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.