Newspapers censor “Doonesbury” strips about abortion news

Patient: Excuse me, is this where I get the sonogram? Receptionist: Yes, it is miss... Would this be your first pregnancy termination? Patient: Yes. Receptionist: Then you'll need to fill out this form. Please take a seat in the shaming room. Patient: In the what? Receptionist: A middle-aged, male state legislator will be with you in a moment.

All this week, “Doonesbury” is running a series of comic strips about the ultrasound laws that have popped up recently. The first strip features an abortion patient being sent to the “Shaming Room.”

I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise in our current political climate that some newspapers have decided not to run the strips about abortion. Or that the list of papers that have opted out of running the strip is dominated by publications in states where ultrasound laws have come up.

Of course, you can read the strips online if your newspaper is afraid of humor about the news.

Jamil Smith took a look at some of the papers censoring the strips and found a pretty ridiculous excuse:

Another newspaper, Portland’s Oregonian, published instead their justification for the decision:

“‘Doonesbury’ author Garry Trudeau, in our judgment, 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.”

The Oregonian‘s argument for, more or less, placing ratings on its various sections is understandable — placing news about ladyparts laws on the news page, and keeping the comics page safe for Flash Gordon and Beetle Bailey. But two newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and Kansas City Star, have actually solved this problem by putting Trudeau’s series on their opinion page. And the Oregonian folks, perhaps in a concession to online media, provide a link to the GoComics “Doonesbury” page. So what gives? Is “transvaginal” too much for their delicate print pages?

Actually, no. It isn’t as though the Oregonian shied away from publishing articles about bills like Virginia’s transvaginal ultrasound bill — go ahead, search for it in their archives, it’s there. Apparently, the topic is too “graphic” to appear on their editorial page, either. Aside from a mild scolding of Komen for the Cure after their later-reversed decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood, their editorial board has been silent on the rather visible and controversial upswing of attacks on both women’s and reproductive rights.

The whole “‘Doonesbury’ is going to corrupt the minors, won’t somebody think of the children” line of thinking just doesn’t make sense. If a young person is reading “Doonesbury” and knows what’s going on in the strip it’s probably because they’re politically engaged. I remember the comic just didn’t make sense to me until at some point it did (and if the strips actually helped me become politicized, well yay). “Doonesbury” is always dealing with hot button political issues – that’s the whole point of the strip. But of course abortion is special.

No, as the Oregonian‘s lack of commentary on this issue shows, some papers just don’t want Garry Trudeau’s take on abortion in their pages.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is compiling a list of all the papers that are opting out of this week’s “Doonesbury” strips. You can let them know here if your newspaper doesn’t feature a comic about ultrasounds today.

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  1. Posted March 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    You can send a note to Doonesbury thanking them for speaking out on this issue here:

  2. Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Thanks for writing about the Doonesbury comics! It’s important to also thank the papers that are running the actual strips. Readers can sign our letter of thanks here:

    -Janna, Center for Reproductive Rights

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