Bill to open adoption records passes Senate committee

State senators will soon debate a bill that could help people adopted in Indiana between 1941 and 1994 find records about their biological family and medical history.

The bill, endorsed unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, rolls back a 1994 measure that sealed adoption information unless a consent form was on file. Instead, those records would be made available beginning in 2018 unless the biological parents filed a non-disclosure form with the Indiana State Department of Health by January 2018.

Pam Kroskie is president of Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records, an advocacy group for open adoption records that has pushed for similar bills for the past eight years. Unlike other legislative sessions, the proposal passed the hearing without opposition.

"We couldn't have really asked for anything better," she said. "I think we really showed them that we put it back in the hands of the biological parents."

An adoptee herself, Kroskie said reconnected with her biological parents through the Internet. But beyond reunions, Kroskie said her group's main mission remains enabling adoptees to access their medical histories and birth certificates that current law conceals from them.

"Anonymity deprives us of an important part of who we are," Kroskie said.

Other bill supporters said being able to obtain medical information about their parents could help them understand their risk for genetic diseases and illnesses.

The proposal also replaces the no-contact form with a contact preference form that gives birth parents the option of specifying how and to what degree they prefer to be contacted or identified, if at all.

"As you can see, you can decide the amount of contact you wish to have or not have," said the bill's author, Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

Last year, a similar proposal by Steele failed in the House after it faced questions from Gov. Mike Pence's administration about reversing the promise of anonymity given to birth mothers. No one representing the governor testified at Wednesday's hearing.

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