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John Oliver invites Rachel Dratch to help expose bullshit anti-choice "crisis pregnancy centers"

Rachel Dratch, John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

You know John Oliver has hooked into a good story when his Last Week Tonight audience starts intermittently crying out like they’re about to rush the stage. And since Oliver spent the bulk of Sunday’s episode exposing the mendacious tactics of anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers”—that employ every deceitful trick in the book to prevent women from accessing abortion services—it was surprising that the Last Week Tonight stage wasn’t littered with torches and pitchforks by the time he and returning guest star Rachel Dratch wrapped things up.

Look, no one can deny that the issue of abortion is divisive. For example, some people feel that women are human beings whose control over their own body isn’t handed over to the state as soon as some guy knocks them up, even against their express wishes and consent. Others think, “Nuh-uh.” So, lots of strong feelings there. But, as Oliver lays out in blood-boiling detail, the people behind these “crisis pregnancy centers” fall so staunchly into the “women are merely vessels for childbirth without will or agency over their own life or health” camp that they are willing to do literally anything to hoodwink women at the most vulnerable and stressful time of their lives.


Think Oliver’s joking? Well, these CPCs routinely lure women in with deceptively neutral names and deceptive websites and phone practices. (Lots of them have the word “choice” features in big, friendly letters.) They set up as close to actual women’s health facilities as possible, often aping the legitimate medical center’s name. They blatantly lie about health statistics and risks from abortion, and try to delay women’s decision until after the legally mandated deadline for an abortion has been passed. (Deadlines they also lie about.) They offer free ultrasound services in vans parked outside abortion clinics, and, as one not-a-doctor CPC employee is heard bragging, keep the women they trick into their mobile deception units “on the table until” they’re broken down by the staff’s well-practiced manipulations. Oh, and, most of these religious-affiliated fib factories also preach against birth control because, as Oliver puts it, they don’t care about women’s health so much as “controlling women’s sexual behavior.”

Aiming to release some of the audience’s mounting anger with his signature illuminating comic activism, Oliver finally brought out Dratch—his partner in the show’s educationally bogus Church Of Our Lady Of Perpetual Exemption—along with their own deluxe “crisis pregnancy center” on wheels. Christened “Vanned Parenthood,” the fully registered CPC comes complete with an ultrasound machine (which New York CPC employees are not required to know how to use), and Dratch’s crazy-eyed faux nutjob, bearing a basket of belly-jelly (assorted flavors) and sabotaged condoms. No word on whether Vanned Parenthood will actually hit the streets, dispensing the sort of unregulated, perfidious horseshit its fellow CPC mendacity machines are home to, but, as Oliver notes, there’s nothing preventing them from doing just that. Even though, as he says, “there fucking should be.”

This “crisis pregnancy center” crap is currently in front of the Supreme Court, with a decision on their lying, bullying zealotry expected this summer. For actual women’s health information in the meantime—including abortion and contraception—try Planned Parenthood.

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.