“Adoptees want everything!” Gov. Christie blurted to the crowd gathered at his town hall meeting in Denville last February. When asked why he conditionally vetoed the Adoptees’ Birthright Bill (A1406) in June 2011, he claimed “birth parents’ privacy” was his main concern. His revision of the bill, which would allow adult adoptees to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate, was a “compromise,” he said. Even Christie’s adopted sister agreed that his revised bill was “fair.”
Fair? Adoptees in the audience were stunned. For 30 years we’ve waited for our bill to become a law, countering opposition from the New Jersey Catholic Conference of Bishops, ACLU-NJ, New Jersey Right to Life and the New Jersey State Bar Association. Christie’s revised bill so heavily favored birthparents’ privacy that few doubted he would sign it. But the bill that Christie call’s fair isn’t fair to adoptees at all.
What many don’t know is that the bill gave birth parents a full year to remove their names from our original birth certificates. Does it get any more private than that? And because some adoptees would never know their original name, they might never know their heritage, nationality, or medical history. Yet adoptees were willing to defer to our birth parents.
The bill also gave birth parents a full year to say that they didn’t want contact. So some adoptees might never know if we had other siblings, who we resembled, or the truth about our adoption. Adoptees settled again. Having our original birth certificates was enough.
But it wasn’t enough for Christie.
The issue at hand involves hiring a “confidential intermediary” to facilitate a reunion, should our birth parents desire one. Research shows that nearly 95 percent of birth mothers want to be found, but our bill still gave birth parents the option to hire an intermediary.
Christie’s bill differs significantly because it force adoptees to hire an intermediary. Christie hasn’t said who this intermediary will be. We know only that it will be a stranger hired by our adoption agency. Before we can see our birth certificates, our birth parents will be contacted. Is that “fair?
Many adoption agencies support the Adoptees’ Birthright Bill, but some oppose it and are working with falsified records. How long will some adoptees have to wait before their birth parents are found?
And what about deceased birthparents? My birth mother committed suicide many years before I searched for her to build a medical history for my seriously ill son. It took nearly two frustrating years to find out what happened to her because she’d changed her name.
Whom does Christie expect to pay for the intermediary? Adoptees. One adoptee told me that, 10 years ago, the fee was $400. What will it cost today? Yet adoptees were willing to pay for a civil right that every other U.S. citizen is granted for a small handling fee.
Christie also didn’t address the extra personnel the state would need to hire to handle the large number of requests under his revised bill.
Our bill required that birth parents requesting anonymity provide us with our family medical history, to the best of their ability. Christie’s revision of the bill merely “requested” medical information from them. As a mother of a son who was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition that runs in families, I have a serious issue with Christie’s revision.
Why would Christie conditionally veto a bill that would allow birth parents to remain anonymous, tell us they don’t want contact and give them option to use an intermediary?
Christie’s bill is a “compromise?” It appears that the only ones willing to “compromise” are adoptees.
The latest version of the Adoptees’ Birthright Bill was introduced in the Senate earlier this year, and in the Assembly just last week. Once again, adoptees will have to hope that the bill, after 32 years, will finally become laws.
Christie has made this issue about reunions. It’s not about that. It’s about restoring a basic civil right to adoptees. If anyone wants “everything,” it appears to be Christie, not adoptees.
This article first appeared in the Star Ledger