Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 3, Episode 2 - Abortion Laws - full transcript

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Welcome, welcome, welcome
to Last Week Tonight. I'm John Oliver.

Thank you so much for joining us. Just
time for a quick recap of the week.

And we begin in South Carolina.

South Carolina held their
republican primary last night,

and Donald Trump won big,
which was all the more impressive,

considering what had happened
earlier in the week.

Donald Trump is now
in a very nasty feud with the pope.

Here's what Francis had to say.
I'm quoting here.

A person who thinks only about
building walls wherever they may be

and not of building bridges
is not Christian.

Yes, this week saw a battle
between an infallible force

and an illogical object.
And it was amazing.

The most inclusive pope in recent
history questioned Trump's faith.

Which, I guess means the pope feels
Donald Trump is not my Christian.

Hashtag not my Christian.

And yet, Trump still won.

He still won ! Although perhaps
the even bigger news last night

was what South Carolina
did to Jeb Bush.

The side of plain white rice
that nobody ordered.

Jeb Bush dropped out last night,
after finishing fourth.

Despite really pulling out all
the stops in South Carolina this week.

Barbara Bush appearing with son
Jeb Bush on the campaign trail.

Is she the closer ?

No, no. She could not be the closer.

You bring on the closer
when you have a lead.

When your campaign is where Jeb Bush's
was, you don't need a closer,

you need a fucking coroner.

And look, I can't believe I'm saying
this: but I feel bad for Jeb Bush.

Because not only did he bring his mom
along to help him campaign,

just wait until you hear
what she said about him.

What's left for me to say

is that Jeb
has been a great son, a great father,

great husband, married well,

and is one of my four favorite sons.

Oh, no, no.

I know she's joking,

but that is literally what you say
about your fourth favorite son.

She actually went on to call him
"steady, honest, modest and kind."

And his campaign was over
right then and there.

Because you know you've lost when your
own mother is selling you to America

like an unappealing blind date.

He's steady. He's modest.
He has a pet mouse.

Honestly, he hasn't been with a woman
in a long time and he needs this.

Please. So let's move on
to the other big news here this week:

the Supreme Court.

The only thing that rules more than
a crab with a knife in its claw.

You rule, stabby crabby. You rule.

Now, as we discussed last week,
the republicans are saying

they won't confirm a replacement
for Antonin Scalia,

and spent this week refining
their explanation for why.

Starting within hours
of Scalia's death.

We have eighty years of precedent,

of not confirming Supreme Court
justices in election year.

Eighty years of not confirming Supreme
Court justices in election years.

The problem there, aside from the fact
that America is more than 80 years old,

is he is forgetting Justice Kennedy,
who was confirmed in 1988.

Although in his defense,
it is easy to forget that,

we confirmed a lot of things that year,

including that Rick Astley will neither
give you up nor let you down,

and that it's possible to produce
a crowd pleasing blockbuster

in which a grown woman
fucks a 13-year-old boy.

Oh, oh, so, I'm sorry,
he didn't look 13 ?

Listen to yourselves !

Luckily, by Monday, others were aware
of this little factual problem,

and they made some corrections.

Well, it's been more than eighty years,
I think about that long,

since somebody was nominated
in the president's last year.

So more than 80 years since someone was
"nominated" in a president's last year.

That does get rid of Kennedy, who was
nominated in the previous year.

Unfortunately, it then lets in
Fortas and Thornberry,

both nominated to Supreme Court
positions in 1968.

Which mathematically, unhelpfully,
is less than 80 years ago.

And when you're off by 32 years,
you're off by an entire Adam Driver !

Still, still neither of them wound up
being confirmed in an election year

which Ted Cruz undoubtedly had
in his head

when he took another swing
at that same argument.

For the last eighty years the senate
has not confirmed any nominee

nominated during an election year.

Wow, that's intricate ! For eighty
years, the senate has not confirmed

any nominee
nominated in an election year !

And that is so close to being true !


Unfortunately it ignores
Justice Brennan, nominated in 1956

and Justice Murphy,
nominated and confirmed in 1940.

So even by your own arbitrary
eighty-year time frame,

there are between one and five
exceptions to your own precedent.

You're basically a baker going, "Don't
worry, there are no nuts in that.

Except for walnuts, cashews, almonds,
peanuts and the stray pistachio.

Shit. I'll get my epi-pen."

Now, to be fair
to republican lawmakers,

they were under increasing pressure
not to capitulate this week,

when a group called
the Judicial Crisis Network

started releasing ads targeting them:

It's "We the People." Sometimes
the politicians forget that.

The Supreme Court has a vacancy,

and your vote in November
is your only voice.

This isn't about Republicans or
Democrats, it's about your voice.

You choose the next president, the next
president chooses the next justice.

No, the current president
chooses the next justice.

We still have a current president
that we chose.

And, I hate to sound like your daddy,
I hate to sound like your dad,

but you can't open a new president

when we've got a perfectly good
president already open.

Finish the old president first !

We thought something looked a little
odd about that ad, so we checked,

and it turns out that
the people in it are not actual people,

they are stock-footage people.

Here is the construction worker,
whose clip is available for $199.

Here is "adorable
African American family portrait",

and here's "Asian family in front of
home, comma, portrait."

And if you are going to use
stock clips,

there are so many more interesting ones
out there. How about

this footage of a man creepily
listening to a dangerous seashell

or this bizarre clip of businesspeople
congratulating each other

while an emotionless serial killer
stares you down in the foreground,

or this one whose actual title is

"skeleton disagrees with his wife
about the issue" ?

That's real !
All of those clips are available !

And that is the problem:

if you use stock footage
for a "We the People" ad,

anyone can use those exact same people
to make the exact opposite point.

Please enjoy.

We are the American people, and we
deserve to have our voices heard.

Whether we are construction workers,
a generic Asian family,

a team of doctors
laughing over your cancer diagnosis,

an unattended baby
surrounded by pigeons,

or a baboon on a cell phone.

And the good news for us is, we had
our voices heard three years ago.

So now it's time to let the guy
we chose choose someone.

Because that's how America works.

So please respect the will
of the people,

whether we're a businessman on a swing,

a witch who appreciates the magic
of autumn, or again,

a baboon on a cellphone
who is now relaying a message.

The point is,

we the people want you
the politicians to do your fucking job.

That is a political ad. And now, this:

And now, Last Week Tonight asks:
how is this still a thing ?

This week, Hollywood Whitewashing.
How is this still a thing ?

In just one week, we'll celebrate
the Academy Awards.

They promise to be controversial,
as for the second year running,

the nominees are whiter than a yeti
in a snowstorm fighting Tilda Swinton.

And yet, some are arguing it's not
entirely the Academy's fault.

Observers say Hollywood doesn't provide
enough good roles for black actors.

One reason may be that even when
there are roles for non-white actors,

they sometimes still get played by
white people.

In Prince of Persia, based on
a video game set in ancient Iran,

Jake Gyllenhaal plays
the title character.

That's right. Jake Gyllenhaal, a white
American with a Swedish last name,

was cast to play the Prince of Persia.

From, you know, Persia.
And he's far from alone.

Just last year, Emma Stone played
the half-Asian Allison Ng in Aloha.

Ho Ola Lea.

Apparently "Aloha" means hello, goodbye
and you've got to be kidding me.

When Hollywood needed actors to play
Egyptians in Exodus: Gods and Kings,

it knew just what to do.

Moses, Ramses, you grew up together
close as brothers.

That was a guy from Australia
and a guy from Britain

pretending to be two guys from Egypt,
a country in Africa.

And if you like that, don't miss
Gods of Egypt opening Friday,

starring a Scottish guy.

I shall be your one true God.

That's the whitest Egyptian
since these four.

All of this is nothing new,
white actors have taken roles

designed for every ethnicity
throughout Hollywood history,

from John Wayne as Genghis Khan
in The Conqueror.

Your treacherous head is not safe
on your shoulders.

To the non Puerto Rican Natalie Wood
as Maria in West Side Story.

Buenas noches.

To the multiple instances of white
actors playing Asian characters

from Marlon Brando...

Sakini by name,
interpreter by profession., of course, this.

You cannot go on
keep ringin' my bell !

It's a performance the New York Times
in 1961 praised as "broadly exotic."


There's no shortage of roles for white
actors playing non-white characters.

The historical figure you're playing
wasn't white ? Not a problem.

The contemporary figure you're playing
wasn't white ? Not a problem.

The cartoon the movie was based on
was entirely about non-white people ?

Not a problem.

Your characters are named
Esteban and Clara Trueba

in the Isabel Allende novel
the movie is based on ?

Right this way
Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep.

And even when a non-white person
does score a major roll,

when they make the porn parody,
guess what happens ?

- Don't worry, I got this one.
- No Glenn. Put your dick away.

And when filmmakers get called out
on white washing,

the justification has less to do
with black and white

and more to do with Green.

Director Ridley Scott told
Variety Magazine

he can't mount a $140 million film

and say that my lead actor is Mohammad
so and so from such and such.

Yeah, you needed the white-hot star
power of whoever the fuck this guy is.

And maybe all of this would be
less egregious

if anytime an actor of color took on
a traditionally white role,

half the country didn't go ape shit.

The appearance of a black storm trooper
in the first trailer

for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

is causing a lot of chatter on social
media, even some racist comments.

Several people were apparently upset

that the actress playing
the character is African American.

He'd be the first black Bond.

The author of those Bond novels saying
Elba is too, quote, street.

Yes, if you're black,

even if you're an actor who sometimes
dresses like French Waldo,

people will still say
you're too street.

And this isn't even getting into
how movies about minorities

will still put white people
in the foreground.

How are we supposed to believe
Tom Cruise is the last samurai ?

This guy is the last samurai ?
This guy ?

This guy is the last samurai ?

This guy ?
This guy is the last samurai ?

Fuck you.

So when you hear people say the Oscars
are so white

because the roles aren't there,
just remember

the Academy gave Oscars for characters
Olan, Billy Kwon, and Louise Molina

to actors named
Louise, Linda and William.

All of which is enough to make you ask,

Hollywood whitewashing,
how is this still a thing ?

Moving on.

Our main story tonight
concerns breast implants.

Some are against them. Others believe
they're fine in rare cases.

And many believe you should be able to
get them whenever the fuck you want.

Sorry, did I say breast implants ?
I meant abortions.

Tonight's main topic concerns

And before you change the channel,
before you change the channel,

I know this is a polarizing topic.
Although interestingly,

when the website Vox asked people
in the street for their opinions,

the issue wasn't quite as binary
as it's usually presented.

If I had to pick,
I would say that I'm pro-choice.

But personally I'm more on a...
somewhere in the middle.

I wouldn't. But I can't choose
for other people.

What do you call it ? Pro-life.

I think when a baby gets a heartbeat,
that should be the cutoff point.

That's just my stance.

I'm not the kind of guy, like,
I want everyone to follow my stance.

Not needing anyone
to follow your stance

is a healthy attitude to abortion,

and it's also a terrible attitude
with which to lead the Rockettes.

You do you, Bethany ! You do you, girl.

You do you.

The truth is, people's opinions on
abortion make up a spectrum.

But most of us believe it should be
legal in at least a few circumstances.

In fact, only 19 percent of Americans
told Gallup

they thought it should be completely

And if you are in that 19 percent,

you are frankly excused
from watching the rest of this.

But do rejoin us at 11:29, because
once I'm done talking about this,

we'll all be watching a video
featuring a bucket of sloths.

And I promise you, it is almost
violently delightful.

But, until that time, the rest of us
do need to talk about abortion laws.

Because wherever you are
on this spectrum,

whether you, like me, believe that
women should have the right to choose,

or whether you believe abortion should
only be allowed in a few circumstances

then this story should concern you.

And here is why: since 2010,

new state laws have contributed to the
closure of about 70 abortion clinics.

And these four states are down to
exactly one abortion clinic each.

That's right: Mississippi now has four
times as many "s's"

as it has abortion clinics.

And if you're thinking, "how is that
possible ?" It's in no small part

because the key Supreme Court decision
concerning abortion

is no longer Roe vs. Wade,

it's the 1992 Planned Parenthood
vs. Casey ruling that said

states can create restrictions,
as long as they don't place

"an undue burden
that places a substantial obstacle

in the path of a woman
seeking an abortion."

Meaning women can be asked to jump
through a few hoops,

just not too many. Which might sound
a little less insulting

if those weren't also the rules
for a dog agility course.

And the vagueness of that ruling has
allowed states to introduce dozens

of what some have called
TRAP laws,

or targeted
regulation of abortion providers.

Though their supporters,
to an eerie degree,

all characterize them
somewhat differently.

This is really about the issue of
women's health.

We're protecting women's health
and safety.

We are protecting women's health.

I just wanted to reiterate
that this is really all about

protecting the health
and safety of women.

Yeah, but when you're that insistent
about women's health,

it starts to sound suspicious.

It's like having a folder on your
computer called "definitely not porn."

You're not fooling anyone,

you're asking more questions
than you're answering.

So let's take a look at what these laws
actually do for women's health.

Starting with Texas's HB-2,

which passed in 2013
and had two key stipulations.

It requires abortion clinics to meet
the same building standards

as outpatient surgical centers

and requires their doctors
to have hospital admitting privileges.

Hospital admitting privileges and
high building standards sound great.

Until you realize
what they actually mean.

Sort of how "Moondance" sounds like
a lovely night of romance and whimsy,

but really means
"having sex with Van Morrison."

And that's not what you signed up for.

Because the outpatient surgical center

can be difficult to fulfill,
as this Texas clinic discovered.

Explain why it's gonna be shut down,
because this isn't wide enough.

Yeah, the walls that we have,
they're about three feet wide.

And to be an ASC,
it has to be eight feet wide.

Now I'm not saying
width isn't important.

In fact, in some circumstances it's
"far" more important than length...

is a thing that I have heard.

Penises. I'm talking about penises.

But that eight-foot requirement
is wide enough

for two surgical gurneys
to pass one another in a corridor,

which is not something that is likely
to happen at a small abortion clinic.

About 90% of abortions occur
in the first trimester,

when they are non-surgical, with
no cutting, and only mild sedation.

They usually involve suction,
or just taking medication,

neither of which require
a large surgical facility.

You don't need an operating room
to take a pill.

Which is a good thing. You wouldn't
want an entire surgical team

scrubbing in
every time Larry King needed a boner.

They'll get tired.

And as for Texas's law that doctors
have admitting privileges

at a local hospital, a requirement
ten other states have also passed,

that can shut a clinic down.

Because many hospitals,
for financial or political reasons,

won't grant them to a doctor
who performs abortions.

And, again: defenders of these laws
will say they have a simple purpose.

By requiring that abortionists obtain
admitting privileges

at local hospitals,
we are protecting women's health.

Yeah, but are you, though ?
Because it's worth noting,

both the AMA and the American College
of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

have argued
there is simply no medical basis

for requiring local admitting

Which does make sense,
because hospitals will see anyone.

They'll see you if you've gotten an
Elmo Pez dispenser stuck in your butt.

They'll have questions for you,
but they will see you.

They'll see you, they'll question you,
and, later, they may laugh at you.

And, while we are on the subject
of safety:

legal abortions have a mortality rate
of 0.00073 percent.

That is nearly ten times less
than what one study found

was the risk for dying
as the result of a colonoscopy.

And let's agree, by the way, all of us:

death by colonoscopy has to be
one of the worst ways to die.

Right after having your mother
catch you masturbating

and, while you're trying to pull your
pants up, you fall and hit your head

so your dad has to carry you pants-less
to the car to take you to the hospital,

and the girl next door you have
a crush on tries to help

but she's laughing so hard
at the size of your penis

that she closes the door on your hand,
startling your mother,

who slams her foot on the gas, dragging
you behind the car for several blocks

while your father yells
"Your T.V. show is derivative

and you'll never escape the shadow
of Jon Stewart."

That's what we're all, that's what
we're all afraid of, right ?

That's all, we're all pretty afraid,
that's a general fear.

And look, if admitting privileges are
so important for continuity of care,

it is weird that you don't need them
in Texas to run a birthing center,

even though one study found 12 percent
of women admitted to birthing centers

wound up being transferred
to a hospital.

Texas will shut down an abortion clinic
for having walls too close together,

but if you want to give birth in a tub
surrounded by mood lighting, potpourri,

and the music of Bon Iver,

no one will say anything other than
"just take it down a notch."

And proponents of these laws will point
to a few notorious cases,

like the clinic run by Kermit Gosnell
in Pennsylvania,

who wound up being convicted of murder.

Although for the record, his clinic had
not been inspected for seventeen years,

which it absolutely should have been.
They didn't need new laws

so much as they needed to bother
to enforce the ones they had.

Putting absurd new restrictions on all
clinics because of Kermit Gosnell

is like seeing that photo of
a Taco Bell employee licking the food

and saying, "All restaurants have to
have corridors that are 8 feet wide."

Hold on, that's going to shut down
most of the restaurants in the country,

and you've done nothing to address
the root problem here.

And some of these laws have nothing
whatsoever to do with clinic safety,

like the ones that force doctors like
Willie Parker to spread misinformation.

The state requires me to cover some
very basic information with you.

First, the state requires me to tell
you that if you're having an abortion,

there's the possibility
to having complications.

There's a risk of bleeding,
there's a risk of infection,

there's a risk of damage
to any of your organs.

But guess what ?
Those are all the exact same risks

from continuing a pregnancy
and going to term.

The final thing that I have to tell you
that I don't agree with

but I have to tell you anyway,

having an abortion can increase
your risk for breast cancer.

There is not a shred of scientific
evidence to prove that.

They can require me to tell you
the first part,

but they can't stop me from giving you
my best medical opinion and that is

that there's no increased risk for
breast cancer from an abortion.

It must be so weird,
it must be...

it must be weird for a woman to witness
her medical professional

forced to play a game of
"good doctor/bad doctor."

"Okay, time for your tetanus booster."
"Noooo ! Those cause autism !"

"Well, there's not a shred of
scientific evidence to prove that !

Bad doctor ! Bad, bad doctor !"

In addition, some states have passed
laws requiring providers

to show and describe
an ultrasound image,

whether a woman
wants to see that or not.

And when North Carolina was defending
such a law,

this was how they attempted
to soften that.

The proposed law says if a woman wishes
not to see the ultrasound

or hear the fetal heartbeat,

she may cover her ears and eyes
and refuse to listen.

Oh, great. So North Carolina tried to
give women viewing ultrasounds

the same option as women trying to
watch John Travolta's performance

in the new OJ Simpson show.

Oh my god !
Oh my god, what is he doing !?

Does he think Robert Shapiro was a sad
clown in a Baz Luhrmann movie ?

I didn't want to watch this !
Why are you making me ?

And some other clinics
enter into a bureaucratic war

as a result of these laws.
Take this clinic in Alabama.

It was shut down after not being able
to meet the new building codes

Alabama had forced upon it.

But instead of giving up, the owner
cashed in his retirement savings

to open a new facility that complied
completely with the law.

And that is when
Alabama started targeting him directly.

I've spent close to a million dollars

to meet all of their requirements.

And you think you're done,
and what are they trying to do ?

They try to pass another bill that said
I can't be in 2,000 feet of a school.

They're treating me,

the patients,
the physicians

as sex offenders.

They're treating someone like a sex
offender when he clearly isn't one

it's a move that's now commonly known
as a "reverse-Cosby".

And look, if you are thinking,

"But John, when a clinic closes,
can't women just travel further ?"

You should know: there are now
mandatory waiting periods in 27 states

some up to seventy two hours between
an initial consult and an abortion.

So women can be forced to either
take multiple trips,

or plan the shittiest three-day weekend

And if that's not possible, they can
end up making desperate decisions.

Listen to one clinic administrator
describe a call from a patient.

I told her, you can come to
San Antonio, we can help you here.

And she said I can't,
I don't have the means,

there is no way I can get to
San Antonio.

So, what if I tell you what I have
in my kitchen cabinet

and you tell me what I can do ?

"I'll tell you what I have in my
kitchen, you tell me what I can do."

When your state's abortion laws
are forcing people

into the most depressing quick-fire
challenge in Top Chef history,

I think it's safe to say
they've gone too fucking far.

Because here is the thing: abortion
cannot just be theoretically legal.

It has to be literally accessible.

And remember, every single one
of us watching this right now,

every single one of us
watching right now agrees

that it should be legal at the very
least in a few extreme circumstances.

Say, hypothetically, a young girl has
been the victim of sexual assault.

Well, thanks to these laws,

this hypothetical girl might have to
travel a long distance,

because there were no clinics
close to her.

The girl might be approaching the point

where her state won't let her
get the procedure at all.

Well, sadly, none of that is

And I'll let a Texas clinic director
tell you the rest.

In order to see her I need to put her
to sleep. I need a nurse anesthetist.

Because of this law, it's impossible
to find people to work for us.

She's thirteen years old
and she is a victim of rape

and she drove four hours
from McAllen to San Antonio

and we had to turn her away.

And there was nothing I could do
to save her.

And so now if she has the procedure,

and that if is huge,

she'll have to go all the way
to New Mexico

and pay $5,000. And get there.

And spend three days.

It'll never happen.
We know it won't.

And at that point, we have sentenced
a child to motherhood.

Now, that specific provider,
Whole Woman's Health,

is at the center of a Supreme Court
case that will be heard next month.

If it's a 4-4 tie,
the Texas laws stand.

So the best hope is
that Justice Kennedy,

seen here in dog form,
straightening his tie,

will see Texas's regulation
as an "undue burden".

This whole situation is basically
in his paws now.

Meanwhile, Florida is drafting
similar TRAP laws,

and the law in Alabama that would close
that one clinic near a school

will be introduced to committee
later this week.

And if all this has made you sad,
or angry,

then you should really keep an eye
on these laws.

And if you don't have a problem
with the current situation, then,

well, it is 11:29 ! Welcome back !
Thanks for rejoining us, 19 percent.

Quick question:
what the fuck is wrong with you ?!

But no, no, no, you know what ?
Putting that aside.

I did promise, I made a promise.

I promised everyone sloths in a bucket.
And that is what you are going to see.

Although if you are in that 19 percent,

I'm going to have to insist that
you cover your ears and eyes

and refuse to listen.

For everyone else, it is sloth o'clock:

You are very welcome.
Now, look, I know...

I know this story

has not been the ideal way for anyone
to go to sleep on a Sunday night.

But we thought that this was something
you should really know about.

And the only way that
I can make it right

is to give you the absolutely ideal
way to go to sleep:

an actual sloth in a nightcap.

Here she is !

Thank you so much for
watching the show ! Good night !