- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2015

In 10 years, nearly 1,700 adult adoptees born in New Hampshire have received their original birth documents — and only 13 birth parents have objected to contact, a state adoption activist said this month.

On Jan. 1, 2005, New Hampshire’s “open records” law went into effect, said Paul Schibbelhute, a leader with the American Adoption Congress, a group committed to adoption reform.

Ironically, the law was initially opposed “by almost every institution imaginable,” including pro-life groups, adoption advocates, pro-abortion groups, adoption lawyers, civil-liberties groups and Catholic groups, said Mr. Schibbelhute, who lives in Nashua, N.H.

“Fortunately, almost 70 percent of the New Hampshire legislature recognized that all these doomsayers were wrong and passed SB335,” Mr. Schibbelhute said in a recent news release. He is the birth father of a child placed for adoption in the 1970s.

Mr. Schibbelhute later used a private investigator to find that now-adult child, and they have reconnected. He and his allies believe more states should enact open-records laws in adoption.

According to New Hampshire’s vital records agency, state law permits adult adoptees born in New Hampshire to request their original birth certificate if such a document was filed — and then sealed because it was replaced by an adoption record.

Adoptees, who pay $15 fee, also receive any contact-preference and medical-history forms filed by a birth parent.

Birth parents may file a form saying they are open to contact or request contact only via an intermediary, or say they want no contact. No-contact parents must still provide medical history.

The state agency’s data show the most dramatic response in 2005: Some 779 adoptees requested their records. Just 53 birth parents filed a contact-preference form, with 36 seeking contact, six seeking contact through an intermediary and 11 refusing contact.

In subsequent years, roughly 100 adoptees have asked for their records each year. Very few birth parents file contact-preference forms, but those that do want to meet.

Most U.S. states do not allow adult adoptees to get their sealed birth records without a court order or some compelling reason.

Activists have fought to get open-records laws passed, but lawmakers are often swayed by arguments that some pregnant women will turn to abortion — or baby abandonment — instead of formal adoption if they cannot be promised privacy about their birth decisions.

With the number of abortions steadily declining — including in open-records states — these fears may be abating. But open-records activists still face uphill battles: Only 18 states currently permit adult adoptees full or partial access to original birth documents, the American Adoption Congress said.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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