ARGUMENTS BY THE BAR ASSOCIATION IN NEW JERSEY

Bar association opposes adoptee bill
This is in response to those who oppose S-1087/A-3237 (Vitale/Allen/Manzo), which permits adopted persons and certain others access to the adopted person’s original birth certificate and other related information. The New Jersey State Bar Association has had long history in advancing New Jersey’s adoption laws to the benefit of all of the parties involved in the adoption process.
Our position on this issue is grounded not from the viewpoint of self-interest of lawyers or the legal community, but what is in the best interest of the entire adoption community. Historically, the association has supported the mutual consent adoption registries and supports adult adoptees’ access to non-identifying medical, cultural and family history information and to the original birth certificate if made prospective in its application.
We object to the current legislation for many reasons. New Jerseyans and in particular birth parents should not have to make an affirmative step to maintain their privacy rights, especially given that most will be unaware that such rights are in jeopardy.
New Jersey adoption law has, since its enactment, promised confidentiality to birth parents, allowing access upon a legal showing of good cause. While some have characterized this legislation as the “birthright bill” it is clear that for some, only one party in the adoption process has rights – adult adoptees.
The legislation invades the birth mother’s reasonable expectation of privacy, which would be forfeited if she does not comply with the draconian and cumbersome procedures in the bill.
The bill also conflicts with the New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act, which allows a person to safely and anonymously surrender custody of an unwanted infant with no questions asked.
The New Jersey State Bar Association has drafted compromise legislation that strikes a critical balance of providing adopted persons with liberal access to their family, medical, cultural and social history information while also providing birth parents with the opportunity to maintain their privacy.
While we recognize and sympathize with the high emotional stakes of this legislation, mischaracterizations of the Bar Association’s position on this issue does not make it so. We hope that this will clarify the association’s position for the benefit of all.
Valerie Brown, legislative counsel, New Jersey State Bar Association

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