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Tuesday, March 04 2014

NJ Senate, Assembly Pass Bill Granting Adoptees Access to Birth Certificates

Source: NJ.com

A bill giving adoptees access to their original birth certificates — and with it a key to their identity and family health history — was approved by both houses of the legislature today.

The swift passage of the measure by the Senate, 24-8, and Assembly, 44-27 with three abstentions, was good news for the relentless group of activists who have campaigned for the law for almost 34 years, arguing that adopted people are denied a basic civil right to know who they are.

The bill (S873) would allow an adopted adult or an adoptive parent on a child’s behalf to request his or her birth certificate from the state Health Department. Birth parents would be allowed to file documents with the state registrar indicating whether they want to be contacted directly, through an intermediary, or not at all. The birth parent who did not want to be contacted would be required to update family history information every 10 years until the birth parent reaches the age of 40, and every five years after that.

But the bill's fate is uncertain as it goes to Gov. Chris Christie, who conditionally vetoed the same legislation in 2011.

At that time, the governor offered an alternative supported by the New Jersey. Catholic Conference, New Jersey Right to Life and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union: allow a "confidential intermediary" from an adoption agency to search for an adult's biological parents. If after a year-long "diligent" search the birth parents were not found, the birth certificate would be released. Parents who are found and want no contact with a child surrendered long ago would be asked — but not required — to provide a complete medical history to share with the adoptee.

If the bill is signed into law, New Jersey would join Kansas, Alaska, Alabama, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Tennessee as the states that provide unrestricted access to an adopted person's birth certificate, according to the American Adoption Congress.

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