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Doonesbury Strip On Abortion Arouses Controversy

Garry Trudeau has been drawing his political comic strip Doonesbury for some 42 years now and is no stranger to controversy.  In the past, the strip used to be a regular target of conservatives for its obvious political liberalism and Truedau’s own frequent barbs at conservatives going all the way back to the Reagan Administration and continuing through both Bush Administrations. Many newspapers have responded to the frequent pressure campaigns by moving the strip off the comic strip page and into the Opinion section (although for some reason The Washington Post has run the strip in the paper’s business section). With the decline of print newspapers, one wonders if people even pay attention to strips like Doonesbury any more, though. For the most part, comic strips aren’t available on newspaper websites but can instead by found on sites run by the syndication company or the author.  Apparently, though, Doonesbury still has the ability to arouse controversy, as a new week-long series about abortion is causing many newspapers to pull the strip for the week:

A national syndicate will offer replacement “Doonesbury” comic strips to newspapers that don’t want to run a series that uses graphic imagery to lampoon a Texas law requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, executives said Friday.

A handful of newspapers say they would not run this week’s series, while several others said the strips would move from the comics to opinion pages or Web sites only. Many already publish the strip by Garry Trudeau on editorial pages, given that its sarcastic swipes at society’s foibles have a history of giving headaches to newspaper editors.

“We run ‘Doonesbury’ on our op-ed page, and this series is an example of why,” said David Averill, editorial page editor for The Tulsa World. “Many of our readers will disagree with the political stance the series takes, and some will be offended by the clinical language. I believe, however, that this series of strips is appropriate to the abortion debate and appropriate to our op-ed pages.”

Jim Romenesko describes the strips:

Monday: Young woman arrives for her pre-termination sonogram, is told to take a seat in the shaming room, a middle-aged male state legislator will be right with her.

Tuesday: He asks her if this is her first visit to the center, she replies no, that she’s been using the contraceptive services for some time. He says, “I see. Do your parents know you’re a slut?”

Wednesday: A different male is reading to her about the transvaginal exam process.

Thursday: In the stirrups, she is telling a nurse that she doesn’t want a transvaginal exam. Doctor says “Sorry miss, you’re first trimester. The male Republicans who run Texas require that all abortion seekers be examined with a 10″ shaming wand.” She asks “Will it hurt?” Nurse says, “Well, it’s not comfortable, honey. But Texas feels you should have thought of that.” Doctor says, “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”

Friday: Doctor is explaining that the Texas GOP requires her to have an intimate encounter with her fetus. He begins describing it to her. Last panel, he says, “Shall I describe it’s hopes and dreams?” She replies, “If it wants to be the next Rick Perry, I’ve made up my mind.”

Saturday: Back in the reception area, she asks where she goes now for the actual abortion. Receptionist tells her there’s a 24-hour waiting period: “The Republican Party is hoping you get caught in a shame spiral and change your mind.” Last panel: She says, “A final indignity.” Receptionist replies, “Not quite. Here’s your bill.”

Hard hitting, for sure, even amusing as long as you have a sense of humor about such things. And I say that as someone who hasn’t read Doonesbury in decades and wasn’t doing so even in the days when I was still getting a print newspaper. I suppose some people might be offended, either because of the subject matter or because of the fact that some people just don’t like being confronted with points of view they disagree with. But, honestly, are either of those groups of people likely to be reading Doonesbury to begin with? I haven’t seen any demographic data but I’d be willing to bet that the regular audience for Trudeau’s strip skews very much to the left. The people who are protesting this strip are people who aren’t going to read it anyway, so what’s their problem? The individual newspapers certainly have the right to decline to run the strip if the want, but if they’re treating it as an opinion piece rather than “entertainment,” then I have to wonder whether they’re really serving their readers very well by shielding them from points of view they might disagree with.

This is the part of boycott campaigns that I don’t necessarily understand. Whether it’s directed against Garry Trudeau or Rush Limbaugh, all such campaigns tend to do is bring more attention and publicity to the speech being protested against, potentially raising the audience of the person being protested. Is that really what these people want to accomplish? I don’t think so. I don’t know how many people actually read Doonesbury on a regular basis anymore, but I’m betting those numbers are going to be at least slightly higher this week because of the attention that’s been brought by newspaper editors concerned about “offending” people who wouldn’t be reading the strip in the first place.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    Case in point: I haven’t read Doonesbury in a few years, but I went to Slate last night to catch up some on the series so I could better follow this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. legion says:

    This is the part of boycott campaigns that I don’t necessarily understand. Whether it’s directed against Garry Trudeau or Rush Limbaugh, all such campaigns tend to do is bring more attention and publicity to the speech being protested against, potentially raising the audience of the person being protested.

    That’s an important point, but it relies on one thing – is the behavior/attitude/activity/whatever being highlighted by the boycott already known & approved of by the target’s normal audience? For example, protesting that Fox News just recycles GOP talking points & marginalizes dissenting views is pointless, because that’s seen as a “feature” by Fox’s audience. The same could be said for conservative groups protesting against Media Matters, etc.

    But the boycott against Rush Limbaugh is working because it’s highlighting just how vile and out-of-line his normal spiel is to a lot of people who didn’t realize until now what sort of person he is – as many others have noted, it isn’t _just_ his attempted slut-shaming, it’s his disturbing remarks about getting her to make porn films and demeaning of women in general that have turned a lot of less-extreme listeners (and advertisers) off. Doonesbury’s spotlighting these horrific anti-abortion laws could (possibly) have a similar effect – I don’t think a lot of people realize that he’s barely exaggerating at all; if you think the Arizona and Virginia laws were simply one-off bad ideas, take a look at what Kansas and Pennsylvania are trying to do right now. Then tell me it’s what you _want_ to see the GOP doing, even if you consider yourself a Republican…

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  3. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Seriously, I’m not sure anything truly can be deemed “controversial” when nobody knows or cares about it. I actually had thought Trudeau retired years ago to a commune or something. Or was that Cat Stevens?

    In any event, in perusing the apparent story line for this strip it would appear that Trudeau is engaging in some sort of complex projection sequence. There’s some sort of sexual dysfunction afoot. More than standard vagina envy. Darker. More prurient.

    Regarding the underlying political issue — requiring ultrasounds as a condition to receive an abortion — I would say that’s a state’s legislative prerogative. To my way thinking it’s not really so much different from a pure legislative perspective than requiring an independent psych evaluation before allowing someone to engage in assisted suicide or requiring a psych eval and a waiting period before a sex change operation. I don’t see anything wrong in a state sovereign trying to make sure that for its residents informed consent really is present before they undertake a life-changing medical procedure. If other states want to go in a different direction that’s their prerogative too.

    From a pure medical standpoint it’s difficult for me to ascertain why leftists are in such high dudgeon mode over an ultrasound. Don’t they realize how abortions actually are conducted? It’s not as if the doctor sings a song and the pregnancy is terminated.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 30

  4. PD Shaw says:

    Let me first say, Monday’s piece is funny, and if the rest is of similar quality it will be a credit to Trudeau.

    I think part of the problem is that traditionally kids learned to read the papers through the funnies; perhaps less so anymore, but some of us stodgy parents don’t get exited about the prospect of some of the most intimate, personal concerns being made public in an all-ages section of the paper. Some papers publish the strip on the opinion page where it can safely be ignored, which sounds like a good solution.

    The other part is visual communications are almost always judged more harshly than verbal/written. One example that comes to mind is the editorial on the cover of one of the weeklies depicting the Obamas in the White House fist-bumping, burning the flay and reading the Koran.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. Moosebreath says:

    So when there’s an organized campaign against a right-winger (Limbaugh), Doug’s comment is “All I am saying is that a concerted effort to get someone off the air because you don’t like the content of their speech troubles me.” When there’s an organized campaign against a left-winger (Trudeau), Doug’s comment is “The individual newspapers certainly have the right to decline to run the strip if the want, but if they’re treating it as an opinion piece rather than “entertainment,” then I have to wonder whether they’re really serving their readers very well by shielding them from points of view they might disagree with.”

    In other words, the difference in Doug’s reaction is that the left-wingers actions trouble him on principle, while right-wingers shouldn’t do this because it’s counterproductive, but not troubling as matter of principle.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 3

  6. Modulo Myself says:

    Whether it’s directed against Garry Trudeau or Rush Limbaugh, all such campaigns tend to do is bring more attention and publicity to the speech being protested against, potentially raising the audience of the person being protested. Is that really what these people want to accomplish?

    With Limbaugh, absolutely. Most people have no idea how untalented and stupid he actually is. The more that real people listen to him or listen to what he says as his quotes are played again and again, the worse it will be for his show.

    Keep in mind that nobody is really offended by Limbaugh. Sandra Fluke wasn’t hurt because she was called by a ‘slut’. It’s just appalling that a pseudo-important person should be that dumb, and that he is listened to by people who are too stupid to perceive how dumb they are.

    In America, you can be abusive, controversial, shocking, whatever. But you can’t be completely unforgivably lame.

    I give him a year before he ‘retires’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  7. @Tsar Nicholas II:

    To my way thinking it’s not really so much different from a pure legislative perspective than requiring an independent psych evaluation before allowing someone to engage in assisted suicide or requiring a psych eval and a waiting period before a sex change operation.

    Psych evals are both 1) medically useful and 2) don’t require raping the patient with an ultrasound wand.

    From a pure medical standpoint it’s difficult for me to ascertain why leftists are in such high dudgeon mode over an ultrasound.

    I see. And for the record, which school did you receive your medical degree from?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  8. @Moosebreath:

    There’s no evidence in any of the stories I’ve read about this of an “organized” campaign, rather we’re talking about individual editorial decisions by newspaper editors. Yes they have a right to make that decision, as do the people campaigning against Limbaugh (something I said at least twice in the post that you’re referring to by the way). That doesn’t mean I find either appropriate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 10

  9. @Modulo Myself:

    So you’re perfectly fine with efforts to silence speech you disagree with. Got it.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 18

  10. Some people need graphic images to point things out to them. and it may bring more attention but it will also bring it to people who do not pay attention to abortion laws but are pro choice. This is a sadistic form of punishment, for someone who is not breaking any law. We don`t have any new laws on the books to torment people who actually break the law so why this? I can`t say a comic strip is an appropriate place for this but it needs to be brought forward. I do not see the comparisons to the Limbaugh thing. Limbaugh used lies and deceptions to slander a woman and bullied her for exercising her right to speak. The sponsors spoke when they pulled the plug on him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  11. Moosebreath says:

    Doug,

    “There’s no evidence in any of the stories I’ve read about this of an “organized” campaign, rather we’re talking about individual editorial decisions by newspaper editors.”

    If you don’t think this is part of a campaign, you’re more naive then I thought you were.

    “Yes they have a right to make that decision, as do the people campaigning against Limbaugh (something I said at least twice in the post that you’re referring to by the way).”

    You have said that. You’ve also said that you are troubled by them doing it.

    “That doesn’t mean I find either appropriate.”

    And yet, your immediate reaction to one is immediate condemnation, and to the other is to say it is counterproductive, but not to condemn it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  12. PD Shaw says:

    I now see that the strip analogizes the procedure with rape, which I personally find offensive, though I understand why the comparison is made. Its unfair to the doctors who perform the procedure, which is a normal procedure that many women have had. Sure, make fund of the legislator hanging around the gynecologist office; make fun of the assumption that women are too stupid to know what an abortion is, but rape doesn’t belong on an all-ages page.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

  13. sam says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II:

    In any event, in perusing the apparent story line for this strip it would appear that Trudeau is engaging in some sort of complex projection sequence. There’s some sort of sexual dysfunction afoot. More than standard vagina envy. Darker. More prurient.

    WTF are you on about?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  14. @Moosebreath:

    Where’s your evidence of a campaign? All I’m seeing is what I described — newspaper editors making an editorial decision not to run the strip because of the subject matter. For better or worse, it’s something that Doonesbury has dealt with for decades now. Heck, during he Clinton/Lewinsky Scandal several papers refused to run strips that made reference to oral sex and a stained dress. Is there a letter writing campaign that I — and every paper that has reported on this — have missed?

    As for the rest of it, if you’re really going to quibble because I didn’t use the word “troubled” in this post then that strikes me as some rather extreme nit-picking.

    And, finally, just for the record I oppose the policies that Trudeau is criticizing in these strips. I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other about the quality of his satire because, as I said, haven’t read his stuff in decades. Not because I disagree with him, but because I don’t find it entertaining in the least.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  15. Modulo Myself says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Limbaugh lived and is about to die because he was a brand. The least important part of his overall identity was his existence as a human being with the right to free speech. It may have been spun this way, but that’s just spin, in the same way that his schtick of saying something racist and then being shocked when he was charged with being a racist was a scam.

    So no one is challenging his right to free speech. They’re challenging his right to continue as Rush Limbaugh.

    But to be honest, I’m not okay with boycotts. I think countering advertising and propaganda in any way is pointless, and I think pretending to care about allegedly toxic speech is demeaning.

    Yet I’m expecting, in the next several years, to see a great deal of them, and all aimed at the right, and all successful. My instinct say that the system has had it with right-wing everything, and will now be cleaning house.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  16. legion says:

    @PD Shaw: All of these laws require doctors to perform unnecessary and invasive procedures on their patients. The Kansas law, in particular, actually directs doctors to lie to their patients – telling them that abortions are linked to breast cancer when that has been proven false. I haven’t seen a single word out of the AMA regarding this stunning perversion of the legislative function. Until I do, I lump the medical profession in the same group as the legislators writing these laws.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  17. Franklin says:

    @PD Shaw: I’d agree with that analysis. FWIW, I thought the whole thing was amusing and kind of hard-hitting, but yes not all appropriate for the comics page.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I now see that the strip analogizes the procedure with rape

    Without the woman’s consent, penetration with an object is rape under Texas law. Or at least it was until the state of Texas decided to coerce consent. The vaginal probe is not analogous to rape. It IS rape.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 0

  19. Liberty60 says:

    Some of this is wishful thinking by newspapers and the old white guys who run the conservative movement, who still cling to the fantasy that kids still read the funny pages.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. Gustopher says:

    Boycotts work in only the most extreme cases. There’s really no point in finding them disturbing, any more than finding people protesting anywhere else disturbing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. Gustopher says:

    @Franklin: Mandatoey vaginal probing is more appropriate for the comics page than it is for a law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  22. al-Ameda says:

    Doonesbury is in both our papers – the local and the regional paper.
    Generally, I consider Doonesbury to be analogous to an editorial cartoon.

    This morning’s Doonesbury strip is excellent, especially the panes where a
    woman is directed to sit in the “Shame Room” where “a middle-aged male
    state legislator will be with you in a moment.”

    That is dead on – that is exactly where America is today.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  23. Curtis says:

    Yes, it raises the profile of their side. But if it raises money for our side, it is worth it. People need to be outraged enough to send money to pay my salary.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Hey Norm says:

    Like most good humor…it’s funny because it is so true.
    10″ shaming wand…and old white men making your decisions for you.
    Republicans are shameful…mis-guided…and hypocrites.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  25. rodney dill says:

    While I don’t support mandatory Transvaginal ultrasounds prior to abortion, comparing a medical procedure to rape is sensationalism on par with the kind that Rush Limbaugh normally immerses himself in.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 18

  26. John Peabody says:

    Shoot, when I lived in Oklahoma twenty years ago, “Doonsbury” did not even appear at all in the Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Lawton newspapers. That is how fearful they were of Truadeauian humor. Having the strip in the opinion section is an improvement!

    Funny strips- gets him in the news- win-win for their side!

    To quote Drill Sergeant Hulka: “Lighten up, Francis!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. Franklin says:

    @Gustopher: I can also agree with that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Moosebreath says:

    Doug,

    “Where’s your evidence of a campaign? All I’m seeing is what I described — newspaper editors making an editorial decision not to run the strip because of the subject matter. For better or worse, it’s something that Doonesbury has dealt with for decades now.”

    I think you’ve just contradicted yourself. The editors know there will be a problem because of past history of conservatives using any opportunities they get to create such a campaign, so they decide to self-censor to avoid controversy.

    “As for the rest of it, if you’re really going to quibble because I didn’t use the word “troubled” in this post then that strikes me as some rather extreme nit-picking.”

    When this issue came up in the other thread, your response was “My response would be the same if conservatives engaged in a similar effort directed at any of the hosts on MSNBC, or Al Gore’s silly little TV network.”

    Within 48 hours after that, when given the opportunity to actually do so, you fall on your face. That’s not quibbling, it’s pointing out how false all of your equivalences are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  29. bOb says:

    @rodney dill: I think if I were a woman who was being vaginally penitrated for political reasons, not medical reasons, it might feel like something akin to rape.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  30. Moosebreath,

    I said that I do not approve of the decision to pull the strips. Sorry if I didn’t use your preferred language. Well, not really.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  31. legion says:

    @rodney dill: It’s not simple sensationalism – one of the major criticisms of the Virgina proposal was that the mandated procedure did, in fact, meet the state’s own legal definition of rape-with-an-object. Texas is in the exact same boat.

    I keep telling you people, these are not exaggerations – these proposals really are this horrible.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  32. Moosebreath says:

    Doug,

    “Sorry if I didn’t use your preferred language. Well, not really. ”

    And I’m sorry you see no distinction between opposing something on principle and opposing it because it is counterproductive. Really.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  33. Moosebreath,

    If the editors were deciding to ban Doonesbury from their pages altogether, you’d have a far better analogy. But, anyway, I oppose both so that’s where I’m going to end this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  34. rodney dill says:

    @bOb: At least one woman seems to think you can be against Transvaginal ultrasounds without calling it rape.
    Transvaginal Ultrasound Isn’t Rape.

    Lucky me, I was both raped and had an abortion with transvaginal ultrasound—though the two incidents were years apart—so I can speak from experience. A transvaginal ultrasound is nothing like rape. To say so delegitimizes rape survivors’ experiences and promulgates the old idea that rape is all about penetration. And from a language perspective, it’s maddeningly imprecise to suggest a gynecological procedure is akin to a violent crime. I’m not saying the transvaginal probe was sexytimes (though it’s no worse than a pelvic, frankly), but it didn’t remotely resemble what happened when I was raped. Ladies, we’ve all had Pap smears when we didn’t want them (which is always, now that I think of it)—our gynecologists are not rapists.

    – Liz Spikol. (excerpt from above linked article)

    Personally, if an ultrasound is required to determine gestational age of the fetus, I believe the decision on which kind is best left to concensus between the woman and her physician.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  35. sam says:

    @rodney dill:

    While I don’t support mandatory Transvaginal ultrasounds prior to abortion, comparing a medical procedure to rape is sensationalism

    But if it’s against the woman’s will…?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  36. legion says:

    @rodney dill: Whether or not it’s kosher to _compare_ TV ultrasound to rape is something I’ll leave to people better suited to debate the finer points (i.e., people with actual vaginas). The point I was making was that the process meets the legal definition of rape.

    Personally, if an ultrasound is required to determine gestational age of the fetus, I believe the decision on which kind is best left to concensus between the woman and her physician.

    This is what I’m saying: that decision is being taken out of the hands of _either_ the woman or her physician, and is being made by legislative douchebags – that’s why it meets the definition of ‘rape’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  37. Hey Norm says:

    @ Legion…

    “…and is being made by legislative douchebags…”

    …who, it must be said, are against the PPACA because in their imagination it comes between a woman and her physician. Hypocrisy run amok.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  38. Franklin says:

    @rodney dill: Interesting quote. I’m no expert on rape, but I think it’s well-known to be more of an expression of power than sexuality. Perhaps one could say that rape is something like “exerting power through undesired sexual contact”. In this case, it’s not the gynecologist who is trying to express his/her power, it’s some lawmaker somewhere. But it’s still presumably undesired contact with the woman’s private parts. So my current opinion is that the analogy to rape is at least arguable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  39. PD Shaw says:

    @Franklin: Trudeau makes the doctor the rapist; perhaps if the strip had been written differently to make the legislator the rapist, it would be less offensive.

    I still think though we’re in Godwin’s Law territory. In fact, if this is rape, then the doctor should not perform it. Its no defense to an act of evil (malum in se) that one is simply following orders.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  40. rodney dill says:

    @sam:

    But if it’s against the woman’s will…?

    Are you presuming a Doctor would give a woman a TV ultrasound without her consent?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  41. WR says:

    @rodney dill: “Are you presuming a Doctor would give a woman a TV ultrasound without her consent? ”

    Do you really pay this little attention to the world outside your prejudices. The Virginia law — rewritten at the last moment due to huge protests — specifically stated that the doctor was required to perform the TV ultrasound EVEN IF THE PATIENT REFUSED TO CONSENT.

    This is a fact. It’s not about anyone “presuming” anything. It’s a reality, something you seem to have no interest in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3

  42. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @rodney dill: If the transvaginal ultrasound is a mandatory condition of a first trimester abortion, and then requiring it is coercive, not consensual.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  43. @PD Shaw:

    Its unfair to the doctors who perform the procedure, which is a normal procedure that many women have had.

    Sex is a normal thing many women have had too. Just because women consent to something in some situations does not stop it from being rape when it is forced upon them in others.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  44. mattt says:

    @rodney dill: I’d hate to think a doctor actually would, but that’s what these laws mandate: that a woman who has decided she needs an abortion, a legal medical procedure, must undergo this procedure.

    Coercion + Penetration = Rape, in every jurisdiction I’m aware of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  45. PD Shaw says:

    @Stormy Dragon: So you think the doctor is a rapist if he/she administers the test?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  46. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I still think though we’re in Godwin’s Law territory. In fact, if this is rape, then the doctor should not perform it. Its no defense to an act of evil (malum in se) that one is simply following orders.

    PD, when I first read about this, the phrase that popped into my mind was “Rape by Proxy”, as it did meet the the legal definition of rape in Virginia. (and apparently TX) As to Doctors should refuse to perform this procedure, you are absolutely correct. Which is why I find the all but deafening silence from the AMA so disturbing.

    But then, why should anyone expect them to have the courage to speak out? On one side or the other?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  47. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PD Shaw:

    So you think the doctor is a rapist if he/she administers the test?

    Unequivocally Yes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Consent being the difference maker.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  49. rodney dill says:

    @mattt: Then I look forward to the prosecution of the first case of rape due to this law.

    (Not to advocate TV ultrasound, nor rape, just out of curiosity to see what will transpire. I suspect there will not be any rape trials due to this law(s), but I also doubt the law(s) will stand judicial review)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  50. mattt says:

    @PD Shaw: If the test is medically unnecessary and administered under coercion – ie, a woman will be denied a legal medical procedure (abortion) that she has determined to be necessary, unless she undergoes this invasive procedure – then yes, it’s rape.

    Coercion + Penetration = Rape.

    Even the noninvasive forms of ultrasound if imposed under these conditions would constitute assault in most jurisdictions, I’d imagine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  51. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @PD Shaw: In any case where the woman’s “consent” is coercive, yes. The doctor is acting as an agent of the state to insert a large phallic object into the woman for no medically valid reason. This makes him a rapist in the same way that a soldier “following orders” can be a torturer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  52. steve says:

    “Personally, if an ultrasound is required to determine gestational age of the fetus, I believe the decision on which kind is best left to concensus between the woman and her physician.”

    It must be a transvaginal ultrasound at early ages. The woman has no choice. I think the proper response is to pass one of these laws.

    “Virginia: As the state Senate debated requiring transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, Sen. Janet Howell proposed mandating rectal exams and cardiac stress tests for men seeking erectile dysfunction meds. Her amendment failed by just two votes……

    Ohio: A bill introduced by state Sen. Nina Turner would compel men to get psychological screenings before getting prescriptions for impotence meds. “We must advocate for the traditional family,” Turner said, “and ensure that all men using PDE-5 inhibitors are healthy, stable, and educated about their options—including celibacy as a viable life choice.”

    Illinois: State Rep. Kelly Cassidy proposed requiring men seeking Viagra to watch a video showing the treatment for persistent erections, an occasional side effect of the little blue pill. As she explained, “It’s not a pretty procedure to watch.”

    Of course, the rectal exam should be with a 10″ probe, just to be fair.

    http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/03/birth-control-viagra-vasectomy-laws

    Steve

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  53. PD Shaw says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: The rape laws generally read differently with respect to health professionals; the doctor generally needs to be exploiting the doctor/patient relationship for his/her own benefit. If you don’t put this in its clinical context, every pap smear, shot or bone-setting would be chargeable as an assult.

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  54. sam says:

    @rodney dill:

    Are you presuming a Doctor would give a woman a TV ultrasound without her consent?

    Coercion, Rodney, coercion.

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  55. sam says:

    I will give you this, though, Rodney. I don’t think the TV ultrasound under coercion would rise to the level of rape, but it would surely count as sexual battery, no?

    @PD Shaw:

    the doctor generally needs to be exploiting the doctor/patient relationship for his/her own benefit.

    And if the doctor is under threat of suspension of his or her license if he or she does not perform the procedure, then what?

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  56. rodney dill says:

    @sam:

    And if the doctor is under threat of suspension of his or her license if he or she does not perform the procedure, then what?

    If the doctor felt the woman was only allowing the procedure under coercion, do you think he/she would go ahead with the ultrasound and abortion? Granted its not a position the Doctor should be in, but I doubt many would force a procedure on an individual.

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  57. Let’s be clear about one thing. As a legal matter, the fact that this procedure is mandated by state law means that, by definition, the doctor is shielded from liability — civil or criminal — for the act.

    I oppose mandatory ultrasounds but calling it rape is extreme hyperbole

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  58. legion says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    As a legal matter, the fact that this procedure is mandated by state law means that, by definition, the doctor is shielded from liability — civil or criminal — for the act

    But what if it violates Federal law? Can states provide immunity from civil/criminal consequences at that level?

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  59. Franklin says:

    @PD Shaw: When I wrote that, I was thinking more generally about the analogy than Trudeau’s specific application. I would have clarified if I had simply remembered what the main topic is.

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  60. sam says:

    @rodney dill:

    If the doctor felt the woman was only allowing the procedure under coercion, do you think he/she would go ahead with the ultrasound and abortion?

    Yes, I do think that. If she wants the abortion, she must submit to the procedure. The doctor may not like having to perform the ultrasound any more than she does, but they are both caught in this bullshit nexus. As as for the doctor being shielded from liability, well maybe so, but that does not change the nature of the act. I agree it’s not rape, but I do maintain it’s sexual battery if she submits under the coercion of not having the abortion unless…

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  61. @legion:

    No, the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution would forbid that.

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  62. @rodney dill:

    If the doctor felt the woman was only allowing the procedure under coercion, do you think he/she would go ahead with the ultrasound and abortion?

    Yes:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

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  63. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PD Shaw:

    The rape laws generally read differently with respect to health professionals; the doctor generally needs to be exploiting the doctor/patient relationship for his/her own benefit. If you don’t put this in its clinical context, every pap smear, shot or bone-setting would be chargeable as an assult.

    Sorry PD, this time I have to cal BULL SH*T…

    When was the last time a pap smear was done without patient consent? A shot? A bone setting? (outside of the context of massive trauma, which clearly is not the context here) Never.

    Ever have a colonoscopy, PD? You know, that really embarrassing procedure where they shove a camera up your a$$? Tell me, did you take the general anesthesia? Have you EVER heard of a man who had one done with OUT general anesthesia? It certainly is not painful, so why does EVERY man (including me, who absolutely HATES gen a ) take gen a during a colonoscopy?

    Because quite plain and simply, I do not want to be that humiliated.

    Done it once PD, and will never have another because of how much I hate g/a, I would rather die of cancer than have another colonoscopy but cannot imagine having a colonoscopy w/o g/a.

    Why do you think a woman should be less inclined to be so violated?

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  64. al-Ameda says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    I believe that most doctors want to stay out of this “debate” entirely. I think many are afraid to publicly comment.

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  65. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I oppose mandatory ultrasounds but calling it rape is extreme hyperbole

    I was raped during undergrad, and I vehemently disagree.

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  66. An Interested Party says:

    There’s some sort of sexual dysfunction afoot. More than standard vagina envy. Darker. More prurient.

    The writer of these words is a bit confused….the above statement does indeed apply to some people involved in this issue, but not to Trudeau…

    Some people need graphic images to point things out to them…

    This certainly seems to be the reasoning behind these bills that are being pushed in Arizona, Virginia, Kansas, and Pennsylvania…

    Its unfair to the doctors who perform the procedure, which is a normal procedure that many women have had.

    Yes of course, when those women want to have the procedure, but when they are forced to have it

    If you don’t put this in its clinical context, every pap smear, shot or bone-setting would be chargeable as an assult.

    How often are these done without the patient’s consent?

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  67. mattt says:

    @Doug Mataconis: So, you’re saying, that under US law, “I was only following orders” is a perfect excuse.

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  68. mattt says:

    BTW: F*** you Doug Mataconis. In the a**. Four or Five times.

    [Comment edited for violation of site comment policies]

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  69. mattt says:

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    Of course it is. I should have called Doug a slut – then I’d be exercising protected speech.

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  70. anjin-san says:

    I oppose mandatory ultrasounds but calling it rape is extreme hyperbole

    Really? If a woman wants to have a legal medical procedure, she will be forced to strip down to a skimpy gown, get up on a table, spread her legs, and have a foreign object inserted in her vagina. What do you call it? And the cherry on top is that GOP meme that the woman is some kind of slut anyway, so it’s no biggie.

    If someone tried to make my wife do that against her will they would have to contend with me and a baseball bat.

    Tell you what, in another decade or so, you will probably want some flavor of viagra to give your sex life a bit more zip. Let’s make a rule that first you have to bend over a table, spread your butt cheeks and endure a little probing before you get your script. Sound fair?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  71. I believe your comment displays all we need to know about you.

    To answer your question, I was merely saying that the conduct in question does not meet the legal definition of rape.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  72. anjin-san says:

    I oppose mandatory ultrasounds but calling it rape is extreme hyperbole

    Really? If a woman wants to have a legal medical procedure, she will be forced to strip down to a skimpy gown, get up on a table, spread her legs, and have a foreign object inserted in her vagina. What do you call it? And the cherry on top is that GOP meme that the woman is some kind of slut anyway, so it’s no biggie.

    If someone tried to make my wife do that against her will they would have to contend with me and a baseball bat.

    Tell you what, in another decade or so, you will probably want some flavor of viagra to give your sex life a bit more zip. Let’s make a rule that first you have to bend over a table, spread your cheeks and endure a little probing before you get your script. Sound fair?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  73. mattt says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Thank’s Doug, honestly. I’ll wear those asterix with honor.

    You obviously have no idea how these small points of law affect millions of Americans in real terms.

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  74. Liberty60 says:

    From a standpoint of political strategy, this is why I think using the word “rape” is a poor choice.

    Not that it isn’t true, its just so inflammatory a word that it distracts from the real issue which is, no matter what you call it, it is an outrageous invasion of a woman’s body by legislators acting without regard to medical need.

    Instead we get threads like this, where we spend 80 posts debating the precise legal definition of a word.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  75. mattt says:

    @Liberty60: “outrageous invasion of a woman’s body”

    All I need to hear.

    CONVICT.

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  76. KansasMom says:

    If you stick it up my vagina without my consent then I will accuse you of rape. If you happen go be a doctor then the civil suit will be that much more lucrative. I don’t care if the my state legislators have something to say, a judge will decide.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  77. PD Shaw says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: You made a legal claim, I pointed out without attempting to humuliate or embarrass you that you were missing a key point.

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  78. legion says:

    @mattt:

    You obviously have no idea how these small points of law affect millions of Americans in real terms.

    He’s not making the decision, mattt, he’s making an interpretation of law. You can disagree with him, but the villains here are the legislators, not the messengers.

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  79. rodney dill says:

    @KansasMom: I wouldn’t expect a Doctor to actually force themselves on you, but given the context of an abortion I think the Doctor would have 3 primary options. (there may be other variations, at least commentors will think of some)
    1. Convince you to have the TV Ultrasound, (Sometimes referred to as coercion above), and perform the abortion.
    2. Break the law and perform the abortion without the ultrasound.
    3. Not perform the abortion.
    I think these would preclude the possibility of a civil suit.

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  80. @legion:

    To answer your question, I was merely saying that the conduct in question does not meet the legal definition of rape.

    That’s like saying that state legalizes lynching, it can’t be murder because it doesn’t meet the legal definition of murder. It’s true, but only tautologically so.

    How about the moral definition of rape?

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  81. @Stormy Dragon:

    Sorry, that was supposed ot link to Doug, not legion.

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  82. matt says:

    @rodney dill: A regular ultrasound would work fine for determining gestational age. You just need to know that it’s younger then what the law requires and if you cannot see it then it’s younger then the law requires..

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  83. David M says:

    @Liberty60: I’ll agree with this to a point, the rape discussion sometimes can be a distraction, especially when talking about the doctors. However, it seems to suit the people that voted for it, as it’s not much of a stretch to say they are requiring and causing the rape of these women, even if by proxy. So yeah, every legislator that voted for a law requiring a trans-vaginal ultrasound is a rapist.

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  84. mattt says:

    Doug, I’d like to apologize for the language and personal nature of my previous post. I wish more people were angrier about this issue, and I hope that commenters who are are inclined to wonder “What’s the big deal” come to realize that the outrage it has inspired is driven by knowledge of the real trauma and harm these measures would impose on many people if enforced. But in this case rage got the better of me and my remarks were certainly over the line. Thanks for not banning me, I’ll be sure to make more responsible use of the forum in the future.

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  85. Joe McCarthy says:

    @Doug Mataconis: FWIW, here’s a link to the first strip in the series on the “scandal facilitator” brought in to discuss “improper conduct” and terms such as “oral sex” and “semen-streaked dresses” with 3rd graders: http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/archive/1998/02/09.

    I was surprised not to see any links to the current week’s controversial strips in the initial post, so in case anyone reading the post has gotten this far without searching for the Texas “shame” series, here is a link to the first strip: http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/archive/2012/03/12

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