Daily Dispatches

Doonesbury takes on Texas abortion law


A handful of newspapers across the country are choosing to run Doonesbury "flashbacks" this week instead of the graphic story line cartoonist Garry Trudeau has created in reaction to a Texas abortion law that requires women to view an ultrasound before having an abortion.

"Our readers are accustomed to pointed political and social commentary in strips like Doonesbury and Mallard Fillmore," said Tom McNiff, managing editor of The Gainesville Sun and Ocala Star-Banner in central Florida, in an emailed statement. "But the language the author used to make his point in two of the strips was quite graphic for a general readership."

Others, like Steve Shirk, manager editor of The Kansas City Star, aren't completely dumping the cartoon but have instead decided to move the controversial series to the opinion page.

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"We felt the content was too much for many of the readers of our family friendly comic page," Shirk said. "We felt that [op-ed] page was more appropriate for that story line."

Sue Roush, managing editor at the Universal UClick syndicate, said newspapers uncomfortable with the abortion law series have the option of a set of substitute strips.

The comic strips feature a woman who goes to an abortion center and is confronted by several people who suggest she should be ashamed. Among them is a doctor who reads a script on behalf of Texas Gov. Rick Perry welcoming her to a "compulsory transvaginal exam," and a middle-aged legislator who questions her promiscuous sexual behavior.

One panel equates the procedure to rape and describes the device used to perform it as a "10-inch shaming wand."

Texas' law does not specify the type of sonogram a woman must receive, but an invasive transvaginal ultrasound is necessary to meet requirements that the doctor show the woman an image of the unborn child, describe its features, and make the baby's heartbeat audible in the first trimester.

Asked for comment on the "Doonesbury" series, Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the governor is proud of his leadership on the sonogram law.

"The decision to end a life is not funny," she said. "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."

Trudeau said Friday that "it would have been a little surprising" if there hadn't been any pushback against the series.

"Abortion remains a deeply contentious subject. Having said that, the goal is definitely not to antagonize editors and get booted from papers," he said in an email to the Associated Press. "It's just an occupational risk."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Whitney Williams
Whitney Williams

Whitney happily serves WORLD as web editorial assistant. When she's not working from her home office in Texas, she's probably fishing or hunting with her husband.


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