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.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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