) 733-5875