For four decades, Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury" comic strip has specialized in edginess and controversy -- often quite brilliantly.
In the strips scheduled for this week, Trudeau has gone a step further than usual as he lampoons a new Texas law that requires women to have a "transvaginal" ultrasound procedure before an abortion.
His treatment of the touchy topic has caused some newspapers to pull the cartoons, instead substituting some older "Doonesbury" strips this week.
"For some papers, phrases such as 'slut' and '10-inch shaming wand' were a bit too hard to take," the Baltimore Sun reported. "The harshest bit of dialogue may be the day-four bit comparing a transvaginal sonogram to rape."
Like some other newspaper editors across the country, I thought that the strips -- given that language as well as their depiction of a woman with her feet in stirrups in an abortion clinic -- were inappropriate for our comics pages, where readership is more likely to include children.
Clearly in the category of political commentary, they don't make for a good fit with "Dennis the Menace" and "Garfield." As a result, they are not appearing on the comics pages this week; we are using the substitutes.
But The News will run all six of the daily "Doonesbury" strips in a single block on an inside page of this Sunday's Viewpoints section, amid other political cartoons, with an explanatory note.
This allows our readers to see the strips in print in a more appropriate context. It also gives parents plenty of warning in case they want to keep children away from them, and allows adults who think they'll be offended by the strips, and want to avoid them, to do so more easily.
In the meantime, interested readers can keep up with the daily strip online at doones-bury.com.
In a Washington Post interview with Trudeau, the cartoonist explains what attracted him to the subject: "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 added: "For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to relitigate 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."
News readers can judge that for themselves in Sunday's Viewpoints section.
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