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Adoption: State legislators want to unseal birth certificates for adoptees

Adoptees in some states cannot access their birth certificates despite their need to know biological family medical history and their desire to understand where they came from. But more and more legislators are working to unseal these documents for adoptees. 


Illinois Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, speaks with Pennsylvania Reps. Mark Rozzi, left, and Stephen McCarter after she testified in front of the Pennsylvania House Children and Youth Committee in favor of a bill that would allow adoptees to get an original birth certificate in Pennsylvania, July 17.

Marc Levy/AP Photo

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Maura Duffy spent a day in Chicago last September with her mother: A walk along Lake Michigan, shared meals, a boat tour highlighting Second City architecture.

But this was no typical mother-daughter outing. It was the first time the two women had ever met.


Since a handful of states, including Illinois, have unsealed birth certificates, thousands of adoptees have claimed them and learned about their beginnings. The 35-year-old Duffy, adopted at birth, is among 8,800 Illinois residents since 2010 to do so.

Not everyone who gets the document goes on a search. But for many, it's led to heart-rending reunions.

"I finally got to see and meet someone who looked exactly like me," said Duffy, a marketing professional. "It's a very kind of emotional, strange thing that you grow up your whole life and don't ever know anything about your background. And it's the first chapter of your life, that birth certificate."


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