' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoptee legislator supports birth-parent veto in Washington

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Adoptee legislator supports birth-parent veto in Washington

Jane (center) and friends showing solidarity in red in WA
At a hearing last week to give Washington state adoptees the right to access their original birth certificates, the unbelievable happened: Representative Tina Orwall, an adoptee, testified  that she was in favor of an amendment that would make a birth-parent veto permanent. Originally Orwall sponsored a bill in the state House that included an expiration date on such vetoes. The bill with an expiring veto (which could be renewed) had already passed the House, but at the Senate hearing Orwell changed her position to making the birth-parent veto permanent.

So who's driving this birth-mother veto nonsense?  None other than a birth mother Sen. Ann Rivers, who blocked a birth-certificate access bill last year
when she was in the state House. While she's out of the closet, she apparently feels compelled to encourage other mothers to lock themselves in. Sen. Rivers is setting up Washington-born adoptees for double rejection, once when their mother left them in the care of biological strangers, and once when she files a veto to deny her child access to his original birth certificate. What's behind all this madness? Only Sen. Rivers can answer this. And why is adoptee Orwall selling out, not only allowing but actively participating, in this effort to heap more abuse on a group already marginalized, and of which she is a member?  
Rep. Tina Orwall

Washington law currently allows adult adoptees born after October, 1993 to have their original birth certificates provided their birth mother does not file a veto. The first veto was filed in June, 2012, almost 20 years later. This veto appears to be an attempt to simply to de-rail adoptee-rights legislation.

We hope Orwall's voice was drowned out by the other testimony heard last week. Along with adoptees, adoptive parents, child welfare workers and other first parents--32  in all--I attended the hearing and was among those who testified before the Washington Human Services and Corrections Committee. Many of us are in Olympia again today for a hearing on the bill in the House.

The Senate bill, SB 5118 (as amended) has no time limit on a birth-parent veto; they remain in effect until the birth mother dies. But this has a built-in Catch-22: Adoptees have no way of finding out if their birth mother is dead or alive, unless they know her name--but it is on the birth certificate that they are not allowed to see! Yet this nonsense is now what Orwall's change of heart would do to her original bill (HB1525)--completely lock out some adoptees. 

At the hearing last week, Penni Johnson, leader of WA-CARE, a group dedicated to the unrestricted right of adoptees to have their original birth certificates, and other adoptees testified eloquently about the need to know their families, and to connect if mutually agreed upon. One man told of the joy of knowing his natural brother who was in the audience; adoptive parents Marlene and Richard Funk, told of wanting this for their children. Deborah Myers, a birth mother representing the American Adoption Congress argued for unrestricted access to original birth certificates as did representatives from Washington Adoption Reunion Movement (WARM). Lori Lippold of Partners for Our Children listed national organizations specializing in adoption including the Child Welfare League of America, the Donaldson Adoption Institute and the National Association of Social Workers which support access to original birth certificates. Lori Jeske, of Bastard Nation, noted the irony that in Washington gays can marry, and soon residents will be able to legally smoke marijuana in their backyards, but the state continues to deny adoptees the fundamental right to know their true identities.

Passing a clean bill (without a veto) should be a no-brainer. The neighboring state of Oregon has allowed adoptees to have their original birth certificates since 2000, due to a ballot measure passed in 1998 and upheld by the Oregon Court of Appeals. There have been no problems with the implementation of this measure. In the ten-year report of the measure in 2010, there were 10,151 unamended birth certificates were given to Oregon adoptees; only 85 no-contact vetoes were in place, nearly all of the filed at the time the bill passed as an attempt to block the measure in the courts. The far north neighbor, Alaska, never sealed birth certificates.

But in politics nothing is simple. Washington, the home Microsoft, Starbucks, Costco, and Amazon has a reputation for being progressive, yet the legislature clings on to a mid-century view of adoption: protect the fallen woman from her shame, even when the shame is six feet tall and wants nothing more than to know the woman who gave birth to him.-- jane
SB 5118
HB 1525
Rep. Tina Orwall
Sen. Ann Rivers

Washington representative sell adoptees and birth mothers short 

Adoption Politics: Bastard Nation and Ballot Initiative 58 "The passage of Measure 58 in Oregon in 1998 was a milestone in adoption reform. For the first time in U.S. history a grassroots initiative restored the legal right of adopted adults to request and receive their original birth certificates. Within a day after the law went into effect, nearly 2,400 adoptees had applied for these previously sealed records, elevating their right to know over a birth mother's right to privacy.
E. Wayne Carp, a nationally respected authority on adoption history, now reveals the efforts of the adoptee rights organization Bastard Nation to pass this milestone initiative. He has written an intimate history of a passionately proposed and opposed initiative that has the potential to revolutionize the adoption reform movement nationwide."--Amazon

And for a thorough history the "secrecy and disclosure" in adoption throughout the country, see Carp's excellent book, Family Matters: Secrecy and Disclosure in the History of Adoption.


  1. My email to Rep. Orwall:
    I am very disappointed that you chose to single out and discriminate against a segment of the adult adoptee population (your own "people"!) by insisting that the "information veto" remain in the adoptee rights bill. By doing so, you have sent a message that not all adoptees are worthy of respect and equal treatment. That is not acceptable.
    Besides, we find mothers and fathers every day without identifying information and will continue to do so with or without an information veto. The tremendous strides we are making in DNA family matching alone are bringing to an end the ludicrous notion that *some* adopted persons should be forced to live under the oppression of secrets and lies - not as worthy as their fellow adoptees to be given their personal information. Don't you see how ridiculous that position is? Please recognize this basic truth.

  2. And her response:
    Dear Priscilla,

    I will support a bill that opens up 100% access or 99.5% access to birth certificates. If we do not pass a bill this year it may be years before this type of bill may be considered again. I do not recall hearing testimony from adoptees who have not found any information on their birth parents who would be greatly helped by this bill. How sad it would be for some adoptees to not obtain this information while a birth parent may still be alive.

    Oregon's law did not pass in the legislature, it passed by initiative. Please know that it sometimes it only takes one legislator to kill a bill.

    Thanks, Tina
    Tina L. Orwall, M.S.W.
    House of Representatives
    P.O. Box 40600
    Olympia, WA 98504
    JLOB 326

  3. This is what I think. During the 50's and early 60's, Schools in Washington state, (as well as some others) who still had a huge Native American population where shut down. The Government conspiracy that ensued later, in order to have as many Native children adopted into white families became the new order of the day. Washington State does not want to have this conspiracy to integrate Native American children into "White" culture as well as strip them of any Native rights that they may or may not have possessed prior to being adopted by "Whites". I am 54 years old. I was born in Anacortes WA. and my mother was Snohomish Indian. I have children, and grandchildren that are also being cheated out of there right to know what un-adopted mothers grandmothers brothers sisters aunts uncles etc...has had access to all along. Tina, I think that you are a person who is "in the know" about this conspiracy and you are willfully and willingly doing every thing that you can to "keep the lid on it" Ya'll need to get up off of the B.S. cause thats what it is.

  4. The culture of the WA State Legislature is to tip-toe around issues in hopes of not having to stand up and risk offending a potential voter base. I watched the expressions, mannerisms and eye-contact between these legislative colleagues and a few do a fairly good job of acting like the give a rats. Several are blatantly obvious they don't care and wish we'd just go away. Both the Senate and House Committee's were filled with elected "officials" that were tired, busy texting, emailing and had to be poked in order to gain their attention. I learned quickly, if you ask them questions and be sure to address their name...they have to look up at you and try to answer. Keeps the clock ticking as well. ") Ha...Ha!

    They saunter in and out of their thrones, come and go as they please and have little regard for those giving testimony. They carry on conversations among themselves as citizens nervously share their most intimate personal matters seated beneath the ever dominate collection of part-time, seasonal elected state employees commonly referred to as "legislators" and "senators".

    What gripped me the most was listening to Senator Ann River's rehearsed praise for the House Committee and their staff. She wants the State Legislature to continue granting a privilege that only 4 people have ever requested in the past 20 yrs. I'm curious...did her husband give her permission to leave house that day?

    Senator Ann Rivers lives on campus this time of year being a State Senator. She dines, attend happy hour and has 24 hour access to any legislator, staffer and/or lobbyist she wants...yet we are given 2..count em'...2 minutes of time to testify.

    They all did their best at pulling the wool over our eyes, but what they don't yet realize is that a mother and her bastard child can not longer be pigeon-holed.

    Lori Jeske, Bastard Nation

  5. Orwall is channeling Sneaky Sara Feigenholtz, who much to my horror, is speaking at the upcoming AAC. The woman needs to be run out of office.



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