Black superwoman, television dynamo and queen of Thursday nights on ABC Shonda Rhimes will add another title to her résumé as she joins the national board of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Rhimes has never shied away from broaching difficult topics on her shows, including those involving women’s reproductive rights, and the topic of abortion has come up many times on Rhimes’ shows over the last decade. NBC News reports that her activism will go even further now in her new role.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in an interview with Elle magazine that Rhimes was a natural choice because she is a longtime supporter, she serves on the board in Los Angeles, and Richards felt she brought a valuable perspective.
“But what she brings not only to this board, but frankly to the world, is her commitment to lift up the stories of people who don’t always get heard, whether it’s in the way she talks about LGBT issues or women’s reproductive health care or [the way she] centers people of color on television,” Richards told Elle.
Rhimes first dealt with the sensitive topic of abortion in her TV shows on Grey’s Anatomy in 2011 when Cristina Yang, one of the main characters, felt that she could not have a child, because her whole life was dedicated to being the best surgeon she could be.
Later, in 2015, Rhimes would go further in her show Scandal with a scene that showed Olivia Pope going through the actual procedure of the abortion, a move that Rhimes did not find all that controversial.
Rhimes said of the scene in Scandal, “I’m constantly having the conversations; I had a lot of conversations when we did that scene in which I tried to explain that just like all the scenes I did on Grey’s Anatomy, in this scene we were portraying a medical procedure that is legal in the United States of America.”
According to NBC, both Rhimes and Richards believe that this is a critical time in the fight for women’s reproductive rights, especially since the U.S. Senate recently voted to allow states to withhold federal family-planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers; Vice President Mike Pence made the tiebreaking vote in that decision.
While discussing how some of the media portray this as only being a “women’s issue,” Rhimes told Elle, “I think the point of our country, our planet, the reason we’re all here, one of the best things that we can do is be concerned about something even when it doesn’t concern us.”
It’s worth noting that while abortion is commonly cited as a reason for defunding Planned Parenthood, it is only about 3 percent of the services that the organization provides each year.
Furthermore, an attack on Planned Parenthood is an attack on low-income women and women of color. According to the organization, half the patients it serves are people of color, with 370,000 of them black and 575,000 Latinx.
Rhimes joins the 31-person board and adds to its diversity numbers, bringing the total number of people of color to 13.