Saturday Night Live opened tonight with something completely different: the show went back to 13th-century England to mock the leaked draft opinion of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, which threatens to overthrow Roe V. Wade.
The skit began with a narrator announcing that Alito was explaining that “no woman has the right to an abortion and that abortion is a crime.”
He cites a 13th century treatise on the inspiration of the fetusand a second treatise that says that if the fast child dies in her body it would be great absenteeism† We then move on to that profound moment of moral clarity nearly a thousand years ago, which laid such a clear foundation for what our law should be in 2022.
Out comes Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays a medieval figure, who wonders if they should pass a law banning abortion. “We should have a law that can stand the test of time,” he says, “so that they look back hundreds and hundreds of years from now and say, ‘This one doesn’t need updating at all. They nailed it in 1235.’”
Earlier this week, Politico posted the draft advisory, sounding the alarm that the days of legalized abortion across the country could be coming to an end. In the opinion of Alito, arguing that Roe had been wrongly decided, “an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion under penalty of criminal punishment continued from the earliest days of common law until 1973.”
The SNL cold open spoofs that position as well as other exercises in originality, even finding absurdity in the idea that rights can be taken away.
Towards the end of the skit, Kate McKinnon appears as a witch who can see the future.
“Don’t worry, sweet girl, these barbaric laws will one day be overthrown by something called progress — and then, about 50 years after progress, they’ll say, ‘Maybe we should undo progress.'” she says. “I don’t know why all my visions from that time are so confusing. It seems like all the power comes from a place called Florida. And if you think our habits are weird. You should watch the trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard!”
The sketch also riffs on the right’s uprising against Covid mandates while also seeking restrictions on abortion.
Cecily Strong, a peasant woman, tells Cumberbatch and the other medieval men, “I don’t understand why you’re so obsessed with this matter. What about the fact that no one can read or write? Everyone dies of the plague.”
One of the men says to her, ‘Oh, you think that just because I have an active plague that I have to wear a mask. It’s my body, my choice!”
Tonight’s cold open sketch can be found above.