‘SNL’ Added to its Blessedly Rich History of Tackling Abortion

On Saturday night, "Weekend Update" took on Trump's deceptive comments on leaving abortion to the states as well as Arizona's state Supreme Court deciding to reinstate an 1864 abortion ban.

‘SNL’ Added to its Blessedly Rich History of Tackling Abortion

This weekend, Saturday Night Live‘s Colin Jost and Michael Che took on several abortion-related developments during “Weekend Update.” And they were funny! Che addressed Trump’s nonsense video message from April 8, where he stated that, in lieu of a national abortion ban, the issue should be left up to the states…which is the current, awful state of things. “This week, Donald Trump said that he supports abortion laws being decided by the states instead of the federal government. But why stop there? Why not go even smaller and leave it up to the counties or the city?” Che said. “Or even better, take the government out of it completely and leave the choice about what women can do with their bodies and a person who knows what they could do with them the best—their husbands.” The joke strikes at the heart of why Trump’s latest stance, and the GOPs platform in general, is bullshit—namely how they preach about small government unless it involves a woman’s control over her own body.

The duo then joked about Trump’s false, sensational claim that Democrats want abortions through the ninth month of pregnancy, which is simply not a thing. “Donald Trump falsely said that Democrats support abortion up to the ninth month and beyond, saying the baby is executed at birth,” Jost said. “But he only thinks that happens because when Trump was a baby, a bunch of time travelers showed up trying to kill him.” Nice.

“Weekend Update” also took on the Civil War-era abortion ban that Arizona’s state Supreme Court recently ruled could take effect. “Reinstating laws from 1864 isn’t the worst thing for me, because I’m a white landowner …and a proud Freemason. But it’s probably not great to adopt healthcare rules from a time when the only two things doctors prescribed were prayer and cocaine—Saturday and Sunday,” Jost joked. “Back then, if you didn’t want to keep your baby, your only option was Rumpelstiltskin.” He also threw in a joke about President Biden’s age. “President Biden criticized the abortion law, calling it cruel, which is the same he said when he voted against it in 1864.”

The jokes add to the show’s long history of tackling our country’s anti-abortion policies. (Of course, SNL also let Donald Trump host in 2015…) In 2019, Leslie Jones joined “Weekend Update” to excoriate the six-week abortion ban passed by Alabama Republicans at the time, which offered a gutting omen of what was to come. “I mean, why do all of these weird ass men care what women choose to do with their bodies, anyways?” Jones said. “I don’t care what you care to do with your 65-year-old droopy ass balls!” In September, Jones shared her own abortion story in her memoir.

And in 2021, after Texas’ SB 8 abortion ban took effect, Cecily Strong joined “Weekend Update” as Goober the Clown to share her abortion story: “I wish I didn’t have to do this because the abortion I had at 23 is my personal clown business,” she said. “I know I wouldn’t be a clown on TV here today if it weren’t for the abortion I had the day before my 23rd birthday. It’s gonna happen, so it ought to be safe, legal, and accessible.” The following year, months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, she returned as Tammy the Trucker, who was introduced as someone “who promises she’s here to talk about gas prices and definitely not abortion.”

“You shouldn’t have to pull the convoy across state lines to find a doctor who can provide health care for your anatomy without having to call your lawyer first,” she joked, in reference to how the wave of state-level abortion bans is forcing people to travel across state lines for care.

SNL was on summer break when the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision dropped in June 2022. But shortly before that, when the opinion leaked in May, the show dedicated its cold open to the seismic event. In a sketch set in 13th-century England, guest host Benedict Cumberbatch says, “It’s just 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. Don’t you think we ought to make a law against that?”

The sketch is rife with pointed jokes, including one about how “concubines” should be allowed to travel elsewhere to have abortions. Strong, who plays a servant of the “almost child-bearing age of 12″ asks, “Shouldn’t women have the right to choose since having a baby means like a 50 percent chance of dying?” Cumberbatch counters that “that’s why we’re also offering maternity leave,” so “when you’re done with 20 years of continuous maternity, you can leave.” Someone then asks about cases of rape and incest: “But those are the only kinds of sex!” Andrew Dismukes responds. Ultimately, Kate McKinnon arrives to declare that “these barbaric laws will someday be overturned by something called progress. And then, after about 50 years after the progress, they’ll be like, ‘Maybe we should undo the progress.’”

The show’s abortion jokes also have a history of sparking equal parts praise and outrage, the latter obviously from conservative media who rail against SNL for daring to treat abortion as “a laughing matter.” Of course, until anti-abortion lawmakers stop treating our bodily autonomy as their own laughing matter, cracking jokes at our dark, agonizingly hilarious abortion policies is all we can do not to cry. I rarely say this but, thanks SNL.

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