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Doonesbury Abortion Comic Scares Off Newspapers

Doonesbury tackles a Texas abortion law, prompting some papers to drop the strip for the week

Doonesbury comic Gary Trudeau challenges the Republican Party, Texas governor Rick Perry and other abortion critics in this week’s strip, creating a conundrum for the 1,400-plus newspapers that carry the 41-year old comic.

Do they run it, angering certain conservative readers and suggesting a certain political leaning? Or do they shelve it for the week, censoring the comic for its political speech?

Though most newspapers have elected to run it, some, like the Houston Chronicle, have moved it to the opinion section or removed it from the print edition, choosing to put it online instead.

Houston Chronicle Jeff Cohen wrote that the comic “crosses the line for what is appropriate commentary on the comics pages.” Instead, his newspaper will run it online and on the op-ed page.

The 41-year old comic strip takes its most political stance yet this week, attacking a law in Texas that obligates all women seeking abortions to go to a clinic and have a “wand” inserted into their vagina. Women are expected to look at their fetus before making an ultimate decision.

Trudeau considers this rape, telling the Washington Post that as the GOP dredges up the issue of reproductive rights, “to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.”

Monday’s comic shows a young woman arriving for the sonogram and being directed to the “shaming room.”

On Tuesday, she is called a slut.

On Wednesday, she learns more about the transvaginal exam process.

On Thursday, the doctor “rapes” her.

On Friday, she says she will abort the baby “if it wants to be the next Rick Perry.”

Also Read: Rick Perry Flip-Flops on Abortion After Seeing Pro-Life Movie

By Saturday, the whole Republican Party is under fire.

“’South Park’ and ‘The Daily Show’ have stretched the envelope so much, most editors no longer see “Doonesbury” as the rolling provocation they once did,” Trudeau told the Post.

But in this case, it has provoked plenty.

Tom McNiff, managing editor of The Gainesville Sun and Ocala Star-Banner, told the Associated Press “the language the author used to make his point in two of the strips was quite graphic for a general readership.” As a result, the series will run in the opinion section.

The Miami Herald is only censoring one day of the strip, the "rape" panel. Executive editor Aminda Marques Gonzalez noted that it “goes beyond the evolving political notion of the comics pages.”

For every newspaper refusing to run the strip, there are several running it, many of whom have chosen to explain their decision.

The Dallas Morning News, one of the first newspapers identified by media blogger Jim Romenesko as resisting the strip, has instead decided it is "fair comment."