Adoptees Celebrate Access to Original Birth Certificates
Adoptees from across the country gathered to celebrate at the state Capitol in Harrisburg

HARRISBURG –Pennsylvania-born adoptees from around the country joined together at the state Capitol on Monday to celebrate their recently restored right to access their original birth certificates, which, until recently, had been sealed since 1984.

After eight years of legislative negotiations, Rep. Kerry Benninghoff’s (R-Centre/Mifflin) 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 on Nov. 3, 2016. One year later, on Nov. 3, 2017, the state Department of Health (DOH) 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,” Benninghoff said.

Under previous Pennsylvania law, adoptees could petition the courts for a copy of their original birth certificate; however, that request could have been denied by a judge. As of Jan. 18, 2,028 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.”

Several adoptees in attendance took to the podium to share their personal experiences since receiving a copy of their original birth certificates, explaining why having this right restored was important to them and their families.

“I knew I was adopted from the moment I could understand the concept; however, I always wondered who my biological parents and relatives were,” said Jennifer Epenshade of Mount Gretna, Lebanon County. “A big thank you to Rep. Benninghoff for helping to pass this bill to finally give us adoptees some much-desired answers.”

“This legislation was a wonderful move in the right direction to help adoptees find the information that is given to natural-born children as their right at birth. We will hopefully be able to find out our ethnicity, our medical information, our genealogy and most importantly, some family members from our birth family,” said JoAnne Suglia of Hazleton, Luzerne County.

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 on 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

Representative Kerry Benninghoff
171st Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Morgan Wagner
717.260.6281 /

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