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Vitale Bill To Give Adoptees Access To Birth Certificates Advances In Senate

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would give adoptees and certain others access to the adoptee’s original birth certificate and other related family information was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 26-12.

“Adoptees know the importance of the basic information we so often take for granted – information on who we are, and where we’ve come from,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “With today’s approval, we are one step closer to shedding light on adoptees’ pasts, and giving them the option of exploring some of the most fundamental questions of their birth.”

The bill, S-1087, would allow adoptees and, if the adopted person is deceased, direct descendants of adoptees who are 18 years of age or older, as well as adoptive parents of an adopted minor to contact the State Registrar to receive the adoptee’s original birth certificate, as well as other family history information. The bill provides that birth certificate seals would not be broken except through court order or through a written, notarized request for an uncertified copy of a birth certificate.

Senator Vitale added that by offering birth certificates to adoptees, the State would be addressing a practical need as well. Having access to birth certificates would allow adoptees to consider family history when making decisions concerning health care and treatment, and address potentially inherited preexisting health conditions.

“Basic family medical information can mean the difference between life and death for so many adoptees who would otherwise have no way of obtaining it,” said Senator Vitale. “Doctors use complete, thorough medical histories as the first step in diagnosing so many diseases today, including heart disease and cancer, where early identification can greatly improve medical outcomes. Giving adoptees a chance to understand their family medical history will allow them to make better health decisions in the long run.”

Under the bill, birth parents who choose not to be identified through this bill would have 12 months to submit to the State registrar a request for non-disclosure, which would retain their anonymity if they so wished, or could submit a preference on how to contact them in the event that their adopted child wished to get in contact with them.

“The opt-out provision ensures that the right to privacy assumed by birth parents is protected,” said Senator Vitale. “At the same time, if a parent does not seek to retain their anonymity, we should give adoptees the information, and letting them choose what to do with it. I think this bill does its due diligence, and fairly balances the privacy of birth parents with the needs of adoptees.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly for Consideration. Identical legislation was approved by the Senate during the last Legislative Session.

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