For three long decades, New Jersey adoptees have been waiting patiently to attain the same right that every other citizen in the state is granted — the right to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate.
We're so close. The Adoptees' Birthright Bill, A-1406, passed four times in the Senate and was released for a vote on the Assembly floor by the Assembly Human Services Committee on June 14.
But just when adoptees were about to realize their dream — their veritable civil right — we're told we may have to wait even longer.
Why? Because Assemblywoman Joan M. Quigley, D-Hudson, has now introduced another bill, A-3672, a "compromise" bill she says "respects the rights and concerns of all parties."
Adoptees couldn't disagree more. Not only do we feel that our rights are being ignored (once again), but Quigley's bill so greatly favors our birth parents that we wonder if our welfare matters to anyone at all.
Adoptees are not asking for the right to invade our birth parents' privacy. We're merely asking for the right to see our own birth certificates.
The primary difference between the two bills involves the employment of a "confidential intermediary" who will be assigned to an adoptee. Let me qualify that. Quigley's "compromise" bill forces an adoptee to use an intermediary merely to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate.
What everyone seems to have forgotten is that the Adoptees' Birthright Bill already allows a birth parent to request an intermediary before the adoptee makes contact. The bill also gives birth parents who wish to remain anonymous a full year from the date of its enactment to file a notarized "request for nondisclosure" letter with the state. (Their name and address will be omitted from our birth certificate.) If our birth parent doesn't want us to contact him or her, they will be able to convey that to us as well.
The operative word here is choice.
The Adoptees' Birthright Bill gives birth parents a choice about whether they want to use an intermediary to reunite. Quigley's bill forces an adoptee to forfeit their rights (once again) and defer to birth parents (a very small 5 percent of whom studies say wish to have their privacy respected).
What Quigley's bill doesn't address is who the confidential intermediary will be. Who exactly will be poking around in our birth parents' confidential records? And who will assume the financial responsibility to pay that intermediary? Quigley's bill leaves out that important detail, too. But adoptees assume it will probably be them.
And, by the way, who is going to pay for all of the extra personnel that will be needed to handle all of the requests if the bill is passed? Who's going to pay their salaries? Taxpayers? The number of adoptees who will be requesting copies of their birth certificates when the bill is passed will be significant, especially in the first year.
It will take a lot of time and discussion to devise a practical plan to address these important questions. Adoptees feel they have already invested enough time.
New Jersey adoptees have been far too tolerant. They've countered every argument against the bill from opposing groups (like the Catholic Conference of Bishops, the ACLU-NJ, New Jersey Right-to-Life, the New Jersey State Bar Association and the National Council for Adoption) with credible research and statistics.
Studies show that the majority of our birth mothers (95 percent) welcome contact by us. Statistics prove that in every state where adoptees have access to their original birth certificates, the abortion rate has not gone up. And adoption numbers also don't decrease.
The real "compromise" bill — the bill that actually "respects the rights and concerns of all parties" — is A-1406, the Adoptees' Birthright Bill. Adoptees (and their birth parents) have been more than patient and deserve to see it passed and signed by Gov. Chris Christie without delay.
Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Carol Barbieri is a member of the New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education.