Newspapers pull, move Doonesbury comic referencing abortion ultrasound bill

Posted at 9:18 PM, Mar 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-13 12:30:11-04

It’s run in papers across the country for more than 40 years, but when some Americans turn to the comics section this week they won’t see the new Doonesbury strip.

Several papers are running re-runs in its place because they find the subject of this week’s strips too inappropriate or controversial.

It addresses a series of controversial bills requiring women have ultrasounds before getting an abortion. House Bill 462 was passed by Virginia’s General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell last week. It requires women seeking abortions have an abdominal ultrasound at least 24 hours before they can have  an abortion.

The comic refers specifically to a a more severe law already in place in Texas. Passed last spring, the law requires a woman who wants an abortion to first have a vaginal sonogram so that she can hear the heartbeat of her fetus.

In today’s strip a woman enters an abortion clinic and is sent to a “shaming room,” and told “a middle aged male legislator will be in to speak with you.” Author Gerry Trudeau will dedicate a series of 6 strips to the topic.

Trudeau has already released frames of comics that will air later this week. One displays a doctor welcoming the same woman to her “compulsory transvaginal ultrasound.” Later strips will refer to the instrument used to perform the ultrasound as a “10-inch shaming wand.” As it’s performed, a doctor says “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”

CBS 6 has learned of only one area paper that has pulled the strip. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star removed the comic, running a note in its editorial section explaining the paper found the language used inappropriate for a family paper. A news staffer told CBS 6 it is unlikely the paper will run any of the six offending strips.

Doonesbury already runs on the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s editorial page. The controversial strip aired there today.

Trudeau explained why he chose to focus on the topic to The Washington Post.

“I chose the topic of compulsory sonograms because it was in the news and because of its relevance to the broader battle over women’s health currently being waged in several states,” Trudeau told The Post.

“For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why [Rick] Santorum, [Rush] Limbaugh et al. thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate, I cannot say. But to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.”