Open Adoption Birth Records One Step Closer to Becoming Law
This fall the New Jersey Assembly is expected to vote on the Adoptee Birthrights Bill, satisfying an issue of adoption that the State has been struggling with for about 30 years.
Under this Bill, adult adoptees or the parents of minor adoptees would be able to get copies of the adoptee’s original birth certificate and to have access to their medical histories and social and cultural backgrounds. Today adoptees in New Jersey can only access their original birth certificates through court order. (1)
Access to medical histories was one of the compelling issues that won over the State Senate this past March when it approved the Bill by a 27 – 10 vote. Accurate medical histories are an important factor for anyone facing crucial medical decisions. (2)
Opponents of open adoption records have been concerned about the rights to privacy of birth parents. Some fear that without these rights, more birth parents may choose abortion over adoption in the future. The proposed Bill does take into consideration the privacy rights of birth parents and offers some protections although some think the protection may not go far enough.
Under the Bill, birth parents who want to retain their privacy have a one-year period from the time the law is enacted to contact the State Registrar to have their identity removed from the records. During that year, adoptees would have access to medical information, including family histories, provided the information did not disclose birth parent identity. Records could be requested then at the end of that one-year period and those records would contain identity information unless the birth parents had opted to retain their privacy.
Once the Bill is signed into law, it would require birth parents to declare how they would like to be contacted, whether directly or with the help of a go-between. Birth parents could decline to be contacted at all; however, they would still need to provide cultural and medical information that could be passed on to the adoptee within 60 days or they would lose their right to anonymity. (3)
It is now up to the State Assembly to determine whether or not this is the Bill that could resolve the long-standing adoption issue. If the Assembly approves the Bill, it will then go before Gov. Chris Christie to be signed into law.