“We’re in uncharted territory here.”
John Oliver took some time out of the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight to drill into the devastating impact of the Supreme Court’s decision last Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade. The decision, which flipped the landmark ruling that protected the constitutional right to abortion, will likely lead to about half of all states in the country instituting a ban.
“Make no mistake, this decision is sweeping,” the host said early on in the segment. “It says states could limit abortion at all stages of development, phrasing that could mean from the moment of conception onward with no exceptions.” The consequences are nothing short of fatal for some, he noted: for “disabled people and other vulnerable groups, forced pregnancy could be a death sentence.”
Oliver shot down arguments that those affected would still have recourse. “The idea that you can simply seek another abortion in another state is insulting on its face even before you consider that some lawmakers are already openly looking for ways to punish out-of-state abortions,” he said.
Worse yet, he noted that the decision is not simply a political regression, but one that puts countless people in a more dangerous position than even before Roe existed.
“In some ways we’re in uncharted territory here, because when you hear people say, we’re returning to a pre-Roe landscape, that’s not entirely true,” he said, while quoting from writing in The New Yorker. “This is a different world now. In some ways it’s better. There are new, less invasive ways for people to terminate pregnancies, like with medications. But there are also new ways for the state to monitor people, meaning that in ‘states where abortion will now be outlawed, any pregnancy loss past an early cutoff can now potentially be investigated as a crime, which in turn means search histories, browsing histories, text messages, location data, payment data, information from period tracking apps. Prosecutors can examine all of that if they believe that the loss of a pregnancy may have been deliberate.’”
The decision also portends the potential revocation of other rights, Oliver said, pointing toward Justice Clarence Thomas’s recommendation in the written decision to reconsider other cases protecting same-sex marriage and contraception. He directed specific ire, though, at the establishment Democrats who have failed to codify Roe v. Wade over the years, and in the aftermath of the Court’s decision, only demonstrated empty virtue-signaling and sent out opportunistic fundraising emails and texts.
“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,” Oliver said. “And they stand in stark contrast to the groups on the ground who have been displaying that urgency for years now.”
Oliver praised abortion advocates, volunteers, and doctors, who have fought to provide healthcare services as abortion rights have been “chipped away all over the country.”
“Abortion advocates did all of this even as they were being yelled at from one side and told that they were overreacting from another. And their unflinching commitment and compassion is something we’re all going to need to find ways to emulate going forward, both on an individual level, as we help each other navigate the nightmarish maze that basic health care is about to become, and hopefully, eventually, on an institutional one if those in power can demonstrate enough commitment to this fight.”
He concluded: “Look, time will tell what this week actually was: if it was a permanent setback, a waystation along a further descent into hell. Or if it galvanized a movement that eventually won back everything we just lost.”