Doonesbury Takes on the Zygote ZealotsPosted: March 10, 2012
Several newspapers will not be running next week’s Doonesbury cartoons. The strip has been censored before. Next week’s strip takes on the newly passed transvaginal ultrasounds laws states of Texas and Virginia for women exercising their constitutional rights early in their pregnancies. The demeaning procedure–frequently referred to as a form of state approved rape–has already been forced on Texas women.
Here’s what’s in the strips:
Monday: Young woman arrives for her pre-termination sonogram, is told to take a seat in the shaming room, a middle-aged male state legislator will be right with her.
Tuesday: He asks her if this is her first visit to the center, she replies no, that she’s been using the contraceptive services for some time. He says, “I see. Do your parents know you’re a slut?”
Wednesday: A different male is reading to her about the transvaginal exam process.
Thursday: In the stirrups, she is telling a nurse that she doesn’t want a transvaginal exam. Doctor says “Sorry miss, you’re first trimester. The male Republicans who run Texas require that all abortion seekers be examined with a 10″ shaming wand.” She asks “Will it hurt?” Nurse says, “Well, it’s not comfortable, honey. But Texas feels you should have thought of that.” Doctor says, “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”
Friday: Doctor is explaining that the Texas GOP requires her to have an intimate encounter with her fetus. He begins describing it to her. Last panel, he says, “Shall I describe it’s hopes and dreams?” She replies, “If it wants to be the next Rick Perry, I’ve made up my mind.”
Saturday: Back in the reception area, she asks where she goes now for the actual abortion. Receptionist tells her there’s a 24-hour waiting period: “The Republican Party is hoping you get caught in a shame spiral and change your mind.” Last panel: She says, “A final indignity.” Receptionist replies, “Not quite. Here’s your bill.”
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.
Debbie Van Tassel, assistant managing editor of features at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, tells Comic Riffs that she and other top editors have decided to run next week’s strips, which feature a woman who sits in a “shaming room” as she awaits a pre-termination sonogram and a check-up from a legislator. “We didn’t deliberate long,” Van Tassel tells Comic Riffs. “We all agreed that some readers will be upset by them, mainly because they appear on the comics page, but also because of the graphic depiction of a transvaginal sonogram.”
Van Tassel cites the larger journalistic context in which “Doonesbury” appears. “This newspaper deals with those issues routinely in the news sections and in our health section,” she tells us. “Our page one today, for example, carries a story about the movement by women legislators across the country to curb men’s abilities to get vasectomies and prescriptions for erectile dysfunction. I haven’t heard of any objections to that story yet.”
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.”
Good for them and shame on the papers that censor Trudeau.