There isn’t anything particularly funny about the leaked Supreme Court draft decision that would dismantle Roe v. Wade, but Saturday Night Live found a way. Instead of opening with a more modern political spoof, the May 7 show hosted by Benedict Cumberbatch went all the way back to the 13th century, putting Justice Samuel Alito’s references in painfully depressing, and funny, context.
Noting that the draft opinion referenced 13th-century laws against abortion, SNL opened with a trip back in time “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.” No surprise, the sketch cuts to three white men — Cumberbatch, Andrew Dismukes, and James Austin Johnson — who, in all their wisdom, decide that they need to make a law against abortion “like the law we have against pointy shoes.” As for how they would punish women bold enough to get an abortion, Cumberbatch spitballs, “We could always put her in a boat and let her sail off the cliff at the edge of the world.” (Get it, because back then, we thought the Earth was flat? And now politicians and justices want to regulate women’s bodies according to those times?) “She would, of course, tumble down where the four giant turtles are holding up the Earth, and maybe one of those would eat her,” he concludes.
The sketch continued to throw out mentions of absurd, centuries-old laws and customs — like “throwing left-handed children into the river” or that Cecily Strong’s character is “almost of the child-bearing age of 12.” The sketch ends with Kate McKinnon — who is either an “ogre” or a “woman in her 30s” depending on who you ask — who arrives with a vision of the future. “Worry not, dear girl, these barbaric laws will one day 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.’” She ends her monologue calling on women to keep fighting, which promptly gets her declared a witch and sentenced to be burned alive. Sounds about right.
This wasn’t the only time SNL touched on the controversial Roe v. Wade draft. Jokes were aplenty during the “Weekend Update” segment, which also included an uncanny Justice Amy Coney Barrett impression from McKinnon. (“What is more traumatic: Safely ending an early pregnancy, or giving full birth to a baby you can never see again because you put it on a Ferris wheel?”) And the cast all gathered for the good nights wearing “1973” T-shirts — marking the year Roe v. Wade was decided.