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13 March 2012

Your cowardly rag blacked out Doonesbury? Vleeptron mirrors the hot potato strip on state abortion laws

Click comic strip,
maybe it gets larger.

The Associated Press
(USA newswire)
Monday 12 March 2012

Some USA papers 

wimp out, won't 
publish Doonesbury's 
abortion law strip

by Bill Draper

KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- A national syndicate is offering 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.

A handful of newspapers say they won't run this week's series, while several others said the strips will move from the comics to opinion pages or websites only. Many already have opinion-page placement for the strip by cartoonist Garry Trudeau, whose sarcastic swipes at society's foibles have a history of giving headaches to newspaper editors.

"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

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."

Texas' law does not specify the type of sonogram a woman must receive, but a transvaginal ultrasound is necessary to meet requirements that the doctor show the woman an image of the fetus, describe its features and make the fetal heartbeat audible in the first trimester. The procedure uses a wand inserted in the vagina to yield an image instead of a wand rubbed over a woman's belly.

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."

Sue Roush, managing editor at the Universal UClick syndicate, said newspapers uncomfortable with the abortion law series have the option of a set of substitute strips.

The [San Jose, California] Mercury News is running the abortion series in the cartoon's usual place, on the comics page.

Steve Shirk, manager editor of The Kansas City Star, said his paper would use the replacements in the comics section while moving the abortion series to the opinion page.

"We felt the content was too much for many of the readers of our family friendly comic page," Shirk said. "We felt that (op-ed) page was more appropriate for that story line."

Dennis Ryerson, editor of the Indianapolis Star, said the newspaper would use an earlier "Doonesbury"
strip instead.

"We simply don't want to be part of the personalization and debasement of political discourse. We've had too much of that from all sides," Ryerson said.

Chris Mele, executive editor of the Pocono Record in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania said the paper will run the replacement strips during the week, but the Texas series will appear [Sunday] March 18 on the front of its op-ed section. He said the paper would try to "have a dialogue" with its readers about the debate.

Universal UClick president Lee Salem said he wouldn't be surprised if 20 to 30 of the 1,400 newspapers that carry "Doonesbury" decided to opt out and run the replacements.

"Once every five or six months there's usually something in 'Doonesbury' that causes a stir. Every two or three years there's something that causes a bigger stir," Salem said. 

"Historically, that's par for the course with 'Doonesbury' because Garry [Trudeau] explores topics on comics pages that are not normally there."

Six installments of "Doonesbury" satirizing the anti-abortion movie "The Silent Scream" were canceled in 1985 when the syndicate decided they were too controversial to be distributed.

Other states have enacted laws requiring pre-abortion ultrasounds, although Virginia removed a provision from its measure that specifically called for the invasive exam. The measure in its original form had become a target of national political columnists and the word "transvaginal" was mocked and parodied on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Associated Press writers Matt Moore in Philadelphia; Mitch Stacy in Tampa Bay, Fla.; and Chris Tomlinson in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

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abbas said...

you're getting soft in your old age bob, i'm surprised there's no Pi day posts here.

patFromCH said...

He had one a few days ago, summet about making a pie..

As for the cartoon I am disgusted that someone could violate the freedom of speech of Trudeau. It is funny and it pokes fun at the right people, not on Abortion as a subject but rather the people who make silly laws. Trudeau is spot on and one of the best cartoonists ever. Remind me to scan in and send you the one about Pet Sounds these days...

Wonder if those papers in Fla and Tx printed those bloody stupid Mohammed cartoons wayback in solidarity with the cartoonists.

Oh well, they will reprint that Doonesbury cartoon, Sec, crime and scandals sell papers....

James J. Olson said...

This is why the newspapers are quickly becoming irrelevant. 20 years ago, a newspaper could get away with not running a strip because there was no other way to see it. Today, there is the internet.

Vleeptron Dude said...

EEEK! I'm not getting SOFT in my old age, I'm getting bent and twisted and wracked with pain -- last week I slipped and fell in the snow, wrenched my back, and have been getting by on (very pleasant) painkillers ... but all the pain and pills just put PI DAY out of my mind!

Late-Night USA TV comic Craig Ferguson just reminded me with a nice long silly segment on Pi ... he showed the symbol for Pi ... except the symbol he showed was Prince's goofy TAFKAP symbol.

If you will allow me momentarily to be serious, the ghastly events of the past month and the past week in Afghanistan have also diverted my finite brain and focus from my usual lust and love for Eternal and Beautiful things (like Pi). I will have more to say about these Low Points of Human Bestiality.

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