Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed HF855 into law on May 19, 2021. The new law allows all adopted people to apply for their own original birth certificates but creates a discriminatory right for birthparents to request redaction of their information on the record. Here’s how the law works, as of January 1, 2022.
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 two general categories of people who can request a copy of the adopted person’s original birth certificate:
The Adopted Person
All adopted people born in Iowa may apply for their original birth certificates beginning January 1, 2022, though the OBC is subject to birth parent redaction requests.
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.
How old do I have to be to apply for my OBC?
If you are the adopted person, you must be at least 18 years of age.
Will the copy of my original birth certificate be altered or restricted in any way?
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. Whoever files first wins, meaning a birthparent who files a redaction request before an adooptee applies for the OBC will be able to redact their information.
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 termination of parental rights or relinquishment 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 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. This is not yet fully known.
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?
$15.00. 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.”
How do I apply for my original birth certificate?
Forms and information are available online with the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Can I apply for my OBC online?
No. Currently, people who apply for the original birth certificate must do so by mail or in-person.
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.
Cynthia Miller says
If my birth father is deceased and likely birth mother a citizen outside USA, will that have any bearing?
Gregory D. Luce says
It’s really dependent on the adoptee’s date of birth (whether prior to 1971) and whether a birthparent files a redaction request. If you were born prior to 1971 you are probably going to get a copy of your birth certificate without redactions. But it’s not guaranteed.
Jeff Short says
I was born in 1969. My birth mother worked with an adoption agency and when I was born, I left the hospital 10 days later with my adoptive parents. In this case, is there an “original” birth certificate? Since I had adoptive parents at birth, was there even a bc issued with birth parent information? Or, do I need to make (pay for) a request to find out?
Gregory D. Luce says
It would be very unlikely that you did not have an original birth certificate naming your biological mother as your mother. Even if your adoptive parents took custody of you from the hospital, the hospital had a legal obligation to record the facts of your birth.
Jane Hrabak says
I’m confused. I was born in 1951… my BC has only my adoptive parents listed. Back then there were more babies up for adoption, however to look at my BC one would never know. I’ve always wanted to know for health reasons- and for what my Son’s might be passing on.
Gregory D. Luce says
Hi, Jane. You have an original birth certificate in addition to the current birth certificate that lists your adoptive parents as your parents. The original often lists the names of birthparents but often only the mother. This new Iowa law allows you to apply for that record, though a birthparent listed on the record can ask that his or her personally identifiable information be redacted (removed) from the record.
I hope this helps. I also have a short article about original birth certificates that goes into a little more detail. You can find that here.
Roger Litchfield says
This new Iowa law is HF855!
Does it pertain to obtaining a Certified Copy of a Birth Certificate or just a vanity record for purpose of knowing this information?
Gregory D. Luce says
It is a noncertified record, meaning it is printed on plain paper, not security paper.
Stacy Soms says
Since I was born in 1948 would I qualify to get an original Birth Certificate and not one from the bureau of Vital Statics?
I was addopted in Grand Rapids Mich. And because of the month i was born i may never find out about my real family and that sucks bad
Lenice Mercer says
Can adoptions be “overturned “? My Dad remarried after my mother died. She had 3 kids as he did. They did a cross adoption, meaning he adopted her 3 kids and she adopted the 3 of us. My biological siblings and I want to nullify the adoption so our biological mother is on our birth certificate. Is this possible?? Thanks in advance.
Gregory D. Luce says
They are very hard to undo, though it is an issue I am researching and working on. I don’t have a lot more detail than that but it is being pursued as a right.
Lynne Doyle says
This is so good to hear, I tried to get my grandfather’s birth/adoption (1907) info about 15 years ago and the judge wrote me a kind letter but rejected my request although it had been over 100 years old. It looks like there might be a possibility now? Briefly, he was born in SD in 1907. But somehow he was adopted in 1910 in DeMoines, Iowa. His adoption happened to fall on the census year, so we found him listed with his birth name on the first census in DeMoines),and then two weeks later his adopted name with his adopted Parent in the second census (Cedar Falls). He was adopted within that two week range. What do I do to get his information please? He was abandoned by his parents. He never knew his birth name, I know it now because of the research. Any recommendations? Thank you in advance!