This week saw the highly politicized Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 ruling protecting a woman’s right to an abortion (in other words, granting women bodily autonomy and keeping the government out of their uteruses).
The move was met with widespread condemnation, especially given how right-wing organizations have launched an ugly decades-long campaign against a woman’s right to choose (including bribing Jane Roe, aka Norma McCorvey, to speak out against the decision), and four of the five conservative Supreme Court justices who voted to strike down Roe—Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—stating during their Senate confirmation hearings that it was settled law. The move will result in 22 states banning abortion, along with 13 states that immediately banned it due to trigger laws.
“It’s absolutely horrifying,” exclaimed John Oliver on Sunday evening’s edition of Last Week Tonight, before taking aim at some of the “gleeful responses” from Republicans in the wake of the decision, including Mike Pence, who said that “life won.”
“Which is pretty tough to take given that especially for some, especially disabled people and other vulnerable groups, forced pregnancy could be a death sentence,” offered Oliver. “And make no mistake: this decision is sweeping. It says that states could limit abortion at all stages of development—phrasing that could mean from the moment of conception onward with no exceptions.”
If that weren’t enough, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion, wrote that “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell”—landmark decisions protecting the ability to buy and use contraceptives, engage in anal or oral sex, and allow same-sex couples to marry.
“Yeah. Clarence Thomas wants to uphold the sanctity of marriage—because, as we all know, marriage is between one man credibly accused of sexual harassment and one woman who wanted to overthrow a presidential election. You know, the way God intended,” joked Oliver.
The HBO host then aimed his ire at Democrats, who had many weeks to prepare a vigorous response to the overturning of Roe, given the prior leak of SCOTUS’ draft opinion.
“It has been dispiriting to see so many Democrats this week utterly fail to meet the moment—a moment, by the way, they had nearly two months to plan for,” seethed Oliver. “Nancy Pelosi read a poem, one Rep. [Andy Levin, D-MI] tweeted a picture of himself doing yoga, and so many Democrats sent out requests for money, really fulfilling that old Democratic adage: when they go low, we ask you for 15 dollars.” (House Democrats also chose to sing “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps, for some reason.)
He continued: “And I am not saying that all I want from leaders is shows of anger, but it has been depressing to see so many of them treat the end of Roe v. Wade with the solemnity of a funeral instead of the urgency of a fucking cardiac arrest. And they stand in stark contrast to the groups on the ground who have displayed that urgency for years now. They fought relentlessly as abortion rights have been chipped away all over the country, and they have worked tirelessly to find ways around each restriction and provide health care services for those that have been denied them, even when it was very hard.”
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