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Poll: What Kind of Access Should Adoptees Have to Birth Records?

How much knowledge is too much? How much constitutes too little?

A 34-year battle to increase the access that adoptees have to their birth certificates has apparently ended, with Gov. Chris Christie signing a compromise measure.

The bill will give those who’ve been adopted complete access to their birth certificates for all adoptions that occur after August 1, 2015. For adoptions prior to that date, birth parents will still be able to have their names redacted from the certificates, but they will have to provide a family health history. However, they must ask to have their names redacted by December 31, 2016.

The legislative battle has pitted adoptee-rights advocates, who say that knowing your family health history -- as well as your birth parents’ names -- is a civil right against an unlikely alliance that includes abortion-rights opponents and the American Civil Liberties Union.

How do you think this should have been resolved?

  • The law didn’t go far enough. Even though it’s taken 34 years to enact it, we should have ruled out the possibility of birth parents redacting their names. Seeing an un-redacted birth certificate is a fundamental human right.

  • This was a good first step. Starting in 14 months, all adoptions will be open, which is an advance that didn’t seem possible a few months ago. But advocates should be prepared to revisit the issue with a different governor and finally remove the ability of birth parents to redact their names.

  • The law strikes the right balance. While adopted New Jerseyans gained important new access to their birth records and family health histories, it was appropriate to maintain some privacy for birth parents who didn’t expect to have their identities revealed when they made the decision to give their child up for adoption.

  • Too many privacy rights were given up in the law. These birth parents had the expectation that their names would be kept private for the rest of their lives. And now, they are expected to take action to retain some privacy. Many birth parents won’t even be aware that their privacy has been violated and may get a nasty surprise in the future. Some sort of intermediary should be required.

  • This law goes too far. Some women need to know that they can maintain their privacy before they would consider giving birth to a baby that they don’t plan to raise. In fact, this law could lead to additional abortions.

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