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‘S.N.L.’ Imagines the Origins of Abortion Law


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“Saturday Night Live” dug deep for its opening sketch this weekend, far into the text of a leaked draft opinion indicating that the Supreme Court has voted to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, on the section where the draft opinion’s writer, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., cites legal theory from thirteenth century England.

As an introductory voice-over described the scene, “We go now to that profound moment of ethical clarity, almost a thousand years ago, which laid such a transparent foundation for what our laws must be in 2022.”

Throughout the stone partitions of a medieval castle, wearing period costumes and wigs, the forged members James Austin Johnson and Andrew Dismukes were brainstorming with a 3rd character, played by the show’s guest host, Benedict Cumberbatch.

“While I used to be cleansing the outlet on the side of the castle where we poop after which it falls through the sky right into a moat of human feces, I began to take into consideration abortion,” Cumberbatch said, adding, “Don’t you think that we should make a law against it?”

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“Exactly. Something fair and reasonable like those laws. We must always make a law that may stand the test of time, in order that lots of and lots of of years from now, they’ll look back and say, no must update this one in any respect — they nailed it back in 1235.”

Dressed as a medieval woman, Cecily Strong interrupted the boys’s discussion. “I used to be outside watching the sheriff throw left-handed children into the river and I couldn’t help but overhear you talking a couple of latest law,” she said.

Strong asked them, “I used to be just wondering since I’m almost on the childbearing age of 12, shouldn’t women have the best to decide on, since having a baby means like a 50 percent probability of dying?”

Cumberbatch answered, “Yes, but that’s why we’re also offering maternity leave. If you’re done with 20 years of continuous maternity, you may leave.”

When the three men all voted in favor of their latest law, a fourth man, played by Chris Redd, attempted to vote against it.

“I’m just playing,” Redd said. “I do know I can’t vote. But you understand, Moors gonna be Moors.”

Kate McKinnon entered the room wearing long gray hair and a pointed hat, and Cumberbatch recoiled: “An ogre!” he exclaimed.

“No, no, just a girl in her 30s,” McKinnon replied. She explained that eating a weird mushroom had given her the ability to see far into the longer term, when this oppressive law could be overturned after which that final result would itself be undone.

McKinnon tried to supply some words of encouragement. “Irrespective of what number of selections they take away from women, we’ve all the time got the selection to maintain fighting,” she said.

“That’s really inspiring,” Cumberbatch responded. “And after hearing your perspective, I suddenly realize — you’re a witch and we’re going to set you on fire.”

One potential upside of hosting “S.N.L.” is that you simply might get to point out off a skill or talent the audience doesn’t know you may have. Within the case of Cumberbatch, the Oscar-nominated star of “The Power of the Dog” and the “Doctor Strange” movies, he demonstrated that he’s a fairly decent singer when he assumes the guise of a jail inmate on a series gang in Fifties Georgia.

While fellow convicts played by Johnson, Redd and Kenan Thompson smash rocks and lament their long internments, Cumberbatch is the one having fun with cherry pie and boasting that he’s the prison snitch. (He also put his pipes to make use of in a later sketch playing half of a Eighties Latest Wave rock duo that finds itself playing a gig at Chuck E. Cheese.)

Over on the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on the Supreme Court’s draft opinion and its potential impact on abortion access.

Jost began:

Well, guys, tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Whether you desired to be one or not. In an unprecedented move that might cause lasting damage to the Supreme Court, a draft opinion was leaked which indicates that they intend to overturn Roe v. Wade. So the Court is generally careful, but they slipped up just this once and now they’ve got to live with it ceaselessly. Sounds really unfair.

The opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito, and he bases his arguments on laws from the 1600s. So it’s an outdated opinion from an indignant 70-year-old? This shouldn’t be a Supreme Court decision; it should just be a Facebook post. The opinion also looks like it was written in a weird conservative bubble. Here’s how you understand: He quotes his own colleague Brett Kavanaugh six times. One for every beer within the pack. He even cites Kavanaugh on civil rights, which is like citing Amber Heard on methods to make a bed. Chief Justice John Roberts said that the leak was “the work of 1 bad apple.” One bad apple can also be one other legal argument utilized in Alito’s opinion [his screen shows a picture of Eve in the Garden of Eden].

Che continued:

As a person, there’s no way I can understand the total impact of this issue. But I asked a bunch of ladies across the office what their personal experience was with abortion, and I’ve got to confess, I learned quite a bit from the HR meeting they made me go to.

But I do know this ruling can have a disproportionate effect on poor people. I mean, most Americans don’t have access to the identical resources that I do. The typical person can’t just text Lorne in the midst of the night and say, “Yo, it happened again.” I just don’t get why Republicans are so against this. Perhaps don’t consider it as an abortion. Consider it as a patriot storming a uterus to overturn the outcomes of an unfair pregnancy.

McKinnon, who for a few years was “S.N.L.”’s resident impersonator of the liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appeared this week on the Update desk to play her conservative successor, Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Playing Barrett in a comic book back-and-forth with Jost, McKinnon tried to tamp down the perception that she was pleased concerning the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “I don’t know what would make you think that that, aside from all the pieces I’ve ever said,” she explained.

McKinnon also emphasized so-called safe-haven laws that allow parents to provide up custody of an infant.

“Give it to a stork and the stork will give it to a lesbian,” she said. “I’d think that lesbians could be pleased because now there’s more babies for them to adopt. Until we ban that, too.”

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