Author defends "Doonesbury" abortion strip
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Doonesbury" author Garry Trudeau on Friday defended an upcoming strip that some newspapers rejected and others have questioned because it deals with a Texas abortion law the cartoonist described as "lunacy."
The law, which went into effect earlier this year and requires abortion providers perform an ultrasound before the procedure, is intended to give pause to pregnant women and possibly motivate them to reconsider their decision.
Trudeau said in an email that the "party of limited government," a reference to Republicans, has legislated "onerous preconditions for a perfectly legal procedure" and withdrawn funds for reproductive health services that prevent unwanted pregnancies.
"This is happening in statehouses across the country," Trudeau said in the statement. "It's lunacy, and lunacy, of course, is in my wheelhouse."
A similar bill was signed into law earlier this week by Virginia's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell.
The cartoon's story line for Monday through Saturday tells of a woman who goes to a Texas clinic to have the procedure and is forced to get a sonogram, said Sue Roush, managing editor for Universal Uclick, the syndicate behind "Doonesbury."
The cartoon ends with the woman going home to wait 24 hours before having the abortion, as the Texas law requires, Roush said. The woman is a new character in "Doonesbury," she said.
Editors from about a dozen newspapers have reached out to Universal Uclick with questions about the strip authored by Pulitzer Prize winner Trudeau, with some newspapers asking about whether an alternate strip will be offered, Roush said.
"I would imagine that some will make that choice" not to run the abortion-related strip, Roush said.
'OVER THE LINE'
In fact, Portland newspaper The Oregonian said on its website on Friday that it will not run the strip. The cartoon "went over the line of good taste and humor in penning a series on abortion using graphic language and images inappropriate for a comics page," wrote the paper's features editor.
The Los Angeles Times has decided to run the strip in the paper's Opinion section and use an alternate "Doonesbury" in its regular place, Nancy Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the paper, said in an email statement.
"When taken in its entirety the editors of the Los Angeles Times determined that the series is not appropriate for our comics pages," she said.
Media writer Jim Romenesko on his website cited a features editor with Minnesota newspaper St. Paul Pioneer Press who said the publication would run a substitution strip in print and direct readers online if they want to read the abortion cartoon.
It was not immediately clear which other newspapers may have elected to bar the strip, and Roush would not name the publications that asked questions of her company.
Universal Uclick is offering an alternate from a year ago for those newspapers that want it, Roush said.
In 1985, Trudeau and his syndicate reached a mutual decision not to distribute strips that satirized the anti-abortion movie "The Silent Scream" which they thought would be controversial. The New Republic magazine ultimately ran the strips.
The Texas law "Doonesbury" is highlighting has proved controversial since lawmakers approved it last year.
It requires abortion providers to perform an ultrasound on pregnant women, show and describe the image to them, and play sounds of the fetal heartbeat.
Women can decline to view images or hear the heartbeat, but they must listen to a description of the exam.
Carol Tobias, president of anti-abortion group National Right to Life, said the purpose of the law is to help women "make a life or death decision."
"This is an attempt to give women all the relevant information that is available," Tobias said.
A coalition of medical providers sued Texas officials last year over the law, arguing it made doctors a "mouthpiece" for the state's ideological message.
A U.S. district judge blocked parts of the statute, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit overturned that ruling and allowed the law to take effect.
(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Peter Bohan)
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