John Oliver Unloads on SCOTUS Opinion That May Overturn 'Roe' - Rolling Stone
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John Oliver Unloads on the ‘Horror Show’ SCOTUS Opinion Set to Overturn ‘Roe’

‘Last Week Tonight’ host reminds viewers “freedoms are never guaranteed” while also examining the Philippines’ presidential election, where onetime dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ son is poised to win

“It has been a truly terrible week,” John Oliver said as he opened Last Week Tonight. “One that started with two Jared Letos at the Met Gala, and then somehow managed to get worse from there.”

He was referring, of course, to the leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s unhinged draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade and possibly opening the door to the reversal of other decisions that hinge on the right to privacy. That basic right has been codified in countries around the world for many decades — but it’s not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. It’s what’s referred to as an unenumerated right, something pretty much everyone outside the Republic of Gilead recognizes. But what Alito seemingly argues in his opinion is that if a right like abortion is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, Americans do not possess it.

Since the moment Roe was decided in 1973, abortion-rights advocates have been well aware of the danger of not having the right to an abortion specifically codified into law. Oliver pointed out that in the wake of the original Roe decision, U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug, a longtime activist and leader of that era’s women’s rights movement, called on Congress to pass a law. They didn’t do it then, and no Democratic administration in the past 50 years has seen fit to make it a priority.

In 1992 President Bill Clinton famously called for abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare,” a phrase that stigmatized anyone seeking an abortion, yet became gospel in the Democratic Party for decades. President Barack Obama promised on the campaign trail to sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law but sang a much different tune when asked about it on his 100th day as president.

“The Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority,” Obama told a room of reporters in early 2009. “I believe that women should have the right to choose, but I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on.”

That makes zero sense when you consider polls have long shown about two-thirds of Americans support Roe v. Wade, which in this country is an almost unimaginable amount of agreeing.

Though Oliver spent half the show discussing abortion, it was not the night’s main story. That was about the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte has spent the past six years killing an estimated 30,000 people in his maniacal war on drugs and crushing any subsequent dissent. In addition to being one of the deadliest places in the world to trip balls, the country has become one of the deadliest in the world to be a journalist, something Duterte all but announced would happen shortly before he took office in 2016. 

“Just because you’re a journalist,” he said, “you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch.”

The good news is that Duterte’s time as president is coming to an end. Elections take place tomorrow… which brings us to the bad news, because the person poised to win the presidency is Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because his dad was a brutal dictator in the Philippines during the 1970s and ’80s who stole billions of dollars from the country before being deposed in a popular uprising.

Marcos never paid for his crimes thanks to — you’re going to be shocked — the U.S. More specifically, thanks to President Ronald Reagan, who flew his pals the Marcoses, along with the cash they’d stolen, out of the Philippines and granted them asylum here. Marcos lived out his days with his family in an upscale neighborhood near Honolulu, Hawaii.

So why is the son, who once famously claimed to be unable to return any of the stolen wealth because he doesn’t know where it is, on the brink of being handed the keys to the country? Because young people in the Philippines have no idea what his folks did. For years, schools have taught revisionist history about Marcos’ reign, while online disinformation campaigns praising the Marcoses have proven very effective. If Bongbong wins, he’ll be in a position to control both the commission seeking to recover the money stolen by his family, and the tax authorities who say the family owes about $4 billion in back taxes.

Oliver had a message that applies just as well to those who lived through the Marcos years and now face more of them, as it does to those of us who may soon live in Justice Alito’s twisted vision for America.

“This week we have all been reminded of what the most marginalized people in this country have known for years,” Oliver said. “That freedoms are never guaranteed. They are hard-won, and they are easily lost.”

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