Legislation Assembly members Vincent Prieto, Joan M. Voss, L. Grace Spencer and Charles Mainor sponsored to give adoptees in New Jersey access to their medical history and birth records received final legislative approval on Monday by the Assembly.
The bill (S-799/A-1406), approved by a vote of 44-26-2, would establish a system to allow adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates and family medical history. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.
“We’ve heard many heartfelt stories about the need for adoptees to access their birth records simply because they are facing a crisis and need to know more about their family medical history,” said Prieto (D-Hudson). “This is information that many of us take for granted, but adoptees often cannot access through no fault of their own.”
This is the moral thing to do for adoptees who, because of these historic barriers, are left in the dark about key family medical histories and their backgrounds,” said Voss (D-Bergen). “This is not an easy issue for anyone, but what is easy is standing up for the rights of adoptees to know information about who they are and where they come from so they can make the best health care decisions possible.”
“This is unquestionably an emotional issue, but the bottom line is that providing adoptees with accurate information about their birth and family medical history is the right thing to do,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “These records will allow adoptees to make the best possible health care decisions for themselves and their families. That is something that can benefit everyone.”
“This is a compassionate plan to help many adoptees simply learn more about themselves,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “This legislation takes into account the needs of both adoptees and their birth parents, incorporating sensitivity and also practicality in the way it will be implemented.”
Under the bill, the birth parents of individuals put forward for adoption in New Jersey would have one year from the enactment of regulations to submit a request to the state registrar for non-disclosure.
During this year, adoptees would be able to contact the adoption agency they came from to get non-identifying medical information, including a family medical history, alerting them to any genetic predispositions they may carry for certain types of illnesses.
After birth parents have had an opportunity to opt out of disclosure, an adopted person 18 years of age or older, an adult direct descendant of an adopted person if that person is deceased, or the adoptive parent or guardian of a minor adopted person, would be able to request from the State Registrar a copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate.
Birth parents would be required, after the year allotted for them to opt-out, to submit a preference form for how they would like to be contacted: either directly, through an intermediary or not at all.
If the birth parents choose not to be contacted, they would have to submit medical and cultural information which would be provided to an adoptee when they receive a redacted version of their birth certificate.