The secret Doonesbury

Newspapers are usually very secretive about comics so it was a bit surprising today when I found all of this week’s Doonesbury strips posted online. The Poughkeepsie (NY) Journal is one of the newspapers — like the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press — that has refused to run the strip this week, running substitute strips that Garry Trudeau put together (which feature almost no dialog or story line, which might be Trudeau’s stick-in-the-eye message to the skittish newspapers). You can find the pdf file of this week’s Doonesbury here (The Star Tribune is also posting the comic online but only for the day of publication)

(Update 12:53 p.m. The newspaper has now removed the strips)

The strip is tackling Texas’ new law requiring women seeking an abortion to have a sonogram first. For the most part, the storyline isn’t much different than what Jon Stewart might have on the Daily Show.

I’m guessing this is the one that caused the blowback from editors:


The Doonesbury website has, as you might expect, a vigorous debate going on about this week’s series.

Here’s one side, for example:

As a mother of two wanted and loved children in Virginia, where they recently passed ultrasound legislation, thank you. I appreciate your guts and your support of keeping the government out of my and my daughters’ reproductive business. We teach our children that their private parts are private. When the government forces women to accept whatever touching they mandate and that additionally, we should have to pay for that mandate, I think they should remember that such decisions are not theirs to make, but should be left to the privacy usually enjoyed between a woman and her doctor. Thank you for respecting that privacy.

And the other…

I’m a female in my 40s that has had two (soon three) such sonagrams for medical monitoring purposes (fibroid and polyp). It is not a big deal — not painful or much more invasive than a pap test — and certainly not as invasive as an abortion or the process to get pregnant. I’d much rather go through a sonogram than a mammogram. What’s the fear, ladies? That you’ll actually see a baby about to be murdered? I’ve seen a sonogram with a coworker’s unborn baby sucking its thumb. What’s to fear about that? Maybe that you’ll develop a conscience? As a female who’s had sonograms I know the procedure is not a big deal. You do a disservice to your reading public, and show your ignorance, by indicating otherwise. Obviously some of your readers are equally uninformed about the procedure.

Most of the newspapers who elected not to publish the strip this week said it’s an issue that doesn’t belong on the comic pages. But — and again this is similar to The Daily Show, a comedy show which frequently covers the news better than the news stations — the issue isn’t being debated this week in any other section of most newspapers.

But the Fort Worth Star Telegram, an editorial, denied it’s because of any cowardice, a charge level, a charge leveled by Rachel Madow last night.

The reason for not printing the strip has nothing to do with left- or right-wing politics. It has everything to do with civility and consistency.

On Wednesday we published an editorial taking to task radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his crass language about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who testified before Congress about health insurance coverage for contraceptives. Trudeau’s language, accompanied by graphic images, is equally crude.

Strong, passionate arguments can be made about public policies without crossing the line that both these men leaped over. And if the day comes that the debate about abortion is decided by which side’s images are the most graphic, the pro-life folks will prevail.

  • Chris

    The that Fort Worth editorial has to go out of its way to say that the Doonesbury language is “accompanied by graphic images” proves the weakness of the argument against running the strips. There is nothing objectionable whatsoever depicted in the strips. But, of course, the readers of the print Star Telegram don’t get the benefit of comparing the characterizations of the comic to the comic itself, and can only rely on the editor’s patently errant say-so.

    I read at least one paper is running all of the comics together on their editorial page on one day, as a sort of comic op-ed. If anything, the FW Star Telegram should have thick enough skin to run the comics as a counterpoint to their overweening and self-serving editorial and let readers decide for themselves.

    And our local dailies should consider doing the same. The content is by no measure more objectionable than the destructive, distorted op-eds they solicit and print from rightists on a regular basis.

    I have been having a hard time discerning what precisely is objectionable about the Doonesbury strips this week, but I think it boils down to the fact that they are not couched in comforting euphemisms.

  • Lorrie Sarafin

    I may not agree with what either of these gentlemen have said – but I really hate to see Free Speech go down the tubes….scary!

  • Joel

    For a party that claims to be fighting to protect individual healthcare rights from the far-reaching arm of government, the GOP sure is doing a bang-up job of forcing their healthcare practices onto others.

  • Brian Hanf

    Free speech doesn’t mean you get to use someone else’s ink and paper. That said, thanks Bob. Glad you were able to put this up. PS love that the star forgot to edit the ‘online’ version!

  • Tyler

    Why in the world does any newspaper through Doonesbury in with the rest of the comics? It belongs on the Opinion page – and belongs there every day, not when the paper editor feels like it.

  • Jenn

    I am so disappointed that the Strib and Pioneer Press would participate in this censorship. I guess they have to do whatever they can to keep their last 5 or 6 readers happy…

  • Jamie

    Well, sorry to get too personal here, but I had a trans-vaginal sonogram once and it was VERY uncomfortable, even painful. So, just because one woman says it wasn’t too bad, doesn’t mean that’s true for everybody. And even if it were not uncomfortable, it would still be: A.) a personal violation, 2.) an unnecessary medical procedure, and III.) an invasion of privacy.

    It is so clear to me that this is a PUNISHMENT – a vile, misogynistic right-wing-whacko-pervert-ordered punishment. It’s similar to Rush Limbaugh’s perversion that had him saying that women whose birth control is covered by insurance should be forced to make sex tapes for him (and his perverted brethren) to watch. I never knew that the perversion ran so deep within the Republican Party, that they could actually be considering and legislating this in more than one state. And I’ll bet that this is another ALEC measure, or some other part of the Vast Right-Wing Movement.

  • Drae

    Sorry, Lorrie Sarafin. The newspapers not running Doonesbury is not a violation of free speech rights. The papers are privately owned, not government owned. It may be cowardly on the part of the various papers, it may be a lot of other choice adjectives, but it’s not a violation of the First Amendment.

  • frightwig

    So, Rush Limbaugh used “crass language about Sandra Fluke,” meaning that he called her a “slut” and a “whore,” and suggested that she should send him sex tapes, because she dared testify to Congress about the need for birth control to be covered by insurance. On the other hand, Garry Trudeau referred to a mandatory (even when unwanted) vaginal probe as “rape” and the ultrasound tool used as a “shaming wand,” and he directly identified the party responsible for instituting such a policy. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, those are TOTALLY THE SAME!

    The news media’s “both sides do it” false equivalency game never gets old, does it?

  • er

    “vaginal probe as “rape” and the ultrasound tool used as a “shaming wand,”

    ok, I will admit reading this cartoon brought back horrifying flash backs of an bizarre experience that I wrote to Bob and Mary Lucia a few years back.

    My mother had suggested that I get checked after I had complained about abdominal pains a few years back and suggested that I could have uterine cancer. I made an appointment. They told me to drinnk 32 oz of water prior so they could do an ultrasound. I accidentally drank 64 oz by miscalculating the size of the cup (what can I say it was a hot summer day and I wasn’t thinking clearly). I sloshed into my appointment and the Technician is the bizarrely tall woman with a Russian accent.

    She claimed that she could not get good images so she would have to use ‘the other device’. I think my eyes popped out of my head when I discovered what the ‘other device’ was. It was bad enough that I was containing a bath tube size of water in my bladder, but now I also had to withstand the wand of shame, while on my back looking at a photo of a rustic cabin on a prairie with golden flowers in the pasture taped to the acoustical ceiling tile, listening to this freakishly tall Russian woman talk about British dictionaries and how I should be so grateful for my citizenship. I wasn’t about to argue with this woman considering my position.

    The procedure is horribly shaming and I could only imagine how it would feel for those women who are not getting it done with their consent.

    I think Doonsbury has it right.

  • Shannon Drury

    The two major dailies claim this move is in the interest of protecting children, yet both report on the rapes of children in headlines much larger than the teeny tiny print on the comics page. Methinks they are pearl-clutchers of convenience here.