Doonesbury Skewers Texas Sonogram Law, Papers Refuse to Print It

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Congratulations, Republican lawmakers of Texas! Your sonogram law has hit the big-time: week-long ridicule in “Doonesbury.” The 40-year daily cartoon strip that frequently takes aim at political and social issues will turn the light on the absurdity that is Texas's mandatory transvaginal ultrasound law, also known as the sonogram law.

Not surprisingly, a few daily papers are refusing to publish the cartoon, claiming that the illustrated rendition of an actual law in Texas is “too much” for the “family-friendly fun” of the cartoon page.

The plot of the series of strips features a woman seeking a sonogram in order to have an abortion. She's asked, “Do your parents know you're a slut?” Before inserting the probe, the doctor says to her, “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.” Later, a receptionist says, “The Republican Party is hoping you get caught in a shame spiral and change your mind.”  

Is it charged rhetoric? Sure. Does it accurately convey the intent of the Republican sonogram law, passed in Texas and percolating elsewhere across the country? Abso-friggin'-lutely.

Here's Monday's strip:  

Quite naturally, a few weak-willed newspaper editors refused to run the strip that is, I note, based on an actual law and actual procedure women in Texas and elsewhere now have to endure to exercise their rights. The St. Paul Pioneer Press, Oregonian, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch have pulled the strips, among others.

The Post-Dispatch credits aborting the strip to its “graphic language” and “unsuitable language” for a section with “young readers.” Hey, editors, how else are we supposed to train young women for the lifetime of slut-shaming that awaits them? How else will your young female and male readers find out that Republicans view women as objects worthy of scorn at best, and beings incapable of making their own decisions without unwanted bodily penetration at worst?

The Oregonian says comic Garry Trudeau “went over the line of good taste and humor.” You know what's actually over the line? Forcing doctors to perform medically unnecessary sonograms and read ideological claptrap to their patients.

In an interview, Trudeau defended his use of the word “rape” to describe the sonogram law:

Texas's HB-15 isn't hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand. The World Health Organization defines rape as “physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration – even if slight – of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.” You tell me the difference.

The only difference I see is that the WHO hasn't adopted the 17th Century attitudes towards women that pervade the Texas Legislature.

Previously on BOR:

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About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

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