Elizabeth Banks to Lead Center for Reproductive Rights Creative Council (Exclusive)

Elizabeth Banks speaks onstage at the Center For Reproductive Rights 2019 Gala - Getty-H 2019
Noam Galai/Getty Images for Center For Reproductive Rights

The 'Charlie's Angels' director will chair the group, whose members include Busy Philipps and Aja Naomi King, to help share stories that are "destigmatizing abortion."

Longtime women's rights advocate Elizabeth Banks announced Monday that she will lead the Center for Reproductive Rights' new Creative Council. 

The initiative, chaired by Banks, will use stars' platforms to educate about and advocate for the Center's issues. "I believe that women's equality begins with our fundamental human rights over bodily autonomy. So I feel like this is baseline for female equality in the world, deciding when and with whom to have children," Banks tells The Hollywood Reporter

The council's founding members — who, Banks says, "represented an incredible cross-section of artists and innovators in their fields" — include Busy Philipps (Busy Tonight), Aja Naomi King (How to Get Away With Murder), actor and producer Amy Brenneman (Judging Amy), actor and producer Lisa Edelstein (The Kominsky Method), Tony-winning playwright Sarah Jones (Bridge & Tunnel) and former Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive. They're joined by style moguls Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, co-founders of the multi-brand retailer and fashion label Opening Ceremony, and Erika Savage, an executive at Morphe Cosmetics.

"I love these women so much.... We looked for women who were already sympathetic to the cause or who had already participated in some way in a campaign for the Center," Banks explains. "There's a real power to having people who have platforms be able to elevate the critical role that the Center is playing in protecting our freedoms. My hope is that all of the members of the Council take seriously this responsibility to mention the Center's work, to advocate for the Center whenever they can...and add reproductive rights stories to the work that they're already doing." 

The Charlie's Angels director hopes the Council can help destigmatize abortion by sharing and supporting women's stories, as Philipps did by starting the hashtag #YouKnowMe to put a face to the one in four people who have had an abortion. Banks cites Shrill as an example of how creative projects can advance the conversation — in the Hulu show Banks executive produced, Aidy Bryant's character, Annie, gets an abortion.

"Reproductive rights in media is a really important tool for keeping the issues that we are all facing at the forefront," Banks says. "As someone who struggled with fertility issues and made embryos, I think there's such an interesting dialogue to be had about how abortion care is part of a larger package of reproductive care that is also about creating wonderful families and access to family care. It's all very slippery slope and that's what we're trying to get across."

The creative council's advocacy will focus in part on the Supreme Court case June Medical Services, LLC v. Gee, which challenges a Louisiana law designed to shut down abortion clinics. Banks explains she wants to make the Center as much of a household name as Planned Parenthood, because when clinics are "under attack," the Center swoops in to keep "abortion as the law of the land." 

And as a supporter of Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris in the 2020 presidential race, Banks looks forward to MSNBC's all-female-moderated debate Nov. 20, which could shine a spotlight on gender equality: "I'm hopeful that more questions are raised about equality issues and equal pay especially."

"The Center for Reproductive Rights is proud to partner with these powerful artists to protect and expand reproductive rights access across the globe through our work in the courts, in public policy and before human rights bodies," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement. "We know the impact these artists can have in advocating for change and reaching new audiences to raise awareness about reproductive rights issues, including maternal health, abortion care, contraception and assisted reproduction."

On Monday, the Center's annual gala in New York raised about $2 million for the cause.