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Health Beyond the Blog: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Takes a Hilarious Yet Eye-Opening Dive into Healthcare

by Caroline Hansen

Following the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, the constitutional right to abortion in the United States was stripped away.  Now leaving the decision to the states. John Oliver covers the current state of abortion post-Dobbs decision on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on November 6, 2023. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is a late-night television program produced by CBS Broadcast Center, that covers specific topics every week with a focus on socio-political issues and their complex interconnections to policy and their outcomes. Oliver covers the ripple effects after the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decisions, including the 14 states that have enacted total abortion bans.

This episode discusses that while some people have been seeking “abortion tourism” –where someone travels to another state to seek abortion care– due to the new abortion laws in states is not feasible for everyone. This has left many women having to carry a fetus to term, even if it is a harm to their health. This has led to drastic and dangerous measures such as self-abortions, with the distressing example of one woman drinking bleach. 

Oliver then dives into the legal implications of the upcoming 2023 midterm election. States such as Kentucky and Virginia were battling for governor and senate majority to stop the passage of abortion bans or limitations in their state. Along with a lawsuit that is threatening to repeal the FDA’s approval of Mifepristone, which is a drug in medication abortion. This lawsuit would impact the entire country. It is increasingly alarming since 50 percent of abortions are medication abortions. The episode then urges viewers to vote, since voters have preserved access to abortion in 6 states already, and hopefully, this election cycle could do the same.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is worth the watch due to its ability to braid together humor, policy, expert testimony, and interviews into a 23-minute episode. Oliver connects one attempt to find a loophole for abortion laws via a floating abortion clinic in federal waters to the action movie Money Plane. Money Plane’s bizarre concept of a casino in an aircraft highlights the levity and humor Oliver can incorporate into a topic that can be distressing. 

In addition to the comedy that the show utilizes to entertain the viewer, the use of interviews, videos, and citations from policy, policymakers from both sides of the political aisle, interviews with physicians, and women who sought abortion post-Dobbs decision give the episode an educational aspect. The use of statistics, interviews, and citations from notable and trusted sources gives the viewer the ability to come away with a takeaway message. The Associated Press has deemed the work journalistic.

To see this episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver watch the episode on HBO or on YouTube