Shonda Rhimes, one of Hollywood’s most popular and powerful women, has joined the national board of Planned Parenthood.
Rhimes, creator and producer of prime-time television shows “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal”, assumes a formal role in the organization at a time when antiabortion activists and some Republican lawmakers have set their sights on defunding Planned Parenthood.
“The fact is that women’s health is under fire right now,” Rhimes said in an interview with Elle Magazine, which first reported the news. “And so to me, it feels like it’s important to help fight back.”
Rhimes has used her shows to present leading female characters who are celebrated for exercising their agency, and for exploring a range of social issues including abortion. Olivia Pope, the heroine of “Scandal,” had an abortion in a 2015 episode that also included a floor fight in Congress over defunding Planned Parenthood. In 2011, a female character in “Grey’s Anatomy” also had an abortion.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, told Elle that the organization would look to use Rhimes’s “creative energy and storytelling ability” to educate the public about the organization’s work.
“And she couldn’t be joining us at a better time,” Richard said. “When so much basic health care is under attack, as we saw just a few weeks ago as a room full of men negotiated away maternity benefits for women, it’s never been more important for people’s stories to be told.”
She was referring to a much-criticized White House meeting in which President Trump and Vice President Pence met with members of the House Freedom Caucus to discuss a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Among the benefits under consideration for elimination was maternity care. The effort failed after factions within the GOP failed to agree on an overall plan. The Republican-led Congress also has been unable to come up with a measure to defund Planned Parenthood.
Anti-abortion groups and conservative lawmakers have for years sought to block the use of Medicaid funds to reimburse Planned Parenthood for services it provides to low-income patients. Federal law prohibits the use of Medicaid funds for abortions, except in the case of rape, incest or to the save the life of the mother.
Planned Parenthood has argued that the vast majority of its services involve providing basic gynecological health care, including Pap smears, offering low-cost contraceptives and providing referrals for other screenings, such as mammograms.
Rhimes, who has served on the Planned Parenthood Los Angeles board, told Elle that she’s never used the organization’s services but has friends who have.
“The fact that I’ve never had to use a Planned Parenthood, the fact that I’ve never been in need of medical services I couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be concerned about the fact that other women don’t have that access,” she said.