TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would give adoptees and certain others access to the adoptee’s original birth certificates and other related family information was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 23-14.
“So much of one’s identity is defined by answering one key question — where did I come from?” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “Family history is a living tapestry that many of us take for granted, but for adoptees and their descendants, there’s a gap there that, even though they may have been brought up by the best family in the world, cannot be filled. With this bill, we’re giving adoptees the right to know where they came from, and opening the door of history to those that thought it permanently sealed.”
The bill, S-1093, 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. 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.
“Through the non-disclosure and preference of contact aspects of this bill, we’ve struck up a balance between honoring the anonymity of past adoptions with granting adoptees the right to know,” said Senator Vitale. “If a birth parent so wishes, they can set the terms of how their adopted children can contact them, or they can remain anonymous, but without those two requests, adoptees should have free access to the information.”
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.
“While this bill is about a lot more than family medical information, it would also allow adoptees to make responsible and informed health care decisions concerning care that they might not otherwise be able to make,” said Senator Vitale.
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.