KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A national syndicate will offer replacement “Doonesbury” comic strips to newspapers that don’t want to run a series that uses graphic imagery to lampoon a Texas law requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, executives said Friday.
The Missoulian, and many other newspapers nationwide, won’t be running next week’s series, while several others said the strips will move from the comics to opinion pages or websites only. Many already publish the strip by cartoonist Garry Trudeau, whose sarcastic swipes at society’s foibles have a history of giving headaches to newspaper editors, on editorial pages.
“We run ‘Doonesbury’ on our op-ed page, and this series is an example of why,” said David Averill, editorial page editor for the Tulsa World. “Many of our readers will disagree with the political stance the series takes, and some will be offended by the clinical language. I believe, however, that this series of strips is appropriate to the abortion debate and appropriate to our op-ed pages.”
The comic strips feature a woman who goes to an abortion clinic and is confronted by several people who suggest she should be ashamed. Among them is a doctor who reads a script on behalf of Texas Gov. Rick Perry welcoming her to a “compulsory transvaginal exam,” and a middle-aged legislator who calls her a “slut.”
One panel equates the invasive procedure to rape and describes the device used to perform it as a “10-inch shaming wand.”
“Our readers are accustomed to pointed political and social commentary in strips like ‘Doonesbury’ and ‘Mallard Fillmore,“’ Tom McNiff, managing editor of The Gainesville Sun and Ocala Star-Banner in central Florida, said in an emailed statement explaining the decision not to run the series. “But the language the author used to make his point in two of the strips was quite graphic for a general readership.”
Trudeau said Friday that “it would have been a little surprising” if there hadn’t been any pushback against the series.
“Abortion remains a deeply contentious subject. Having said that, the goal is definitely not to antagonize editors and get booted from papers,” he said in an email to the Associated Press. “It’s just an occupational risk.”
Asked for comment on the “Doonesbury” series, Perry spokesman Catherine Frazier said the governor is proud of his leadership on the sonogram law.
“The decision to end a life is not funny,” Frazier said. “There is nothing comic about this tasteless interpretation of legislation we have passed in Texas to ensure that women have all the facts when making a life-ending decision.”