A proposal that would have expanded Indiana adoptees' access to more than 50 years of sealed records appears to be dead this session, to the disappointment of some advocates.
The records of children in Indiana who were adopted between 1941 and 1994 are currently sealed, preventing hundreds of thousands of adoptees from finding their biological parents.
"It's like starting a book on chapter two," said Pam Kroskie, president of Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records, one of the organizations behind the effort. "You're missing that piece of the puzzle."
The measure would have made accessing birth records easier for those born during that time period. In 1994, state law changed to require biological parents to sign an official form, indicating whether or not the state can disclose their information. Lawmakers agreed at the time to seal records for the preceding decades to protect those who did not expect their information to be readily available.
Senate members approved the new proposal 46-3 in January, and it received a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee last month. But bill co-author Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, said the committee has too many bills that still need to be considered before the session ends and the measure has been bumped due to time constraints.
An aide to Gov. Mike Pence also raised concerns at the March hearing about how the measure would impact biological mothers.
"As always, some bills are just a little too complicated to get done in one session," Steele said.
Under the plan, biological mothers who gave birth during the sealed time frame could file a no-contact form to keep their records sealed. But if a request isn't on file by July 2016 — one year after the law would take effect — the records would become available to the child who was relinquished for adoption.
Kara Brooks, a spokeswoman for Gov. Pence, said the governor's administration believes one year is not enough time for birth mothers to file the proper paperwork if they want to remain anonymous and there are likely many people opposed to the change who don't want to speak publicly.
Steele said lawmakers would look into ways to advertise the changing of the law, such as putting a notice on license plate renewals, but the law shouldn't be put on hold out of fear.
"If we didn't pass laws because we were afraid that people wouldn't find out about it then we wouldn't pass a lot of laws," he said.
Brooks also said there are procedures already in place that allow adoptees to access sealed birth records through the use of a confidential intermediary. The method can be expensive, costing as much as $700.
Supporters argue adoptees have the right to know their own medical histories, which could help them prepare for illnesses or genetic diseases in the future.
As an adoptee herself, Kroskie said she learned that breast cancer runs in her family when she found her biological mother in 1990, and she's been able to take the necessary precautions since then.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, was not available for comment Monday.