Pence objection blocks adoptees’ birth-record access, advocates say

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Gov. Mike Pence’s objections to a bill that would open the birth records for hundreds of thousands of adult Hoosiers thwarted chances it will pass the General Assembly this session, according to proponents who said they have been informed the bill will receive no further hearings in the House of Representatives.

“It is with great surprise and disappointment that we must announce that (Senate Bill) 352 will not make it out of House Committee this year,” Pam Kroskie of Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records said in a statement. “A scheduled hearing of an amendment to clarify birthparent notification procedures was delayed due to other unforeseen distractions in the House, bumping what should have been a quick second hearing on our bill off the docket completely. We believe the late opposition from the governor’s office is unnecessary and based on outdated and erroneous ideas about birth parents that are easily debunked by current statistics.”  

Senate Bill 352  would open birth records to Hoosiers born between 1941 and 1993. People who were adopted before or after that date are not forbidden by law from accessing their birth certificates. The bill passed the Senate in January by a vote of 46-3.

But on March 23, Pence family policy director Lindsey Craig appeared to testify before the House Judiciary Committee against the bill, stating that Pence had concerns about opening access to birth certificates for generations of Hoosier adoptees.

“We do still remain conflicted and have concerns about the bill as it is written now,” Craig testified. “We believe the state did make a promise to birth mothers” to protect their identity when they placed their child for adoption.

Opponents of the bill – including confidential intermediaries who attempt to facilitate contact between adoptees and birth mothers, usually for a fee – say the current system offers safeguards for birth mothers who have a right to privacy.

The House Judiciary Committee held the bill so that an amendment could be reached that would address Pence’s concerns, but open-records proponents say they’re disappointed that won’t happen.

“We are dismayed that a bill with so much obvious public support could be set aside for yet another legislative season,” Kroskie said. “For 350,000 adult adoptees from the closed records period in Indiana, it is justice denied — again. Every year that we delay, it is another year that adoptees die or experience serious medical complications because they don’t have access to their medical histories.  Every year we delay, it is a precious chance for closure and healing and knowledge being denied to Indiana families who are not getting any younger.”


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