Kathy Tran is a Virginia delegate and former child refugee from Vietnam whose bill seeking to loosen third-trimester abortion restrictions is causing controversy.
A video of Tran discussing her Repeal Act bill – which she acknowledged would allow abortion right up to the moment of delivery – has gone viral on the Internet (the bill was tabled in committee). You can read a transcript and see a video of her comments later in this article. A video showing Virginia’s governor discussing Tran’s bill also went viral. Tran is a first-term member of Virginia’s House of Delegates.
“The moment is now for me to stand up for [my] values,” she told Duke University’s Chronicle after she won election. “We want all of our kids to know we are doing everything we can for them.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Tran Was a Vietnamese Boat Refugee as a Baby Who Almost Died at Sea
Tran’s website provides her biography and describes a harrowing immigrant story.
“Delegate Kathy Tran (VA-42) and her parents fled Vietnam as boat refugees when she was just seven months old,” it reads.
“On the voyage, she grew so sick she almost died at sea. Although many other countries offered them asylum, they waited 13 months for the United States to accept their application. Kathy’s family risked everything to come to America because this country has always represented hope, opportunity and freedom. Now, she’s fighting for the American values that brought her family here in the Virginia House of Delegates representing the people of the 42nd District in the Commonweatlh of Virginia.”
“I came to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam in the early ’80s when I was almost two years old,” Tran told Rescues.org. “The International Rescue Committee in Los Angeles resettled my family.” According to the site, Tran’s mother “worked as an interpreter for consulate offices in a Malaysian refugee camp,” and she said that her parents saw America as a country that “embodied hope, opportunity and freedom.”
2. Tran Worked for the Department of Labor & on Immigration Issues
Tran’s bio says she spent 12 years at the Department of Labor, where she was Acting Administrator for the Office of Workforce Investment and the Director of the Division of Policy, Legislation, and Regulation. She also worked for the National Immigration Forum.
“In these roles, she provided strategic national leadership and technical assistance to the public workforce system, implemented the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and helped veterans acquire the job training and employment services they needed to transition into the civilian workforce,” says her website.
According to Duke Today, Tran is such a political newcomer that she never contemplated a political career until 2016. The following year, she won. She told the site that, when knocking on doors, voters’ reactions “made it clear that the values I had – the values my parents had – are the true foundation of this country.”
3. Tran Is a Married Mother of Four Who Named Her Children After Ellis Island & the Liberty Bell
Kathy Tran is a married mother of four who “graduated from Duke University and earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan,” according to her biography.
The bio says she is also “the past president of her local PTA” Her husband is named Matt Reisman and they have children who are 9, 7, 6 and 2. “They are avid Washington Nationals fans,” says the bio. Her youngest child was due on Inauguration Day.
She told Rescue.org that she named two of her children after Ellis Island and the Liberty Bell. Her daughter Elise Minh Khanh has a first name that echoes Ellis Island and her other child, “Minh Khanh,” is Vietnamese for “bright bell,” which echoes the Liberty Bell, the site reported.
“To us, our daughter’s name means ‘ring the bells of liberty and champion opportunity for all,’” Tran told Rescue.org. “So I made the decision to run for office when she was just a month old.… I couldn’t rest upon her shoulders the responsibility of fighting for the future, for herself and her generation.”
Tran has brought her children to work.
4. Tran Says Her Bill Allows Abortion as Late as Delivery
You can watch Kathy Tran present the third-trimester abortion bill above before a legislative committee. The video went viral on social media. You can read the full text of the bill here. The text of the bill says that “measures for life support for the product of such abortion or miscarriage shall be available and utilized if there is any clearly visible evidence of viability.”
Here’s the key portion of the bill with Tran’s proposed changes:
The Virginia House GOP was among the sites sharing the Tran video. “Heartbreaking… This isn’t in New York, this isn’t in California, this happened just this week right here in Virginia,” they wrote on Twitter. “@VAHouseDems proposed legislation to provide abortions up to just seconds before that precious child takes their first breath. Watch for yourself.”
According to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, currently in Virginia, third-trimester abortion is only allowed “if three doctors conclude a woman’s life or health is at a severe risk.” Tran’s bill loosens that restriction, making it so a woman could get a third-trimester abortion “on the advice of one doctor” who would need to certify that the pregnancy would “impair the mental or physical health of the woman.” Conservatives seized on the mental health provision as a dramatic loosening of the present regulations.
Tran stated that her bill would remove language classifying facilities that perform five or more first-trimester abortions per month as hospitals; would repeal Virginia’s informed consent and mandatory ultrasound and 24 hour delay; would repeal the requirement that second trimester abortions be performed in a hospital licensed by the state Department of Health; and would repeal the requirement for two additional physicians in cases of third trimester abortions.
A committee member, House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, asked: “How late in a pregnancy would your bill apply if a physician was simply willing to certify that the continuation of a pregnancy would impair the mental health of the woman? How late are we talking about?
“So the way the suggestion that we’ve made in the bill is to say it’s in the third-trimester with the certification of the physician,” Tran said.
Gilbert: “So how late in the third trimester would you be able to do that?”
Tran: “…Through the third trimester. The third trimester goes all the way up to 40 weeks.”
Gilbert: “To the end of the third trimester?”
Tran: “I don’t think we have a limit in the bill.”
Gilbert: “Where it’s obvious that a woman is about to give birth. She has physical signs that she is about to give a birth. Would that still be a point where she could request an abortion if she’s so certified… she’s dilating.”
Tran: “Mr. Chairman that would be a decision that the doctor, the physician, and the mother would make at that point.”
Gilbert: “I’m asking if your bill allows that.”
Tran: “… My bill would allow that, yes.”
Gilbert: “I could have said a week from her due date and that would be the same answer correct?”
Tran: “That it’s allowed in the bill, yes.”
Gilbert: “You substantially changed the standard by removing a couple words, correct?”
Tran: “Yes, I’m aware.”
Gilbert: “What type of mental health conditions would you anticipate would be utilized by physicians under these circumstances to determine that a child that is otherwise viable is worthy of an abortion?”
Tran: “You know, again I’m not a physician so I can’t make those calls as to when a physician would determine that a woman’s mental health where they would be able to certify an abortion at that point.”
Gilbert: “But the doctor, the physician, wouldn’t have to have any specialized training in mental health to make that determination under your bill, right?”
“Under this bill, no.”
5. Tran Says Her Critics Are Playing ‘Partisan Games’ & Believes Racism Is On the Rise
Tran released a statement, according to the Times-Dispatch, that insisted: “These decisions are personal and private, and they are made in consultation with doctors who are using their best medical judgement. I regret that these partisan games have taken the focus away from where it should be: on the Virginian women who have asked for this bill to get politicians out of their private medical decisions.”
Tran told NBC News that she decided to run for office because “what we’re seeing is on one hand the rise in nativism and anti-Semitism and racism, which has an opening and a voice to speak up.”
When she won the election, she wrote on Twitter, “Our victories on 11/7 in the 42nd district, across #VA & the US showed clear rejection of racism, misogyny, xenophobia & hate. We affirmed that hope, opportunity & freedom are at the heart of our democracy. These are American values & they will prevail.”
You can see her ratings on the issues here.