This Comment urges that under California law, both adoptees and birthparents should have recognized constitutional rights to privacy in the information contained in court adoption files and original birth certificates. Part I examines the history of sealed adoption records in the United States and in California and how the social forces of the time contributed to the sealing of previously open records. Part II discusses the need for legislative reform by examining policy arguments supporting open records. Part III examines constitutional rights of privacy under the United States and California Constitutions respecting both birthparents and adoptees. Part IV argues that the California legislature should declare privacy rights in sealed adoption records for both adoptees and birthparents. Part V analyzes AB 1349 and concludes that in both versions the privacy rights of birthmothers who do not desire disclosure are not adequately protected by the inclusion of a contact preference option. In addition, the failure of the amended bill to allow access to the court adoption files ensures that the informational privacy rights of both birthparents and adoptees in these records will continue to go unrecognized and unprotected. Finally, Part VI recommends statutory changes in the California adoption records law that will sufficiently protect the competing privacy rights of adoptees and birthparents. To rectify the current situation, there should be a presumption of openness in all adoption records, as well as a shift in the burden of persuasion to show why the records should not be opened.
Opening The Door To The Past: Recognizing The Privacy Rights Of Adult Adoptees And Birthparents In California's Sealed Adoption Records While Facilitating The Quest For Personal Origin And Belonging, 32 Golden Gate U. L. Rev.