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Bill would provide expanded access to adopted adults’ birth records

Post by Kim Bradford on Dec. 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm with No Comments »
December 22, 2011 1:52 pm

WA-Care, an adoptee-rights group, announced today that it is supporting a Des Moines lawmaker’s legislation to expand access to adopted adults’ records.

Democratic Rep. Tina Orwall has filed House Bill 2211, which would open access to original birth certificates for all adopted persons at age 18 unless the birth parents have filed paperwork to block the release.

Currently, only those adoptees who were adopted after Oct. 1, 1993, can request their original birth certificate – which identifies the biological mother and, sometimes, the biological father. HB 2211 would permit all adoptees the same access.

It also would put a expiration date on the affidavits of non-disclosure birth parents can file to prevent release. Under HB 2211, those affidavits would expire two years from the date of filing or upon the death of the birth parent.

I wrote about the fight to open birth records to adult adoptees before leaving the editorial board in August. At the time, the current law on the books had yet to take effect for a significant contingent of adoptees: those adopted at birth and therefore least likely to have known their birth parents.

Donn Moyer, spokesman for the state Department of Health, says that the state has so far received nine requests for original birth certificates from adult children adopted after October 1, 1993.

That’s a far cry from the thousands of requests that swamped Oregon health officials after that state’s voters approved unfettered access to original birth certificates in 1998. But Washington’s access is much more limited and incremental – each day, a new group of adoptees turns 18 and becomes eligible to request their birth records.

By extending that right to all adoptees, HB 2211 would extend access to older adoptees who are more likely to have been involved in a closed adoption. By 1993, open adoptions were well on their way to becoming the norm.

WA-Care is backing Orwall’s bill, but has its reservations. The group is generally opposed to giving birth parents’ veto power over the release of an adoptee’s record.

“If this bill should pass, it would not be the end, but rather a step on the way toward our goal of equality for adopted persons,” the group said in an email. “WA-Care will continue to work to eventually do away with the affidavit clause all together.”

Few birth parents seek to block the release of birth certificates. As of May – the last time I checked – not a single biological parent had filed an affidavit with the state.

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