Note: This post has been updated to reflect amendments to the bill after May 9, 2018. The legislature ultimately passed H.3775 and the South Carolina Governor signed it shortly thereafter. It became effective July 1, 2019.
A bill gone bad is making its way through the South Carolina legislature. Bastard Nation has issued an action alert on Facebook to oppose H.3775, which started out clean and simple but now provides nothing for today’s adoptees. Worse, if enacted it would cost $1.2 million to implement and give birthparents a vested right to prohibit the release of an adoptee’s own original birth certificate. Here’s a quick FAQ to understand what this bill does:
Who Gets an OBC Under this Bill?
Currently, no one. And, once enacted, no one for many years. In roughly
21 18 years, those adopted after July 1, 2019, may be able to get a copy of their original birth certificates. The bill is prospective only and applies only to adoptions finalized after July 1, 2019. For those adopted on or after that date, the adoptee must be 21 years of age 18 years of age to request the OBC. For most infant adoptions, that essentially means the year 2036. For youth adopted out of foster care, it may be earlier than 2036. Anyone adopted prior to July 1, 2019, gets nothing, other than trying to petition a South Carolina court for release of the OBC, which is current law. I know of exactly one person who was successful with that—and he was only allowed to “view” the OBC, not copy or even touch it.
Is the OBC Provided to an Adult Adoptee Upon Request?
No. An OBC under this bill will only be released “if the biological parent has completed a form consenting to the release of the original birth certificate.” This is what is known as a disclosure veto and it applies to all requests. Again, this only applies prospectively to adoptions finalized on or after the effective date, which is currently July 1, 2019.
Isn’t this a Simple Step Forward?
No, not at all. It is a huge step backward. South Carolina did not seal original birth certificates from adult adoptees until 1964. With this bill, South Carolina will now move far away from best practices in adoption and will explicitly recognize a “right” of a birthparent to withhold the release of an OBC. It will shift the law from open availability as late as 1964 to a closed and regressive system that provides rights to birthparents that they never possessed—and should not possess after relinquishing all rights over the adopted person.
Who Is Sponsoring this Bill and Can It Be Pulled or Withdrawn?
The primary sponsor of the bill is Representative Patsy G. Knight, who is an adoptee. I have personally requested that she withdraw the bill, but her response was that “a piece of the pie is maybe [better] than nothing.” Problem is, this isn’t even pie—it’s more like a stale half-eaten donut. If you want to contact Representative Knight to request respectfully that she pull the bill, her contact information is here and her official email is [email protected].
Where Is the Bill Currently?
It is set for a potential final vote in the South Carolina Senate on May 10, 2018. Because of amendments to the bill in the Senate, it may also need to be resubmitted for passage to the House.
What’s the Full Text of the Current Bill?
The full text of the current bill is here. I’ve also reproduced it below for quick reference.
What Can I Do?
Contact the bill sponsor and ask her to withdraw the bill. Also contact legislators and respectfully request to VOTE NO on the bill. More information, suggested language to use, and contacts for legislators are available with Bastard Nation’s action alert here.
A BILLTO AMEND SECTION 44-63-140, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING IN PART TO ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATES OF ADOPTED PERSONS, SO AS TO ALLOW AN ADULT ADOPTEE TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER TO OBTAIN A COPY OF THE ADOPTEE’S OWN ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE, TO ALLOW A BIOLOGICAL PARENT TO EXECUTE A CONTACT PREFERENCE FORM AT ANY TIME TO BE PROVIDED TO THE ADULT ADOPTEE WITH THE COPY OF THE ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE, AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE SUBMISSION OF A MEDICAL HISTORY FORM BY A BIOLOGICAL PARENT.Amend Title To Conform
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Section 44-63-140(1) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
“(1)(a) For a person born in this State, the state registrar shall prepare a supplementary Certificate of Birth in the name of the adoptee, free of any reference to or indication of the fact that the child was adopted and showing the adoptive parents as the real parents, except that an adoption of an adult must display the words ‘By Adoption’ on the face of the amended certificate.
The state registrar shall furnish a copy of the amended certificate to the county registrar who shall file the amended certificate in lieu of the copy of the original birth certificate. The state registrar shall require the county registrar to return the copy of the original certificate recorded at the county office to the state office to be placed in the special sealed file. Periodically, the state registrar shall transmit copies of amendatory certificates to the county registrar in the county of birth.
(b) The original birth certificate and the evidence of adoption are not subject to inspection, except upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction. However, a person eighteen years of age or older who was born in the State of South Carolina and who has had his original certificate of birth sealed due to an adoption may, upon written request to the state registrar, receive a copy of his original birth certificate and any evidence of the adoption held with the original record if the biological parent has completed a form consenting to the release of the original birth certificate. The form also must allow for the biological parent to indicate contact preference and to consent to release of medical history pursuant to item (1)(c). The copy of the original birth certificate must be in a form that clearly indicates it is not a certified copy and that it may not be used for legal purposes. All procedures, fees, and waiting periods applicable to nonadopted citizens born in the State of South Carolina seeking copies of certificates of birth apply.
(c) The department shall develop a contact preference form and a medical history form to provide to a biological parent upon request to be completed at his option. Upon completion, a contact preference form and a medical history form must be filed with the state registrar and accompany an original sealed birth certificate issued to an adoptee pursuant to subitem (b).
(d) The contact preference form must allow the biological parent to indicate whether he has completed or updated a medical history form and must allow the biological parent to choose one of the following contact options and provide contact information as appropriate:
(1) I would like to be contacted.
(2) I would prefer to be contacted only through an intermediary.
(3) I prefer not to be contacted at this time. If I decide later that I would like to be contacted, I will submit an updated contact preference form to the state registrar.
Only department staff authorized to process applications made pursuant to subitem (b) may process contact preference and medical history forms.
(e) The medical history form and contact preference form are confidential communications from the biological parent to the person named on the sealed birth certificate and must be placed in a sealed file upon receipt from the biological parent in the file containing the sealed original birth certificate. The sealed file containing the contact preference form and medical history form must be released to an adoptee requesting the adoptee’s own original birth certificate pursuant to subitem (b). The contact preference form and medical history form are private communications from the biological parent to the adoptee named on the sealed birth certificate, and the state registrar shall retain a copy of the forms upon release to the adoptee.”
SECTION 2. This act takes effect July 1, 2019 and applies only to adoptions finalized after that date.