John Oliver discusses anti-abortion laws, women’s health, and a bucket full of sloths on ‘Last Week Tonight’

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With a fair warning to those he knew would not want to hear what he had to say, John Oliver launched into a report on the laws that are shutting down abortion clinics all over America. He actually begins the segment with a little bait-and-switch, saying, “Breast implants—Some are against them, others believe they are fine in rare cases, and many believe you should be able to get them whenever the f— you want. Sorry, did I say breast implants? I meant abortions.” He then acknowledges that abortion is not as simple as a debate of should they or shouldn’t they. It is not a binary issue; it is a spectrum, and many people stand somewhere in the middle with a belief that abortions should be made available to women in at least a few circumstances. “Only 19 percent of Americans told Gallop they think it should be completely illegal,” and to those 19 percent watching, Oliver tells them to stop watching and come back at the end of the show when they will all enjoy watching a bucket of sloths together.

For those who are willing to listen, he moves on to an investigation of the laws that have shut down 70 abortion clinics since 2010. Some states, like Mississippi and Missouri, only have one abortion clinic in the entire state. Oliver says this is possible because the key Supreme Court decision on abortion is no longer Roe v. Wade, but Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which states can pass restrictions as long as they don’t create an undue burden or obstacle to women seeking abortions, which for some states means having at least one (or, only one) clinic available.

The rhetoric employed by those who pass these regulations claims that the laws are there to protect women’s health, but what that means is that they are forcing abortion clinics to abide by the same standards as out-patients surgical facilities. In one case, a clinic was shut down because the hallways were not eight feet wide, a standard needed for a facility in which two gurneys need to pass in the hall, but not in a facility that does not move its patients from room to room. These types of regulations are shutting down clinics everywhere, and putting women in even more dangerous situations.

In one story, a woman didn’t have the means to get to San Antonio for an abortion, so she called and said, “I’ll tell you what I have in my kitchen cabinet and you tell me what I can do.” “When your state’s abortion laws are forcing people into the most depressing quick-fire challenge in Top Chef history, I think it’s safe to say they’ve gone too f—king far,” reasons Oliver, going on to add, “Here is the thing: Abortion cannot just be theoretically legal – it has to be literally accessible,” because not only are state’s not protecting women by shutting down clinics, in some cases, they’re endangering them.


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