Today's edition of Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury" doesn't pull any punches. It features a woman checking in at a clinic for her mandatory sonogram, in advance of an abortion. Another woman, behind the desk, hands the patient a clipboard and says, "[Y]ou'll need to fill out this form. Please take a seat in the Shaming Room.... A middle-aged, male state legislator will be with you in a moment."
The comic, clearly a response to recent Republican measures in Virginia, Texas, and elsewhere, is expected to be part of a week-long series. As it turns out, however, you may not find it in your local newspaper.
A national syndicate will offer replacement "Doonesbury" comic strips to newspapers that don't want to run a series that uses graphic imagery to lampoon a Texas law requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, executives said Friday.
A handful of newspapers say they would not run this week's series, while several others said the strips would move from the comics to opinion pages or Web sites only.
The series will apparently be harder hitting as the week progresses, and will feature a physician who will read a script from Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), welcoming the patient to a "compulsory transvaginal exam" against her wishes, as well as a middle-aged legislator who calls her a "slut."
The device used for the exam is described as a "10-inch shaming wand."
Portland's Oregonian is one of the papers that objected, and in a note to readers, the editors said Trudeau "went over the line of good taste and humor."
Editors and publishers clearly have their own decisions to make in these areas, but here's a radical thought: perhaps those offended by phrases such as "compulsory transvaginal exam" should be more concerned with the legislative proposals themselves, and less concerned with Trudeau satirizing the measures.
For his part, the "Doonesbury" creator chatted with the Washington Post about the controversy, and was asked his background on these issues. "Roe v. Wade was decided while I was still in school," Trudeau said. "Planned Parenthood was embraced by both parties. Contraception was on its way to being used by 99 percent of American women. I thought reproductive rights was a settled issue. Who knew we had turned into a nation of sluts?"