John Oliver began Sunday’s episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight by taking on Georgia’s controversial “heartbeat bill” legislation signed into law last week by Gov. Brian Kemp. Scheduled to take effect in 2020, it represents one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, and groups including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have vowed to fight it in the courts.
Some Hollywood entities have also been speaking up against the law, saying they either would not shoot in the state (home to lucrative film and TV production tax credits) or if they did, they planned to donate profits to groups fighting the law.
The law bans most abortions in the state after a fetal heartbeat is detected — which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women. are even aware that they’re pregnant.
“And it didn’t stop there,” said Oliver in the show first minutes. He showed footage of a news segment reporting that the bill gives the fetus “natural person status,” which entitles the fetus to child support, to be claimed as a dependent on tax returns, and included in the state’s population.
“A couple thing there,” Oliver said on the other side. “‘Tax breaks begin at conception’ may be the most Republican law ever created. And second, it’s pretty egregious to only make an exception for rape or incest where a police report was filed. I guess that’s to separate the incest that they’re talking about from your run of the mill cousin-f*cking or, as its more commonly known, a Giuliani marriage.”
Oliver also played a clip of Georgia state Rep. Darlene Taylor delivering a speech on the statehouse floor. “Who speaks for the baby named Fetus? Well today I’m going to,” she said. “To quote Baby Fetus, ‘I deserve to have the right too. Some may squirm in their seats, or turn their backs, but I will speak today.’”
Said Oliver: “OK, so let’s walk through this. First, she explicitly says she’s speaking not on behalf of fetus but on behalf of a baby whose name is Fetus. Second she’s is somehow quoting this made-up baby Fetus, despite the fact that babies can’t speak or write. So, she has no source material from which to quote.
“I actually think my feelings on this might best be summed up by Baby Fetus’ seminal 1973 autobiography All the Things I Didn’t Say Because I’m Not Real,” he continued, holding up said faux book. He then quoted from it: “A fetus is not a baby. In fact, at six weeks a fetus isn’t even a fetus; it’s an embryo the size of a pomegranate seed.”
Oliver, continuing quoting the book (apparently the author is a fan of The Office): “Also on an unrelated note, it may be the sex that Jim and Pam have is fine but I bet the sex that Pam and Roy used to have was better. This is the hill I would die on, were I not too fictional to die.” Baby Fetus.”
Oliver: “That’s a direct quote from Baby Fetus in 1973.”
Oliver noted other states including Alabama and Ohio are considering similar legislation, with the latter state’s proposed restrictions, per another news report shown by Oliver, include keeping insurance companies from providing insurance for anything related to abortions, making abortions more difficult to afford.
“Why stop there? Why not pass a bill saying all women seeking an abortion in Ohio must first tie up all the remaining plot threads on Game of Thrones in one single episode of television?,” Oliver quipped about his fellow HBO series. “Everyone know that simply can’t be done, and frankly I feel terrible for any network stupid enough to try!”
He also noted that some opponents of the Ohio bill are concerned it would also prevent insurance companies from covering some forms of birth control and contraception. He played a clip of a news report in which the bill’s author was asked if that was the case. He said, “I don’t know,” and that he would leave it to the experts to figure out.
“I don’t know if the bill written by that not-smart-enough man will pass,” Oliver said. “It’s complete f*cking nonsense… but you never know. And if you’re sensing a pattern here that might be because, just this year, states introduced more than 250 bills restricting abortion access. It’s pretty clear now, with a conservative Supreme Court, lawmakers are taking every step they can to get a case that night end up overturning Roe v. Wade and they’re going to keep trying.”
“Which is why it is incumbent on all of us to pay close attention to this issue,” he continued. “If I may address those lawmakers in the words of an unexpectedly literate baby: “Listen, I’m not a constitutional scholar – I’m not anything – but if I were, I’d tell you that laws like these deny women agency over their own bodies, and your actions put their health and lives at risk. But hey, why not ask the women affected what they think? Because they’re actual people, unlike me, a f*cking fictional baby named Fetus.”
Deadline’s Lisa de Moraes contributed to this report.