Monday, May 9, 2011

OPEN RECORDS FOR ADOPTEE BILL PASSES IN NJ!

Justice Scales ClipartIt's not over yet, but this afternoon New Jersey took one step closer to allowing people adopted as infants to obtain their original birth certificates, and with that the right to know their true identities.  We congratulate our friend Pam Hasegawa and Judy Foster and the others in New Jersey who have fought so hard and worked so long for passage of this bill--31 years.  We hope that the passage of this bill may lead to similar action in our neighboring state of New York. (See blog post of May 8.)

 

Final legislative passage was overwhelmingly won with a vote of 44 to 26, with two abstentions. A similar bill passed in the Senate last session. All that awaits now is the signature of the governor, Chris Christie, whose position is unknown. 

 

 Gov. Christie has an adopted sister, and while that would seem to make him more likely to be sympathetic. But as far as we know, she has not been involved in this process. It is not unlikely that someone who has never searched, or expressed a desire to search, might actually feel threatened by this bill and not wish to have that option. Christie is also a Catholic, and some of the strongest opposition to this bill in NJ has come from the New Jersey Right to Life and the New Jersey Catholic Conference, a group representing bishops. Both give their reason as a fear that abortions will rise if birth mothers who relinquish their children are not guaranteed anonymity if they desire it.
Lorraine

 

However that argument is specious, as the data from states with open records reveals that if access has had any effect on adoptions and abortions, it has been to increase adoptions and decrease abortions, the opposite of what those two groups argue. (See stats at the American Adoption Congress website.) It is unclear why these groups have continued to put forth fabricated concepts--let's call them lies--but we can only assume it is because they have only dealt with girls and women at the time of the pregnancy, and many of them may still wish to keep the birth secret. As for why they do not trust the statistics, it can only be that they do not want to, or have ulterior motives.

 

But as we have said all along here, times and people change. I wanted desperately to keep my pregnancy and child secret at the time she was born in 1966 in Rochester, New York, but always wanted to be able to know her one day. Any other way made no sense to me. As for the bishops, one can reasonably project they may rightfully be concerned about any children priests may have fathered who were given up for adoption, and they would contact their fathers. Oppostion also came from the NJ American Civil Liberties Union, whose leader there sees repeal of the closed-records statutes a violation of the rights of the women who surrendered the child. That's wrong-headed on so many levels, serves one group of people (mothers in the closet) at the expense of another (all adoptees), as we have stated repeatedly in the past.

 

The bills (A1406 and S799) do allow birth parents who wish to remain secret to do so. Birth parents whose name is on the original birth certificate must send a registered letter within a year after passage if they wish to have their names redacted by the document. Women relinquishing their children will be asked to sign a preference form at the time of relinquishment, which may later be changed. 

 

As Jane and I have written, we understand this is not a perfect bill. We do not believe that any repeal of the legislation that closed birth records to adoptees, and insisted upon first mothers not knowing who adopted their children, was wrong at its inception and remains unjust today. I've been writing about this since the Seventies myself. But we believe, given the staunch opposition in New Jersey, this is the best bill that can be passed at this time. 

 

And so we rejoice that it did.  Good job, Pam! It's been a long time coming. We have commiserated over these bills that died in committee for many years.

 

Now Gov. Christie needs to hear from us; as some groups oppose this bill as it does contain a birth parent veto. Despite this, we urge passage and if you agree, please let Gov. Christie know. Please write to him at http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/index.html OR SNAIL MAIL Governor Chris Christie, The State House P.O. Box 0001 Trenton, NJ 08625-0001 --lorraine

9 comments :

  1. I was curious about something, but hasn't anyone used the argument that "secrecy is a thing of the past" and that "mother's are more likely to carry a child to term if they know that they will not spend their lives wondering if a child is ok"? It is, in this day and age, very true.....

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  2. Make sure to pick Adoption/foster children as a subject - or it will not go through.

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  3. Thanks Lorraine. Well said. Not perfect but a good first step. Evidence shows us that in states that have vetoes precious few mothers take advantage of it and this one is limited it just one year. ALSO, if someone's mothers does exercise that right the adoptee still gets his OBC, albeit redacted. But he gets to see what hospital he was born in etc.

    It was a choice between "leaving behind" these few adoptees who are not totally left out, or nO ONE GETTING ANYTHING for who knows...another 31 years! The RIGHT CHOICE - a very difficult choice - but the right choice was made. The negative Nelly naysayers are not looking at all the facts of this bill and do not understand the political process that requires compromise. The legislators vehemently wanted an opt out veto. This is FAR BETTER! They didn't get all they wanted and neither did we. that's how politics works. It's a first step and i for one will keep on keepin' on...in NJ and elsewhere!

    See my firsthand view of this on my blog: ttp://familypreservation.blogspot.com/2011/05/victory-31-years-in-making.html

    Read and/or be part of a heated debate in the comments if you care to!

    In the end, NJ WILl stand as a model for other states when they tally how few people used the veto. States will eventually come to realize it's not worth the cost and effort. It will prove mothers do not want anonymity from our children.

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  4. I have a question about these vetoes? Does the adoptee have to wait 1 year after the law goes into effect before they can request their OBC?
    Thanks

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  5. And just what will the second step be?

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  6. BD:

    Second step is the Governor's signature.

    Robin: Good question. I will ask. Stay tuned.

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  7. The adoptee may apply any time s/he wishes to for a copy of her or his long-form original birth certificate. I
    The point is that relinquishing parents will have a year following publication of the regulations (3-6 months after enactment) in which to file either a request for non-disclosure (of parent's name and address) or a contact preference form.
    In addition, a birth parent requesting name/address redactipn from the copy of the OBC sent to an authorized requesting party will be able to rescind that request at any time, and the Registrar will reach out to the requesting party to notify him or her of that change of mind.
    Pam Hasegawa

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  8. Judy Foster, a member of the NJCARE legislative team for 11 years, always presents this when we are lobbying or presenting the issue to a group of people, that "secrecy is a thing of the past." She also adds that mothers are MORE likely to carry a child to term" as you mentioned, Lori. Thank you for these suggestions; we agree wholeheartedly that these are important points to raise.

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  9. Robin, I believe that NJ adoptees will have to wait at least a year after the law goes into effect to get their OBC, don't know if they can request it before, but since the veto time for closet moms to file is a year, they can't really release any OBC until the count is in on the ones they will not release.

    It is already getting ugly here, I just read that one of the news stations had a promo up about a "controversial" bill that might increase abortions." Ugh. Personally I think that the Catholic Bishops' fix is in with Christie, and he will veto it because when they say hop, he says, how high?

    It is really sad it is not a better bill, and even sadder that the opposition is putting that bogus abortion spin on it with the media already. I do not care to be part of a "heated debate" on this, I have friends on both sides, and just feel sad that is a victory I cannot really celebrate in my home state.

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