“Doonesbury” Comics On Abortion Banned By Newspapers

Several newspapers in Oregon and Florida are refusing to print “Doonesbury” cartoons this week, which skewer anti-abortion lawmakers; other papers in Kansas City and Los Angeles are running the comics in the op-ed pages. In cells of the comics seen online, cartoonist Garry Trudeau mocks the state of Texas, which is considering a bill similar to Virginia’s bill which would have mandated transvaginal ultrasounds. Here is how Thursday’s strip, the most controversial one, is described by media reporter Jim Romenesko:

In the stirrups, she is telling a nurse that she doesn’t want a transvaginal exam. Doctor says “Sorry miss, you’re first trimester. The male Republicans who run Texas require that all abortion seekers be examined with a 10″ shaming wand.” She asks “Will it hurt?” Nurse says, “Well, it’s not comfortable, honey. But Texas feels you should have thought of that.” Doctor says, “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”

Some newspapers across the country are freaking out over the comics: Portland’s Oregonian newspaper ran a letter to readers on Friday claiming Trudeau “went over the line of good taste and humor in penning a series on abortion using graphic language and images inappropriate for a comics page.” It, as well as the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Florida’s Gainesville Sun and Ocala Star-Banner, won’t run the strips (but the Oregonian and Pioneer Press will post them online). The Kansas City Star and Los Angeles Times will run the strips on the op-ed page (presumably because it’s less likely children will read that section).

At least one paper is steadfast in running the strips: the Cleveland Plain-Dealer newspaper disagreed, stating, “Garry Trudeau’s metier is political satire; if we choose to carry ‘Doonesbury,’ we can’t yank the strip every time it deals with a highly charged issue.” The Washington Post and Dallas Morning News have both stated they will run the strips.

This isn’t the first time “Doonsebury” has dealt with abortion politics: in 1985, Trudeau did a series that satirized the anti-abortion propaganda film “Silent Scream,” which his comics syndicate United Press Service asked him not to run because they were afraid they would “lose clients permanently.” In an interview with The Washington Post this weekend, Trudeau said that at that time, he “felt obliged to co with their call” because “they had supported me through so much for so long.” This time around, however, he said his syndicate had no dispute over the comics about abortion comics and merely asked him to “prepare a substitute week for editors who requested one,” which he did.

Switching the “Doonesbury” comics on abortion over to the op-ed page might be the best compromise for newspapers getting hinky about the cartoons. But refusing to run the comics at all based on their content amounts to censorship. All of these papers have surely published articles and perhaps even letters to the editor and op-eds/editorials about the “transvaginal ultrasound,” perhaps even including the same language people have been using to talk about the compulsory, invasive procedure (i.e. state-mandated rape) . What makes it different about putting it in a satirical cartoon?

And as Garry Trudeau told the Post — which the likes of Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert surely agree with — “to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.”

[Washington Post]

[Washington Post: Comic Riffs]

[Washington Monthly]


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Image via Washington Post