Jun 9, 2021 - News
Iowa eases records restrictions for adoptees
Illustration of a birth certificate in the shape of a red cross.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Iowa natives who were adopted can now obtain copies of their original birth certificates under a new state law signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds last month.

What's happening: People born in Iowa before 1971 are now able to apply for copies of their original certificates and, on Jan.1, the open-records law expands to anyone 18 or older.

  • There were 85 requests as of Friday, the state's Public Health Department told Axios.

Why it matters: The identities of thousands of biological parents are now more easily accessible to their children.

  • Uncovering medical and family information can be important for an adoptee’s well-being, potentially helping them minimize genetic diseases or other conditions.

The state of play: Iowa adoption rights advocates argued for years that the state's 80-year-old law denying adoptees access to their original certificates was antiquated.

  • Stigmas associated with adoption or unwed mothers have eroded in recent decades.
  • DNA testing makes adoption anonymity difficult because people can now easily trace their biological relationships via sites like ancestry.com.

Details: Under the new law, biological parents can fill out a contact preference form that includes an option to keep their identities confidential.

The big picture: Iowa is following the lead of multiple states that have eased records restrictions in recent years.

  • At least 31 states now allow adoptees at least limited access to original birth certificates, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

What they're saying: The certificates help adoptees secure identity and dignity, Michelle Spear, a founder of the Iowa Adoptee & Family Coalition, told Jason yesterday.

  • "The law is more about documents that my government was holding that I wasn't allowed to have," Spear said.
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