Adoption records bill amendments target medical info

Adults who were adopted as children would get a glimpse into their birth family’s medical history under legislation that advanced Wednesday.

The Louisiana House tackled the thorny issue after delaying debate just a day earlier. State Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, stepped up to the microphone on the House floor with four pages of amendments to his House Bill 1028.

The changes sought to soothe concerns that HB1028 would allow confidential information about birth parents to spill into their offsprings’ hands.

“This is an important bill to a lot of people,” Schexnayder said. “This allows for family medical history.”

With the changes, the House voted 98-0 in favor of the measure, sending it to the state Senate for debate.

“As a father of an adopted daughter, do you know how much I appreciate you doing this?” state Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, told Schexnayder.

Getting information from a sealed birth record in Louisiana requires a court order.

The Louisiana Adoption Support Alliance said it is rare to access updated family medical history, making it difficult to undertake preventive health care for problems such as breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“A system that requires a person to be fatally ill in order to stand a chance of receiving a current and up-to-date family medical history does not promote health and life,” the alliance wrote in a letter of support for the bill.

Initially, HB1028 would have allowed adopted offspring age 25 or older to get a noncertified copy of their original birth certificate. A birth parent could opt against the release but would still be required to submit an updated family medical history form.

Officials with the Catholic Church, Louisiana Right to Life Federation and others immediately raised concerns.

Critics cited a problem with requiring birth parents to fill out a “No Contact” form by Jan. 1 in order for the original records to remain confidential. They said that would topple Louisiana’s pledge to keep adoptions private unless both parties agree to be open.

With the amendments, birth parents would be required to submit family history forms every five years.

The state Department of Children and Family Services would contact birth parents every five years to get updated forms. The bill sets out no penalties for parents who fail to file them.

Adopted children would get their original birth certificates only if their birth parents indicated they were OK with the release.

However, the children would be able to get redacted family history statements.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, said Schexnayder compromised with the opponents.

If the bill becomes law, Schexnayder said, Louisiana would be the first state in the country to adopt such language.

“We (will) have family medical history readily available,” he said.