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Mr. Pertman suggested a well-advertised national registry, an idea being floated by U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat. The bill, first introduced last year, awaits action from the Finance Committee.

Although the registry shifts the responsibility to the father, it also protects his rights, said state Sen. Jay O’Brien, the patron of the Virginia legislation, which resulted from a state adoption study.

“The fundamental issue about the registry is that it protects the privacy of a birth mother at a very, very stressful time for many of them,” said Mr. O’Brien, Fairfax County Republican. “At the same time, it protects the paternity interests of the father.”

Mr. O’Brien said the new law means that no adoption attorney can proceed without checking the registry and a birth mother can’t go anywhere in Virginia to get an adoption if the father is registered.