TRENTON – The Senate Health Committee today approved a bill that would give adoptees in New Jersey access to their medical history and birth records was approved.
“Every person deserves to know who they are and where they came from, but for many adoptees sealed records leave them in the dark on their family medical, cultural and social history, making it difficult to make decisions on their own personal well being,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), a sponsor of the proposed legislation. “This bill would give adopted people in New Jersey access to information that is vital to protect their health and establish a line of family history that would otherwise not exist.”
The bill, S-2814, 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.
“Not every birth parent desires to lose their anonymity and not every adoptee wants to meet their birth parents, but this legislation goes a long way to ensuring those families that wish to reconnect have the mechanism to do so,” said Vitale. “The state should no longer support a system that seals personal records from individuals and stands in the way or reuniting adopted individuals and their birth parents if they choose to reconnect.”
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.
“Health conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes and mental health disorders such as depression can often have genetic links. Without a full family medical history, a person is missing an essential piece of their health care information and cannot make fully-informed decisions about their preventive health care options,” said Vitale. “While this legislation has the potential to reunite families after years of separation, its main intent is to ensure that all New Jerseyans have access to vital information about themselves and their history.”
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 in the Health Committee with a vote of 9-0-1. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further review.
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