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SNL takes on the potential Roe v. Wade overturn

They kick it back to the 13th century to explore a Supreme Court justice's legal reasoning.

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Cecily Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Kate McKinnon on SNL
Cecily Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Kate McKinnon
Photo: Screenshot: NBC/Saturday Night Live

This week’s big news is that the Supreme Court apparently plans to overturn Roe v. Wade, which ensures a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. This was evidenced by an apparently leaked decision authored by conservative justice Samuel Alito, who used a number of questionable legal reasonings, at one point citing 13th-century legal theory in arguing that modern women don’t have the right to make their own reproductive choices.

This week’s SNL cold open takes on the primitive absurdity of that legal viewpoint by taking it back to the 13th century, imagining what that “profound moment of moral clarity” must have been. “We should make a law that will stand the test of time, so hundreds and hundreds of years from now, they’ll say, ‘No need to update that one at all—they nailed it back in 1235',” posited host Benedict Cumberbatch, suggesting that offending women be put on a boat and sailed off the edge of the world, where the four turtles holding things up will eat her. James Austin Johnson proposes that they ban abortion on a “fiefdom by fiefdom basis,” while Andrew Dismukes ponders exceptions for rape or incest. “But those are the only kinds of sex!” complains Johnson. (Props to the hair department, and whoever wrote Cumberbatch’s character’s medieval take on maternity leave—”after 20 years of continuous maternity, you can leave.”)

Cast members Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon got some good moments here as, respectively, a questioning citizen and a soothsayer (not an ogre, just a woman in her 30s) who has confusing visions of the future, of a time when something called progress occurs, then is overturned because a place called Florida holds all the power. (And don’t get her started on the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp trial.)