Why Gary Trudeau is My Hero

I love the comic Doonesbury. I have read it since I was a young adult and actually learned a lot of what I know about American current events and polictics from it. It was an easy entry for me - I would read the strip and then go find out about the stuff that was in the comic.I share Trudeau's values on most things and I really enjoy his mastery of satire. I also have always appreciated the female characters in the strip - almost as numerous as the males (which is extremely rare) - they are complete characters with minds of their own and often high-powered and influential jobs.

Now, I think I love Gary Trudeau even more. This week, the strip features a young woman in Texas who wants to have an abortion. The strip is dark and critical and highly provactive. Today's edition shows her arriving at a clinic for the sonogram. She is told to sit in the shaming room while she waits. The guardian describes this section of a strip that will run later in the week.

"Later, she says she does not want an intrusive vaginal examination but is told by a nurse: "The male Republicans who run Texas require that all abortion seekers be examined with a 10-inch shaming wand." The nurse adds: "By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape." "

Many papers are refusing to run the strip and several have said they will run it but on their editorial page, not on the comics page. When I first read what was really in the strips, I thought perhaps the papers were justified. It's rough stuff, to be sure and not something you expect to see on a comics page. But as I thought more about it, I started to get just a little pissed off.

Doonesbury has always been provocative. Trudeau flat out calls out stupidity, corruption and injustice in his strip all the time. He is no stranger to controversy. He ran a strip about the search for Reagan's brain during the Iran- contra hearings when Reagan repeatedly tried to b.s. his way through it saying he couldn't remember key facts. He also exposed the fact that not only did Dan Quayle have a DEA file (drug enforcement administration) but the Bush campaign and administration actively covered up that fact and kept an individual in jail without charge in order to keep him from talking to the press about it. These things were in the comic strip! And although there was controversy about them, I don't recall any of the papers refusing to run the strips. What's different this time? Is this the one thing he's not allowed to touch? Why?

The other thing that boils my potatoes about this is the fact that the harshness of the strip is completely warranted. He is right. I think this is why a lot of papers don't want to run the strip. Trudeau said, in a comment about this issue, that the law forcing women in Texas to submit to an unnecessary vaginal exam fits the legal definition of rape. He's right. The sonogram is not necessary in order to provide an abortion. There are reliable ways to date a pregnancy other than ultrasound. There is no reason why a woman should ever have to have an ultrasound in order to get any other health service. This is an invasive procedure. Forcing her to do it is actually a sexual assault. So are Women just supposed to sit back and accept the fact that they must be violated in order to receive abortion services? It's a huge injustice and a violation of human rights that the Texan governor tried to soft sell by talking about health and the needs of mom and baby. Trudeau is right and it makes people very uncomfortable.

He openly acknowledges that it will upset people and that is the reason he did it. He accepts that there will be a ton of criticism and is ready for it. He also prepared a set of alternative strips for papers that don't want to run this series. While it might seem like that's backing down, I do respect him for doing it. He knows that it will be much too much for some papers and is offering them an out. To me that's not backing down. Backing down would be to not have written the stris at all. The original strips will run in daily on Doonesbury.com.

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