‘SNL’ Imagines the Origins of Abortion Law

“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, at the section where the draft opinion’s author, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., cites legal theory from 13th century England.

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

Within the stone walls of a medieval castle, wearing period costumes and wigs, the cast members James Austin Johnson and Andrew Dismukes were brainstorming with a third character, played by the show’s guest host, Benedict Cumberbatch.

“While I was cleaning the hole on the side of the castle where we poop and then it falls through the sky into a moat of human feces, I started to think about abortion,” Cumberbatch said, adding, “Don’t you think we ought to make a law against it? ”

“Exactly. Something fair and reasonable like those laws. We should make a law that will stand the test of time, so that hundreds and hundreds of years from now, they’ll look back and say, no need to update this one at all – they nailed it back in 1235. ”

Dressed as a medieval woman, Cecily Strong interrupted the men’s discussion. “I was outside watching the sheriff throw left-handed children into the river and I couldn’t help but overhear you talking about a new law,” she said.

Strong asked them, “I was just wondering since I’m almost at the childbearing age of 12, shouldn’t women have the right to choose, since having a baby means like a 50 percent chance of dying?”

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

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

“I’m just playing,” Redd said. “I know I can’t vote. But you know, 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 woman in her 30s,” McKinnon replied. She explained that eating a weird mushroom had given her the power to see far into the future, when this oppressive law would be overturned and then that outcome would itself be undone.

McKinnon tried to offer some words of encouragement. “No matter how many choices they take away from women, we’ve always got the choice to keep 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 “SNL” is that you might get to show off a skill or talent the audience doesn’t know you have. In the case of Cumberbatch, the Oscar-nominated star of “The Power of the Dog” and the “Doctor Strange” films, he demonstrated that he’s a pretty decent singer when he assumes the guise of a prison inmate on a chain gang in 1950s Georgia.

While fellow convicts played by Johnson, Redd and Kenan Thompson smash rocks and lament their long internments, Cumberbatch is the one enjoying cherry pie and boasting that he’s the prison snitch. (He also put his pipes to use in a later sketch playing half of a 1980s New Wave rock duo that finds itself playing a gig at Chuck E. Cheese.)

Over at 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.

I started:

Well, guys, tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Whether you wanted to be one or not. In an unprecedented move that could 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 usually careful, but they slipped up just this once and now they’ve got to live with it forever. 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 angry 70-year-old? This shouldn’t be a Supreme Court decision; it should just be a Facebook post. The opinion also seems like it was written in a weird conservative bubble. Here’s how you know: He quotes his own colleague Brett Kavanaugh six times. One for each beer in the pack. He even cites Kavanaugh on civil rights, which is like citing Amber Heard on how to make a bed. Chief Justice John Roberts said that the leak was “the work of one bad apple.” One bad apple is also another legal argument used in Alito’s opinion [his screen shows a picture of Eve in the Garden of Eden].

Che continued:

As a man, there’s no way I can understand the full impact of this issue. But I asked a bunch of women around the office what their personal experience was with abortion, and I’ve got to admit, I learned a lot from the HR meeting they made me go to.

But I do know this ruling will have a disproportionate effect on poor people. I mean, most Americans don’t have access to the same resources that I do. The average person can’t just text Lorne in the middle of the night and say, “Yo, it happened again.” I just don’t get why Republicans are so against this. Maybe don’t think of it as an abortion. Think of it as a patriot storming a uterus to overturn the results of an unfair pregnancy.

McKinnon, who for many years was “SNL” ‘s resident impersonator of the liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appeared this week at the Update desk to play her conservative successor, Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

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

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

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

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