Elizabeth Banks on Her Fight for Abortion Rights: ‘Women Should Have Bodily Autonomy’

Reproductive rights are under fire. The Trump administration enacted a rule that stops doctors from talking to their patients about abortions and also criticized abortion-rights bills in the President’s State of the Union speech — and that’s just been in the last month. But actress Elizabeth Banks, who works with the Center for Reproductive Rights, says that reproductive rights are far more popular than we’re led to believe.

“I think that there’s a vocal minority, but the fact remains that nearly 1 in 4 American women will have an abortion in their lifetime,” says Banks, who hosted the Center’s first Los Angeles fundraising banquet on Wednesday night. “Most people know a woman who has had an abortion, and for the majority of abortions, that decision is made my women who are already mothers, who are trying to plan their families. And this is about families, not just women. Seven in ten Americans support abortion rights, so it’s not that controversial.”

Banks says that the new Trump administration rule — nicknamed the “gag rule” by abortion rights activists because doctors are limited in what they can tell patients about their options — is ethically tenuous. Since it was announced on Feb. 22, medical rights groups and 21 states have filed lawsuits challenging the rule.

“It undermines women’s rights, patients’ rights. It keeps important information from women,” she says. “I think that silencing doctors’ abilities to speak freely with their patients violates the ethical standards of doctors. It affects so many women in need of this information and this care.”

“We don’t have any of these rules for men,” she adds. “Men don’t go to the doctor and have a doctor not be able to tell them about all their options for care.”

The Center, along with Banks, is fighting against these changes and for women’s reproductive rights because “we believe they are human rights,” she says.

“Women should have bodily autonomy, and there is no equality for women without them being able to decide when and with whom to bear children.”

Banks also touches on women’s reproductive rights in the new show Shrill, which she co-produced. Based on an essay collection by Lindy West, the Hulu series stars Aidy Bryant as a woman trying to have a journalism career while struggling with being judged her for her size.

“We talk about reproductive rights in the show because Lindy West wrote about it so beautifully in her book,” Banks says. “Lindy is a really vocal supporter of reproductive rights, and has been throughout her life, and her decision to have an abortion was an important one in forming her sense of herself.”

And the roadblocks faced by Bryant’s character because of her size are examples of how she struggles as a woman to succeed.

“The storyline is Shrill is really just a woman wanting to live her best life and is up against a crazy system that values what she looks like more than what her body can do,” Banks says. “It’s a system that constantly diminishes us and takes away our sense of autonomy in the world. We should have agency over our whole lives.”

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