Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed HF855 into law on May 19, 2021, and parts of the new law took immediate effect. Currently, the law applies only to adoptees born prior to 1971 (or to specified family members if the adopted person is deceased). Adopted people born after 1970 must wait until January 1, 2022, to apply for their own birth record. All original birth records, however, are subject to birthparent redaction requests.
What does the new law do?
The law allows Iowa-born adult adopted people to request and obtain their own original birth certificates, subject to the right of a birthparent to redact information on the record and on medical history forms.
Who can request a copy of the original birth certificate?
The law creates three categories of people who can request a copy of the adopted person’s original birth certificate (you can also review the flowchart below):
Adoptees Born Before 1971
An adopted person who was born before January 1, 1971, has right to apply for his or her own original birth record immediately upon enactment of HF855. The law specifically makes eligibility for pre-1971 adoptees immediately available at the time the governor signs the bill.
Adoptees Born After 1970
An adopted person who was born in Iowa on or after January 1, 1971, must wait until January 1, 2022, before he or she will be able to apply for the original birth certificate.
If the adopted person is deceased, an “entitled person” may request a copy of the OBC. An entitled person is defined as “the spouse . . . or an adult related to the adopted person . . . within the second degree of consanguinity.” This means a spouse as well as great grandparents, great grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents, parents, siblings, and children of the adopted person.
Will the copy of my original birth certificate be altered or restricted in any way?
Yes, potentially. A birthparent named on the record may complete and file a corrupt contact preference form and choose the following option:
I do not want to be contacted. I request that my personally identifiable information be redacted from the noncertified copy of the original certificate of birth and my contact preference form.
If such a contact preference form is filed, information on the copy of the original birth certificate will be redacted. This is also true of any medical history form that a birthparent files. They may request redaction from that form as well.
When will the corrupt contact preference forms be available for birthparents to file?
The corrupt contact preference forms became available immediately upon enactment of the law on May 19, 2021. The law further requires the Iowa Department of Public Health to create a public awareness and notification period to promote awareness of the law and to allow time for a biological parent to file contact preference and medical history forms.
Does this mean I should apply for my OBC as soon as possible?
Yes, unless you are in the class of adopted people who were born after 1970. These adoptees, and their relatives if the adoptee is deceased, must wait until January 1, 2022, to request the OBC.
What do you mean by a “corrupt contact preference form?”
A corrupt contact preference form is a contact preference form that in practice and reality may be used to prohibit the release of an OBC or to redact identifying information on an OBC. It is not a true contact preference form, which is completed by a birthparent and should have no effect on the release of the adopted person’s unaltered original birth record. Other states with corrupt contact preference forms include Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Washington.
Is the copy of the Original Birth Certificate a certified record?
No. The copy that is provided—including any redactions requested by birthparents—will be a noncertified copy. This typically means it will be printed on plain paper (not on colored security paper) and it will not be embossed or stamped as containing the true facts recorded in the issuing office. Interestingly, in Iowa certified copies of vital records are available for genealogical purposes so long as the registrant is deceased.
Where is the form that I use to apply for my original birth certificate?
The Iowa Department of Public Health page for forms related to requests and birthparent contact preference forms is here. The form that you want is entitled Application to Request a Noncertified Copy of Original Certificate of Birth Prior to Adoption. It is available here.
The application form does not ask for my birthparents’ names. Do I need that information to apply for my original birth certificate?
No. To apply, follow the directions on the form, which does not ask for birthparent names. The department of health will search for your original birth certificate using your currently known information, including your date of birth and your adoptive parents’ names. The original birth certificate is linked to your current (amended) birth certificate, so there is no need to know or enter your birthparents’ names in order to apply for the original birth record.
How long will it take to obtain a copy of my original birth certificate?
The Iowa Department of Public Health is estimating at least six weeks to provide an original birth record to the adult adoptee or entitled person, subject to date-based restrictions and redaction of information on the record.
Can birthparents file redaction requests at the time of their child’s relinquishment or termination?
Yes. The law does not restrict a birthparent’s option to file a redaction request. They may do so at any time and they may also withdraw and refile a different corrupt contact preference form at any time. In addition, birthparents will be given a contact preference form prior to relinquishment or termination of their child, and any completed contact preference form will be attached to all termination of parental rights orders. In other words, redaction requests will be allowed for all past and future adoptions no matter the date of the adopted person’s birth.
What if one birthparent files a redaction request and the other parent does not?
The law provides that, upon a birthparent’s request, “personally identifiable information be redacted from the noncertified copy of the original certificate of birth.” Presumably, if two parents are listed on the original birth certificate and only one requests redaction, any personally identifiable information about that parent would be redacted. The scope of such a redaction request, however, is not yet fully known.
Could my own name be redacted?
Possibly. It’s likely your last name at birth will be redacted if it matches the last name of a parent listed on the birth certificate and that parent has requested redaction of their personally identifiable information.
If a birthparent files a redaction request and that birthparent then dies, will my original birth certificate still be redacted?
Yes, unless the state interprets the law to remove redactions in the event of the birthparent’s death. The law, however, does not make an exception to redaction if the birthparent who requested the redaction is deceased. This is called a “zombie veto.”
What is the medical history form?
The medical history form is a form the Department of Health will develop and on which “a biological parent may provide the medical history of the biological parent and any blood relatives.” It is not required to be filed.
What is included with any filed medical history form?
If a birthparent files a medical history form, there are four options from which to choose:
- “I am not aware of any medical history of any significance.”
- “I prefer not to provide any medical information at this time.”
- “I wish to provide the following medical information included on the attached form.”
- “I wish to provide the following medical information included in the attached form. However, I request that my personally identifiable information be redacted from the medical information form prior to its release[.]
How much will it cost to apply for the original birth certificate?
The fee to request a noncertified copy of the original birth certificate “shall not exceed the fee established for issuance of a certified copy of a certificate of birth.” In Iowa, the fee to request a certified copy of a birth record varies: it is $15.00 if requested in person or by mail or more than $40 if ordered online through VitalChek. It is not yet verified that online ordering of the pre-adoption original birth certificate will be available.
How do I apply for my original birth certificate?
Forms and information are available online with the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Where is a copy of the original bill?
As part of my work with Adoptees United Inc., I track and analyze state and federal legislation related to adoptee rights. You can find a copy of the Iowa bill and a description of its history and impact here. The information is reviewed and updated each day.
Do you have a flowchart?
Yes. Of course. 🙂
Note: the law also provides the ability for “entitled” persons to request the original birth certificate so long as the adopted person is deceased.