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Adoptees celebrate access to original birth certificates

by on January 26, 2018 8:08 AM

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania-born adoptees are celebrating their recently restored right to access their original birth certificates, which had been sealed since 1984.

After eight years of negotiations, legislation to reinstate the rights of Pennsylvania adult adoptees to apply for and receive a non-certified copy of their original birth certificate became law Nov. 3, 2016. One year later, on Nov. 3, 2017, the state Department of Health began processing those requests.

“While this might be ‘just a piece of paper’ to some, it is so much more to those who have been told for decades by the government that they couldn't have access to the one legal document that legitimizes their existence here on this earth,” said state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, who was behind the legislation.

Under previous Pennsylvania law, adoptees could petition the courts for a copy of their original birth certificates; however, that request could have been denied by a judge. As of Jan. 18, 1984, Pennsylvania-born adoptees have applied for and received a non-certified copy of their original birth certificate.

“To some, this fight was never about finding a birth parent or wanting a family reunion,” Benninghoff said. “To some, knowing medical history and ethnic background was the primary motivation. To others, it was a matter of principle. To many, it was about being able to finally answer the burning question, ‘Who am I?’

"Today, I’m thrilled to know that more than 2,000 adoptees have started to find answers.”
Benninghoff’s legislation, House Bill 162, passed the House in December 2015 with a vote of 187-7 and passed the Senate unanimously in October 2016. The House concurred Oct. 25, 2016, sending the long-debated bill to the governor’s desk, where it was signed into law as Act 127.

“The tremendously positive impact this has had on adoptees, whether that’s due to their new-found families or the receipt of long-desired information, has made the eight-year legislative journey very well worth it,” Benninghoff said.

For more information on the new law or to submit an original birth certificate application, visit


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