Commentary: How to tell if your elected official is really pro-woman

Protesters demonstrate the decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe vs. Wade in 2022.
Protesters demonstrate the decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe vs. Wade ruling during a Planned Parenthood protest at Main Beach in Laguna Beach in 2022.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

When the Supreme Court made its deeply unpopular decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade in June 2022 — which upended decades of precedent protecting the right to make personal health decisions without government interference — many elected officials in California knew they would be in trouble if they appeared to support abortion bans. Those politicians scrambled to create an illusion that they were still “pro-woman” and “pro-women’s health,” even as they silently supported cruel anti-choice legislation in other parts of the country that have resulted in maternal deaths, pregnant women being denied care for miscarriages, more unplanned pregnancies from rape and worse outcomes for babies.

Some of these secretly anti-choice and anti-woman elected officials are among us in Orange County. Until there is a spotlight on their actions, they will continue to conveniently claim that they are “pro-women’s health” but in reality, are actually pushing for extreme, hurtful policies that block people from accessing critical health care, including birth control and abortion care. We must all pay attention, as our Congress representatives have the most relevant local influence over these national policies that affect our day-to-day lives and our private relationships with our doctors.

Once you get past the carefully styled talking points on social media, TV and online ads, it’s surprisingly simple to tell who’s faking it. To help you make your own judgments about your elected officials on the issues that matter to you, here are the two surprisingly easy ways to tell if your elected official is not actually pro-woman by looking at their voting record.


1. They oppose efforts to make access to birth control and family planning services easier, and are selectively okay with only some forms of birth control.

Rep. Michelle Steel, who represents Orange County cities from Fountain Valley to Fullerton in the 45th Congressional District, has a history of packaging herself as a moderate. However, she co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, a bill that would enact a national ban on all abortions, even in instances of rape or when the woman’s life is at risk. The bill would also ban certain types of birth control, such as IUDs.

Meanwhile, Rep. Young Kim, who represents another wide swath of Orange County cities, including Mission Viejo and Tustin in the 40th Congressional District, has adopted the politically expedient badge of being “pro-women’s health.” To do so, she even sponsored a redundant piece of legislation called the Orally Taken Contraception Act of 2023, that she claims protects women by “streamlining the process for accessing over-the-counter contraceptives.” Sounds good, right?

The Orally Taken Contraception Act, however, does nothing to expand any protections for women and essentially directs the FDA to continue what it is already doing. Showing her true colors, Kim voted against the Right to Contraception Act, which would enshrine women’s and families’ right to access contraception into federal law. That’s not exactly supportive of birth control.

2. They want a national abortion ban — no exceptions.

Steel has claimed that she is “pro-life with exceptions for rape” and if the woman’s life is at risk. However, she also unequivocally supports a national ban on all abortions with no exceptions for rape, incest or if the woman’s life is at risk. As a co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, Steel clearly aligned with this unpopular position, despite pretending she does not. Furthermore, she has twice voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect a woman’s right to abortion. Kim, who also claims to be pro-women’s health, has voted against this legislation as well.

More alarmingly, both Kim and Steel voted against the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, which would safeguard a woman’s right to travel to another state to receive an abortion if their state bans the medical procedure. This bill would stop states from putting a bounty on women, families and doctors who assist in obtaining the abortion — a drastic overreach from the government on everyone’s freedom to get the healthcare they need.

In sum, it can be hard to tell which elected officials are only saying they’re pro-woman to court more constituents and which ones truly are pro-woman. Look at their voting record to learn the truth. California is a reproductive freedom state, but access to reproductive healthcare is still not guaranteed. Even in Orange County, we are not immune to a national abortion ban.

This election cycle, do your research on issues that are important to you and take a hard look at your representative’s voting record to make sure your elected officials wholeheartedly support important freedoms like reproductive freedom and choice for all — no exceptions.

Thy Bui is an attorney and a board member of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties. She is a resident of Newport Beach.