Bill allowing birth certificate access for adoptees advances

TRENTON – Senate lawmakers heard debate Thursday over a proposal that would give adoptees access to birth certificates.

The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Services Committee released a bill from committee that proponents called a matter of civil liberties for adopted persons. The bill cleared the committee with nearly unanimous support from lawmakers.

The bill, S2814, would give adopted people and other certain individuals access to an adopted person’s original birth certificate and other related birth documents. The proposal also provides for certain restrictions to protect birth parents’ privacy.

Sen. Samuel Thompson (R-12) abstained from voting.

According to the bill, adopted people over the age of 18 would have access to their long-form copy birth certificate. The bill would also permit direct descendants, adopted parents and legal guardians access to the information.

An earlier version of the bill was conditionally vetoed in June 2011 by Gov. Chris Christie, who said he was concerned that additional safeguards are needed to balance desires of adoptees to obtain their birth certificate and parents who want to maintain privacy.

“It’s really been an evolution over the years,” said committee chairman Sen. Joe Vitale (D-19), the bill’s prime sponsor along with Sen. Diane Allen (R-7).

“It’s clear to me that adoptees have the right to this information [and] they should be treated as equal citizens under the law,” he said. “The veto message was one really not to our liking, so we’re back at it again.”

Allen echoed her colleague’s comments.

“We’re treating some people in this country and in this state as second class citizens. We don’t allow it anywhere else,” she said. “It’s a human rights’ issue. … It’s applauding to me that we treat people so poorly.”

Allen, who said she has been sponsoring the bill for 17 years, apologized to the dozens of individuals who testified in favor of the bill for the length of time it took to get to this point.

The committee also released the following bills:

S2818, which would create a two-year Collaborative Mental Health Care pilot program in the state’s Department of Health. The pilot program would be established in Bergen County and calls for spending $750,000.

Senators agreed to release the bill from committee so long as the program doesn’t center specifically on Bergen County and is expanded to other areas of the state.

The proposal was released from committee with nearly unanimous support from lawmakers, with Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego (R-8) abstaining.

S2843, dubbed the Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act, would require the Department of Health to establish protocols for stillbirths and would establish a stillbirth research database.

The bill unanimously cleared the committee.

S2756/A3586, would remove statutory authority of the Department of Health and Board of Medical Examineers over medical standards governing declarations of death upon the basis of neurological criteria.

The bill cleared the committee following no discussion and unanimous support from lawmakers.

S2461, would require annual physical examinations of children under 19 years of age include certain questions related to cardiac health.

The bill cleared the committee following no discussion and unanimous support from lawmakers.

S2820, would modify regulations concerning provisions of medical records to patients and legally authorized representatives.

The bill cleared the committee following nearly unanimous support, with Thompson being the only dissenting vote.

Bill allowing birth certificate access for adoptees advances