Virginia Politics: House of Delegates member comes under fire for two proposals

RICHMOND, Virginia — A Vietnamese American legislator in Virginia is under fire for proposing a bill allowing for abortions in the second trimester of pregnancies. The proposal was juxtaposed against another bill she introduced to protect caterpillars as an important food source for Virginia’s birds and butterflies.

            Kathy Tran, who serves in Virginia’s House of Delegates (the state’s lower house) and represents Fairfax, had planned a town hall meeting with State Sen. Scott Surovell during the first weekend of February. The town hall was canceled, however, due to safety reasons, according to news reports. It’s the latest in a series of political “faux pas” in Virginia. The commonwealth has been riddled with character issues up and down the state’s political roster, starting with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

            Surovell told the Washington Post the cancellation had nothing to do with the current controversy surrounding Northam; a photo from Northam’s medical school yearbook suggested the state’s current governor once dressed up as either a Ku Klux Klan member (complete with hood) or in blackface.

            No sooner did Northam fight off calls for his resignation due to the 1984 photograph did his potential successor, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, come under fire due to a sexual assault allegation.

            Virginia’s gubernatorial succession plan would call for the states Attorney General to become governor such Northam and Fairfax be forced to step down due to their concurrent political battles. The current Attorney General, Mark Herring, happens to be under fire, himself. Herring, on the heels of the public relations nightmare swirling around Northam and Fairfax, publicly stated he, too, dressed up in blackface nearly 40 years ago.

            The speaker of the House of Delegates would become Virginia’s new governor in the event all three men won’t be able to continue in their current jobs and be forced to resign at once.

            Yet the House of Delegates - and specifically Tran -  is also under attack, only adding to Virginia’s political week from hell.

            Tran introduced House Bill 2491 in early January. The legislation specifically proposed to eliminate the legal requirement to perform an abortion during the second trimester of pregnancy (and ahead of the third trimester) in the hospital. HB 2491 has since been killed.

            The Vietnamese American delegate, who reportedly received death threats in light of her proposals, stated HB 2491 did not legalize infanticide, but instead would create a situation where a pregnant woman would have more control of her body. She said HB 2491 would remove “politically motivated, medically unnecessary and unduly burdensome barriers Virginia women currently face in order to access [certain] healthcare services.”

            “Infanticide is illegal, and House Bill 2491 does not change this — It would continue to remain illegal, and I strongly condemn these heinous acts,” Tran said in a released statement. “In a medical emergency, women need to be able to make timely decisions in consultation with a doctor she trusts, so House Bill 2491 would have changed the law to allow a woman to protect her health if one doctor certifies that she is in danger of physical or mental harm.”

            Tran’s formal comments were made a few days after she said her bill bill would allow for abortions up during the third trimester and almost at birth. Her statements were made during heavy questioning during a committee hearing and went almost immediately went viral.

            The freshman delegate, in her follow-up statement, said current Virginia law does allow for women to obtain an abortion during the later stages of her pregnancy. HB 2491 is still posted on Tran’s website and listed under “advancing women’s rights” on her legislation page.

            House Bill 2495, meanwhile, proposes to prohibit certain localities from using pesticides to prevent the infestation of fall cankerworms (caterpillars) between March 1 and Aug. 1.

            “This bill helps to save our birds and butterflies by protecting the fall cankerworm (caterpillar), an important food source for birds and their young during their breeding and migratory season,” Tran’s website stated about HR 2495, which was introduced on the House of Delegates floor the same day as HB 2491.

            Virginia’s political landscape is under the brightest of spotlights right now, causing not one, not two, not three, but four Democrats to earn black eyes in a year when the party hopes to build positive momentum going into the upcoming race for the White House.