Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau is no stranger to controversy, but he's stirring up one of the most tense debates of his long career this week with a series of strips on Texas' new law requiring women to get ultrasounds before having an abortion. In one of the strips (see it below), which some newspapers are refusing to run, a clinic employee tells a woman to "please take a seat in the shaming room." In another, a doctor about to conduct a vaginal ultrasound with a "10-inch shaming wand" tells a patient, "By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape." A spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the law, called the strips "tasteless." Trudeau told The Washington Post that he had expected controversy, but that ignoring the issue "would have been comedy malpractice." Is it appropriate to mine such a sensitive issue for laughs?
Abortion is no laughing matter: Trudeau's riff on abortion laws "oversteps the boundaries of good taste," says Rick Green at the Des Moines Register. His language is "graphic" and "offensive" — and that's coming from a longtime Doonesbury fan. And no matter what you think of this abortion controversy, we should all be able to agree that it's utterly inappropriate to accuse Texas Republicans of a vast rape conspiracy in a comic "wedged beneath 'Family Circus' and 'Dennis the Menace.'"
"From the editor"
Censoring Trudeau is what's really offensive: Any editors "getting hinky about the cartoons" can move them to their opinion pages, says Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky. "But refusing to run the comics at all based on their content amounts to censorship," and that's just wrong. These papers have probably published articles in which people called forced transvaginal ultrasounds "state-mandated rape." Trying to stifle Trudeau for expressing the same views is despicable.
"'Doonesbury' comics on abortion banned by newspapers"
The controversy only ensures more people will see the strips: The cartoons are "hard hitting," to be sure, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. But by objecting so loudly, Trudeau's critics are only going to "bring more attention and publicity" to the very speech they're protesting against. Newspaper readership is in free-fall. If nobody had made a stink, these cartoons would have come and gone largely unnoticed. Now a lot more people will be offended — because a lot more people will look to see what all the fuss is about.
"Doonesbury strip on abortion arouses controversy"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- How to be the star of a cocktail party where you don't know anyone
- Why so many Christians won't back down on gay marriage
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
Subscribe to the Week