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House approves overhaul of Alabama adoption code

The code had been thoroughly vetted by professionals in the field for four years as the state seeks to streamline the adoption process.

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For the last four years, a committee of experts in the field of adoption have been meeting to craft a new adoption code for the state, which hasn’t changed in 30 years.

That new code gained unanimous approval Thursday in the Alabama House of Representatives, with every single member voting in favor of adopting the new code.

Alabama Republicans have promised to focus on streamlining the adoption process and improving childcare since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing Alabama’s law criminalizing abortion to go into effect.

House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, said the bill is timely in that effect, but said these changes are not so much a response to the new abortion law as the Alabama Law Institute has been working on the bill for years.

“This is a process that Alabama should have cleaned up a long time ago,” Ledbetter said. “We sent a clear message today that the Alabama House wants to correct that.”

The bill would repeal the state’s current adoption code and replace it with two new codes, one for minors and one for adults. The code is a dense 80-page document, but some of the highlights of the improvements made include freeing up communication between different courts involved in the adoption process, providing more clarity to the application process, increases confidentiality protections and more.

Rep. Ginny Shaver, R-Leesburg, emphasized that this bill has been heavily scrutinized by people in the field.

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“This bill has been thoroughly vetted,” Shaver said. “I’ve never heard of any bill that has been thoroughly combed like this one has.”

Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, attempted to amend the bill on the floor to prevent the vaccination status of an individual from precluding them from fostering or adopting a child. 

“The purpose of this amendment is, some of my constituents have not been able to foster or to adopt because of their vaccination status,” Yarbrough said. “They should be able to equally participate in that without being discriminated against based on vaccine status.”

Shaver encouraged Yarbrough not to try to amend this adoption code four years in the making, but to bring his amendment as a separate piece of legislation.

“I had additional ideas that I did not incorporate into this, and those are ideas I may bring separately,” Shaver told Yarbrough. “Other representatives, I encouraged them to bring a separate legislation so it can be thoroughly vetted. You will hear the words ‘unintended consequences’ a lot. This amendment would lead to decreasing federal funding, which we can’t do without to support our adoption system.”

The House tabled the amendment and passed the adoption code without any major changes.

The bill will now go before the Senate.

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Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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