The House passed legislation Tuesday that will give adoptees born before 1983 access to their original birth certificate with the names of their birth parents. The bill passed 115-28.
“It will allow me to go to City Hall in Hartford, where I was born, and make a request for a government document that’s actually the truth,” Kathy Flaherty, of Newington said.
For decades, Flaherty wondered about her birth parents. Adopted in 1969, she's among those Connecticut children born between 1944 and 1983 who are not allowed to see their original birth certificate.
“I’m excited to be able to get a document with information that's accurate,” Flaherty said.
Opponents, like the Catholic Church, who helped arrange closed adoptions during the 60s, 70s, and 80s, are afraid of what she might do with that information.
The Catholic Church was the only group to publicly oppose the legislation.
They declined comment Tuesday as the House debated the legislation, but have previously said they want to protect the birth mother's privacy.
"To go down this path I think is very unfortunate, unfair to birth mothers out there," Chris Healy, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, has said.
Flaherty says she can understand without explanation what her mother was going through at the time.
“I think a lot of young women who weren’t married were expected by their own families to give up children for adoption,” Flaherty said.
“For me the most important part is keeping the promise to those women who gave their children up for adoption rather than getting an abortion. So I want to keep that promise,” said Rep. Tom O’Dea, R-New Canaan.
O’Dea says without the legislation, a birth mother can get a court order to request information about their children.
“The birth parent wanted to remain anonymous and I think that we should honor that,” O’Dea said.
He says he doesn’t know that mothers had an expectation of anonymity.
Rep. Joe Zullo, R-East Haven, says the bill balances the privacy rights of birth mothers with the desire of adult adoptees to know their medical and biological history.
“I think so many of us take for granted the fact that we know who we are. That we have that understanding,” Zullo said.
Tuesday’s vote wasn’t easy.
“I think what we’ve heard has usually been situations where reunion has been welcomed,” Rep. Lauren Devlin, R-Fairfield, said. “And that reunion was wanted.”
She said if there was some way to have an intermediary for that birth mother to be contacted.
“This is not an easy vote for me,” Devlin said.
She said it all goes back to the individual involved and there’s no way of knowing how many birth mothers thought there was a promise made of confidentiality.