Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau is under fire from conservatives again, this time because he is running a cartoon that some newspaper already plan not to run because it compares ultrasound to rape.
The cartoon — a response to new pro-life laws in Texas and Virginia allowing women to see the results of the pre-abortion ultrasound that abortion centers routinely perform but don’t always show women — attacks Republican lawmakers for putting the laws in place.
The Doonesbury cartoon depicts a woman at an abortion center in Texas who is told to take a seat in the “shaming room.” A state legislator asks her if she has been to the abortion clinic before and when she says she has to pick up contraception, the legislator replies, “Do your parents know you’re a slut?”
Later in the strip, the woman says she doesn’t want a vaginal ultrasound but an abortion center nurse tells her, “The male Republicans who run Texas require that all abortion seekers be examined with a 10-inch shaming wand. By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”
The strip, published on Monday and scheduled to run this week has been rejected by several papers already, including the Portland Oregonian. Others have said they will move the cartoon out of the cartoon section of the newspaper and on to the editorial page since it is so political in nature. About 1,400 newspapers run the cartoon.
The Kansas City Star is among the papers not running the cartoon, instead running a substitute Doonesbury strip, and its editor told AP about the decision, “We felt the content was too much for many of the readers of our family-friendly comic page.
Sue Roush, managing editor of Universal Uclick, which distributes the strip, told the London Guardian, “I can’t say how many papers will choose ultimately to run or not run the series, but we’ve had inquiries from 30 to 40 papers asking about the substitutes.”
Responding to the criticism and the decisions by the papers, Trudeau described it as “appalling” and “insane” that Republicans would allow women to see their baby on the ultrasound screen before an abortion.
“Ninety-nine percent of American women have or will use contraception during their lifetimes. To see these healthcare rights systematically undermined in state after state by the party of ‘limited government’ is appalling. “In Texas, the sonograms are the least of it. The legislature has also defunded women’s health clinics all over the state, leaving 300,000 women without the contraceptive services that prevent abortions in the first place. Insanity,” he said.
“I write the strip to be read, not removed. And as a practical matter, many more people will see it in the comics page than on the editorial page,” he said. “I don’t mean to be disingenuous. Obviously there’s some profit to controversy, especially for a satirist. If debate is swirling around a particular strip, and if its absence creates blowback, then I’m contributing to the public conversation in a more powerful way. But I don’t get up in the morning and scheme about how to antagonize editors. Some of these folks have supported me for decades.”
Trudeau also defended the use of the term rape, saying he thought it was an accurate way of describing a vaginal ultrasound.
“That falls within the legal definition of rape. Coercion need not be physically violent to meet the threshold. Many people here are now referring to trans-vaginal sonograms as ‘state rape’. That seems about right to me,” he wrote. “However, if you just mean the topic of rape generally, it’s not something I would avoid simply because I work on a page where children can occasionally be found. People know what to expect in Doonesbury. Certainly children do, which is why they never read it. And editors have long known what they’re getting; I first wrote about rape in the late ’70s, devoting an entire week to a mock rape trial.”
Catherine Frazier, a spokesman for Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who signed the law, told the Guardian: “The decision to end a life is not funny. There is nothing comic about this tasteless interpretation of legislation we have passed in Texas to ensure that women have all the facts when making a life-ending decision.”
In January, Doonesbury attacked the pro-life views of Rick Santorum.
ACTION: Contact Doonesbury at https://www.doonesbury.com/media/contact