It's 2017 and Planned Parenthood's future prospects don't look great. The new administration seems keen on defunding the national organization, but we have good news: Planned Parenthood now has added a powerful new played to its corner, named Shonda Rhimes. The decorated showrunner shared today with Elle that she joined the national board of the organization this year. The Scandal creator has long been involved with Planned Parenthood, but now she's stepping up to the national level. Though her role has yet to be defined, Rhimes is ready to get to business.
"Mostly I want to be of service 一 in any way that I can," Rhimes explained. "And if that is helping to convey messages, that is what I'm going to do. If it's rolling up my sleeves and getting to work, that is what I'm going to do."
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood herself, told the magazine that Planned Parenthood would utilize Rhimes' skills to support the women's health organization. "The best thing we can do is just channel the enormous creative energy and storytelling ability that Shonda Rhimes already has [in order] to do our work even better. And she couldn't be joining us at a better time," Richards said. She continued, "Shonda has always been unapologetic about speaking truth to power. She does it every Thursday night."
Richards is referring to Rhimes' stack of Thursday night hits — Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Grey's Anatomy, and The Catch. The four separate dramas all highlight the experience of being a woman, sometimes to a controversial degree. Just last year, Rhimes' political thriller Scandal featured a major character getting an abortion. (It was Kerry Washington's iconic Olivia Pope who underwent the procedure.) Rhimes admitted that the scene inspired less controversy than the network anticipated.
"We were portraying a medical procedure that is legal in the United States of America," Rhimes shared. "I wasn't sure what everybody was so concerned about. I was accurately portraying a medical procedure that the Supreme Court says people are allowed to have."
Richards added that "almost no one in America who can't relate to the issue of an unplanned pregnancy or a troubled pregnancy."
The abortion on Scandal was somewhat recent, but Rhimes has spotlighted women's health on her shows for a long time. In her research for Grey's Anatomy, the 47-year-old dove into the issues head-on. As she explains, most health matters boil down to women's health issues.
"I read a lot of studies about the fact that there is a bias in the way health care is doled out, down to the fact that most medical studies are done on men, not women, so most dosages are planned for men, not women, and on and on. And more than that, women's pain is gauged differently and their complaints are received differently," Rhimes said.
Planned Parenthood, an organization geared toward women's health specifically — although not uniquely — is one place where these biases don't exist.
"The idea that there's a place where you can go where everything is geared toward you, as a woman, is great," Rhimes said of the organization. "But it's a shame that we need to find places that are 'safe' when the world, the whole world, should be a safe place. It's 2017, for God's sakes. But because it needs to exist, I'm glad that there is that space."