Doonesbury, the political cartoon which runs in 1,400 newspapers across the US, has caused controversy with a strip about abortion.
Several US newspapers are refusing to run the cartoon, which lampoons a law in Texas and other states that requires women to have an ultrasound before receiving an abortion, so that they will see the foetus and potentially reconsider. Other papers will publish it on their editorials page rather than in the comic section.
The cartoon sequence, to run over six days, depicts a woman arriving at an abortion clinic in Texas. She is told to take a seat in “the shaming room”.
In the next strip, a state legislator then asks whether she has previously visited the clinic. She replies that she has been to get contraceptives. With echoes of Rush Limbaugh’s controversial comments last week, he says: “Do your parents know you’re a slut?” Later, the woman says she doesn’t want the invasive vaginal examination. A nurse tells her: “The male Republicans who run Texas require that all abortion seekers be examined with a 10-inch shaming wand.” The nurse continues: “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”
Universal Uclick, the syndicator that distributes Doonesbury, said they had had inquiries from between 30 and 40 newspapers asking about a substitute cartoon strip.
Doonesbury’s creator, Garry Trudeau, told the Guardian:
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
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 antagonise editors. Some of these folks have supported me for decades.