Speed Reads


John Oliver conscripts adorable sloths to soften an adult talk about onerous abortion laws

John Oliver knows you probably don't want to watch a 15-minute segment on abortion, so he began the main story of Sunday's Last Week Tonight by talking about breast implants. After he abruptly switched topics, earning a gasp from the audience, he pleaded with his viewers: "Before you change the channel, I know this is a polarizing topic." Actually, most people's views on abortion are somewhere in the middle, Oliver said, though if you are part of the 19 percent who told Gallup that abortion should never be legal, "you are, frankly, excused from watching the rest of this."

Oliver started off by saying that, thanks to the 1992 Supreme Court ruling Planned Parenthood v. Casey, "women can be asked to jump through a few hoops, just not too many," to obtain an abortion under state laws. The effect of that ruling is that in four states, there is only one abortion clinic, and lots of other states are implementing so-called TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers) that are forcing the closure of dozens of clinics. Oliver walked through some of those laws, what they claim to do — protect women's health, mostly — and what they actually do, then issued his call to action. "Abortion cannot just be theoretically legal," he said. "It has to be literally accesible."

Because a frank discussion of abortion and abortion laws is a tough topic for a comedy show, Oliver mixed in some jokes for levity. To end on a note more conducive to a good night's sleep, he finished up the show with a video of baby sloths in a bucket, and because he has a TV show of his own, he brought in an adult sloth wearing a night cap to try to head off any nightmares (assuming you're not terrified of sloths). If a discussion of abortion laws and some mildly NSFW language doesn't bother you, watch below. Peter Weber