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A door that has protected people's privacy will spring open this week, and whoever walks through it should do so with care.
Original birth certificates that have been denied to people who were adopted as infants will become available as a result of a law passed by the Legislature that goes into effect Friday.
People who have grown into adulthood without knowing the names of their biological parents will have that information for the first time.
Birth parents, who were promised anonymity when they gave children up for adoption, will no longer have their privacy protected. While the new law does allow them to say if they don't want to be contacted, whether that wish is honored will ultimately be out of their hands.
The Legislature was presented with a true dilemma that left little room for compromise. The law's attempts to provide some privacy to the birth parents still falls far short of what they had been promised.
Critics have charged that breaking the promise of confidentiality now could push vulnerable pregnant women away from adoption in the future, leading more of them toward the anonymous choice of abortion. In the end, the Legislature responded to the powerful arguments of the adoptees and came down on the side of the now-adult children at the expense of their birth parents.
But it is unlikely that the lawmakers heard much from the people who desperately want to keep their past lives a secret, since they would not have exposed themselves in a public forum.
It will be up to the children, many of whom are now older than their birth parents were when they signed the papers, to decide if they are going to access the records and what they will do with the information if they get it.
For people who have fought so long to learn their birth parents' identities, the names alone may not be enough. The need to know more about them will be hard to resist.
But in their zeal to learn more about their birth families, they should respect the privacy of those who do not want to be found.
Agencies should track whether this law does indeed affect the decisions of women with unwanted pregnancies who are considering adoption. And everyone involved should approach this new door with caution.