Florida Papers Drop Controversial Doonesbury Abortion Comic Strips; Miami Herald Runs 'Em (UPDATED: Sun-Sentinel Too) | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

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Florida Papers Drop Controversial Doonesbury Abortion Comic Strips; Miami Herald Runs 'Em (UPDATED: Sun-Sentinel Too)

Update, 10:20 a.m.: I messed up. The Sun-Sentinel does carry Doonesbury, but on the page opposite most of its other comics. They've got today's "slut" strip, and I've left a message for comment to see if the rest of them are running too.

Update 2, 2:30 p.m.: The Sun-Sentinel's Mary Helen Olejnik says the paper will be running all six strips.

Original post, 5:20 a.m.:
​This week, a series of six Doonesbury comic strips mocks a Texas law requiring women to have an invasive ultrasound before receiving an abortion. But when it comes to printing the strips, papers across the country -- papers that know what Doonesbury is about, papers that pay for Garry Trudeau's brand of satire -- are chickening out.

The Sun Sentinel doesn't run the strip to begin with, but the Miami Herald does -- and they aren't budging... too much.

Cartoonist Garry Trudeau has never been a quiet presence on the comics page -- his 41-year-old Doonesbury strip has taken so many social and political stances that he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1975 despite his home in the funnies. He's caused his share of controversy that doesn't need to be listed here (thanks, Wikipedia), but his latest foray into political commentary has knickers getting twisted all over the place -- unfortunately, an appropriate turn of phrase.

The strips depict a Texas woman who tries to get an abortion but gets tied up in administrative red tape strung by Republican legislators. The one that ran yesterday featured a nurse calling the waiting room the "shaming room" and saying that "a middle-aged, male state legislator will be right with you."

Today's column features a second male asking the woman if her parents know she's "a slut," and the rest of the week shows the woman working her way toward the actual procedure (the story line ends before an abortion takes place). Jim Romenesko reported that papers in Oregon and Minnesota have pulled the strips, and several in Florida have pulled them too.

The Ocala Star-Banner and Gainesville Sun issued matching, one-sentence chickenshit explanations for their readers, saying the strips were pulled for "insensitive language," though they really mean "a touchy subject we don't want to offend people with." There's no polite way of describing a law that forces women to have a probe stuffed inside of them under the guise of better understanding the procedure they're requesting. It's a law designed to intimidate women out of having abortions, and to call it anything else is disingenuous. If editors didn't think abortion belonged on the comics page, fine, but they certainly owed their readers a better explanation than that.

A spokesman from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, by contrast, told the Washington Post that the paper knew what it was getting into when it picked up Trudeau's strip, and "if we choose to carry 'Doonesbury,' we can't yank the strip every time it deals with a highly charged issue." 

The Herald published a note to readers yesterday informing them that the paper would be running the strips, minus one that Executive Editor Aminda Marques Gonzalez wrote had one panel that "goes beyond the evolving political notion of the comics pages."

The strip that was pulled, according to editor Pat Andrews, is Thursday's. The description of the strip, courtesy of Romensko:
In the stirrups, she is telling a nurse that she doesn't want a transvaginal exam. Doctor says "Sorry miss, you're first trimester. The male Republicans who run Texas require that all abortion seekers be examined with a 10″ shaming wand." She asks "Will it hurt?" Nurse says, "Well, it's not comfortable, honey. But Texas feels you should have thought of that." Doctor says, "By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape."
Trudeau told the Washington Post that confronting the new pre-abortion ultrasound laws was a necessary maneuver.

"To ignore it," he said, "would have been comedy malpractice."

You can check out the strips as they come out on the Doonesbury website or on the Herald's site.

"We were prepared for an outcry. I've gotten one call that I gotta deal with," Andrews told the Pulp. "I think, for the most part, our readers are OK."

They're OK because they're grownups, and, even if they're offended, why is it a newspaper's job to shield them from it?

"Followers of Doonesbury know that the comic strip takes on the social issues of the day... Over time, the comics pages have evolved to tackle such issues," Andrews wrote in an email. "This is one of those times."

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