Garry Trudeau, creator of the comic strip “Doonesbury,” has waded into the ultrasound-before-abortion debate that has emerged from Texas and Virginia and grabbed national media attention.
The decision to enter the fray has some newspapers concerned about the graphic nature of the strips and resulted in editorial decisions not to run them, says Michael Cavna of The Post’s Comic Riffs blog:
Starting Monday, “Doonesbury” will skewer the politicians who have pushed for vaginal ultrasounds — a weeklong satiric approach that has prompted at least one newspaper not to run the abortion strips. At the Oregonian in Portland, Features Editor JoLene Krawczak tells Comic Riffs that her paper “has decided to pull the week’s strips and will direct readers online if they want to read them.”
“Doonesbury’s” abortion-law series features a woman receiving a compulsory ultrasound and refers to a “shaming room” and a ”10-inch shaming wand” — and seems to equate the procedure to rape. The Oregonian, in a note to readers Friday, says that 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.”
Other papers, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer, have decided to publish the strips, says Cavna, who spoke to assistant managing editor Debbi Van Tassel:
The Plain Dealer also believes “Doonesbury” deserves a long satiric leash. “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. His fans are every bit as vocal as his critics. We are alerting readers to the nature of the strips so they can decide whether to read them next week.”
Cavna spoke with Trudeau about his decision to tackle the highly charged issue, and about the last time he created a strip about abortion that was subsequently held by him and his syndicate:
Q: In 1985, you decided to pull a week of abortion-related strips satirizing the film “The Silent Scream,” which purported to show the reactions of a fetus. So what’s different now? What spurred you to create an abortion narrative in the current political climate?
A: In my 42 years with [Universal Press Syndicate, now Universal UClick], the “Silent Scream” week was the only series that the syndicate ever strongly objected to. [Syndicate president Lee Salem] felt that it would be deeply harmful to the feature and that we would lose clients permanently. They had supported me through so much for so long, I felt obliged to go with their call.
Such was not the case this week. There was no dispute over contents, just some discussion over whether to prepare a substitute week for editors who requested one [which we did].
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.