If you’ve been reading the comics page of your paper this week, you may be reading re-runs of Doonesbury. 47 newspapers have decided that this week’s strips are too “controversial” to run at all. Even more papers have relegated the strips to the op-ed page, and some are only making them available online.
Why? Because this week, cartoonist Garry Trudeau has decided to tackle Texas governor Rick Perry’s controversial policy requiring women seeking abortions to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound prior to the procedure. In the comic, a young woman signing in at the front desk of an abortion clinic is directed to wait in the “shaming room,” where a middle-aged lawmaker confronts her, asking, “Do your parents know you’re a slut? Surely they must suspect.” The rest of the week follows the heroine’s experience undergoing the sonogram procedure.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Trudeau explains his decision to write the controversial storyline:
I chose the topic of compulsory sonograms because it was in the news and because of its relevance to the broader battle over women’s health currently being waged in several states. For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why [Rick] Santorum, [Rush] Limbaugh et al. thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate, I cannot say. But to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.
He also touched on some of his chief objections to the bill, comparing compulsory transvaginal ultrasounds to sexual assault:
Texas‘s HB-15 (bill) isn’t hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand.
The World Health Organization defines rape as “physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration — even if slight — of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.” You tell me the difference.
On her show yesterday, Rachel Maddow weighed in on the issue, saying:
If all the newspapers in all the states with super extreme anti-abortion measures pending in their legislatures had decided not to run the transvaginal ultrasound abortion ‘Doonsbury’ stip to avoid confusion with their own state’s real anti-abortion bills, this strip would have been seen by practically no one.
As it is, this strip is being run all over the place. Censorship seems to have that affect in America. It gets you more attention than you would have ever had if you had published it in the first place, like you weren’t cowardly.
View the full clip below:
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trudeau didn’t sound too worried about the controversy, although he admits the number of papers opting to run old comics did surprise him: “I don’t want to sound disingenuous here — controversy is obviously good for business, especially if your business is satire. And it does amplify the discussion — in my view, a good thing.”
If your local paper has made the decision not to run this week’s strips, you can read the first three on the official Doonesbury website. The rest will continue running through this Saturday.
Photo Credit: Steven Depolo