A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg which would give adoptees in New Jersey access to their medical history and birth records was approved today by the full Senate.
“For most of us, knowing where we came from is something that is often taken for granted, yet the struggles and triumphs of our ancestors help to define our identities,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Yet, many adopted New Jerseyans are kept in the dark regarding their family cultural and social history. And without a clear understanding of their family’s medical history, they are put at a real disadvantage when it comes to making informed health decisions. Balancing the right that adoptees have to valuable personal information with the privacy concerns of the birth parent, this bill could have a real impact in the health and well-being of New Jersey adoptees and if all parties agree, could even facilitate the reunion between parents and their children.”
The bill, S-873, would allow for an adopted person over the age of 18, their direct descendant, sibling or spouse, an adoptive parent or guardian, or a state or federal agency to access an uncertified, long-form copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate through the New Jersey State Registrar. Additionally, the adoptive person would receive any available information regarding contact preferences with their biological parent and family history information.
The bill would provide birth parents the opportunity to supply to the state registrar their preference for contact with their biological child – whether it be direct contact, contact through an intermediary or no contact. The birth parent would be permitted to change this preference at any time through the state registrar.
“Under New Jersey’s current system, adoptees are left to fend for themselves to hunt down basic family information, all while the state has access to what these men and women are looking for,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “New Jersey should no longer be party to a system that denies individuals access to their families’ medical history, their place of birth or their birth parents’ preference for reconnecting. This legislation balances the desire for a birth parent to remain anonymous with the adoptees need for vital health records.”
The bill would require that when a birth parent submits a document of contact preference to the state registrar that they also submit family history information. A birth parent whose preferences is to have no contact with the adoptive person would be encouraged to update their family history once every ten years until they reach the age of 40, and once every five years thereafter. The state registrar would be required, under the bill, to supply adopted persons with any updated information as it is added to the file.
The bill would also require the New Jersey Department of Health to run a national public service campaign to encourage individuals to participate in the initiatives under the bill and to inform adopted persons that they can gain access to their long-form birth certificates.
The bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 24-8. The General Assembly is also approved the legislation today with a vote of 44-27-3. The bill now heads to the Governor.