Brow Beat

John Oliver Breaks Down the Nightmarish Consequences of Ridiculous State Abortion Laws

On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver reminded everyone why we should be paying more attention to state abortion laws: According to a 2015 Gallup poll, only 19 percent of Americans believe abortion should be universally illegal, but some states’ regulations make abortions very difficult to obtain. These laws are always presented as measures to “protect” women’s health and safety, but they mostly just make abortions harder to get and clinics harder to keep open: Four states are now down to only one clinic. “That’s right,” said Oliver, “Mississippi now has four times as many “S”’s as it has abortion clinics.”

The requirements often fly in the face of reason and medical necessity, or even accuracy. Oliver notes that all the fuss over women’s “safety” is pretty trumped up, considering you’re statistically more likely to die during a colonoscopy than an abortion. And other laws—like mandatory waiting periods or requiring that doctors show women their ultrasound videos before allowing them to have abortions—have nothing to do with safety. They do, however, force women to make some pretty horrifying choices, as in the case of one woman who didn’t have the means to travel all the way to her nearest clinic, and instead asked the clinic administrator over the phone if there was anything she could do on her own with the supplies in her kitchen cabinet. “Abortion cannot just be theoretically legal,” Oliver said. “It has to be literally accessible.”