A bill giving adults adopted as children greater access to their birth certificates passed unanimously out of the state House this month, but supporters don’t expect it to go further this year because it’s bottled up in a Senate committee.
Sen. Jim Hargrove, chairman of the Human Services and Corrections Committee, did not respond to requests for an interview over the span of two days. His office said Tuesday he was unavailable for comment.
Others say Hargrove won’t let House Bill 2211 be taken up in his committee, where it was referred last week.
“He said he did not plan to give the bill as it is currently written a hearing,” said Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, the bill’s sponsor.
Orwall said she and Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, continue to work with Hargrove but don’t expect the bill to keep moving this year.
“I did meet with him, and I also met with some others on that committee, and I don’t have any belief that it will be going anywhere,” Rivers said.
Orwall and Rivers aren’t done, however. They say they’ll pick up the bill again next session and are looking into having a summer work group.
“I think it will give us the direction that Sen. Hargrove might have perceived was lacking,” Rivers said. “We’ll make sure all the bases are covered, and we’ll proceed.”
Orwall, who was adopted as a child, tried to balance the rights of adopted children with the privacy of birth parents by working with Rivers, who identified herself as the birth mother of an adopted child in an emotional committee meeting last month. Their cooperative effort was the subject of a Feb. 11 News Tribune story.
The bill would let all adopted children who are now adults file for their original birth certificates, but also allow birth parents to file to keep the records sealed. Birth parents would have to act to reseal the records every 10 years for adoptions prior to October 1993, and every five years for more recent adoptions.
If they choose to close the record, birth parents would have to complete a medical history form for the adoptee.
Currently, adopted adults cannot obtain original birth certificates for adoptions prior to October 1993. For those since 1993, birth parents have the option to seal the records indefinitely.
Records show Hargrove did vote in favor of an adoption-rights bill several years ago. That law allows adult adoptees to request their original birth certificates for adoptions after 1993, the year the bill was signed into law.
The fact that HB 2211 isn’t scheduled for a hearing upsets Penni Johnson, who’s part of a coalition of adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents that’s been working three years to open the records.
She said Hargrove has stopped their efforts each year, and she disagrees with policy that allows committee chairs alone to decide whether a bill is heard.
“People are ticked,” said Johnson, an Everett resident. “It’s beyond me how one person … can have all the power to decide whether an issue is heard.”
Her group, the Washington Coalition for Adoptee Rights and Equality, has talked about campaigning for an adoption-rights initiative, but money is a problem.
Oregon voters have opened adoptee birth certificates through the initiative process.
Alexis Krell: email@example.com