Gov. Chris Christie and lawmakers on Monday struck a deal to allow people adopted in New Jersey access to their birth records, but the compromise puts the opening of records on hold for nearly three years to give birth parents time to have their names removed.
The deal caps a 34-year push by a group of advocates to open state records for the first time since they were sealed in 1940.
“It’s sending a message particularly to women like me who surrendered babies in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that we no longer have to hide … ,” said Judy Foster, who reconnected with her daughter 37 years after birth and has maintained a relationship since.
Advocates say it also gives people access to family medical histories.
The New Jersey Catholic Conference, who see adoption as an alternative to Roe v. Wade, pushed back, arguing that mothers who gave up children decades ago have a right to privacy.
Christie’s conditional veto gives birth parents of children who are adopted before Aug. 1, 2015 until the end of 2016 to ask that their names be removed from birth certificates. But those who do so would be asked to give some medical history. Parents of children adopted after Aug. 1, 2015, cannot opt out.
In Illinois, which has had a similar law since 2011, more than 10,000 birth certificates have been provided; parents have had their names removed from just 53 of them. Eight other states give adoptees unrestricted access.