Doonesbury Starts Week-Long Abortion Storyline

By Rachel Walden — March 12, 2012

This week, Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury strip is taking on abortion, Texas-style – the state’s forced ultrasound bill has taken effect, to much less national attention that that of the recent Virginia forced ultrasound bill.

Because the law requires providers to describe the fetus and play the heartbeat, physicians have indicated that “they almost always must use the transvaginal probe to pick up the heartbeat and describe the fetus in the early stages of pregnancy.”

Trudeau is expected to refer to these non-medical, forced vaginal probes as rape – a sentiment many women have expressed in regard to such bills – and stood up for this position in an interview with The Washington Post:

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.

Although Doonesbury has a long history of tackling political issues, focusing on abortion was apparently “too much” for some newspapers – the LA Times is moving the strip to the op ed section, and The Oregonian is among the papers that have refused to run it.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is asking supporters to send a quick message of thanks to newspapers who are carrying the abortion-themed installments of the strip, which should run from today through Sunday. The Center has previously filed a lawsuit challenging the Texas requirement.

The strip can be viewed online; today’s installment greets a woman seeking abortion at a Texas clinic, and invites her to wait in the “shaming room,” where “a middle-aged, male state Legislator” will be with her in a moment.

Meanwhile, Texas is expected to lose federal funding to its Medicaid Women’s Health Program which provides family planning and health screening services, because the state has moved to exclude Planned Parenthood from receiving any funding to provide those services.

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