Doonesbury Calls Texas Abortion Law ‘Rape’ in New Comic Strip

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Douglas Healey / AP

In this April 5, 2008 file photo, Gary B. Trudeau, cartoonist and creator of "Doonesbury," speaks in New Haven, Conn.

Doonesbury is rarely afraid to step on a few toes. And that’s certainly true this week, as the comic strip is highlighting a controversial Texas abortion law. Creator Garry Trudeau calls the legal statute “rape,” leaving many newspapers up in arms over whether they should publish the strip.

(MORE: The New Politics of Abortion)

According to Romenesko, the storyline involves a woman seeking an abortion. She is sent to a “shaming room,” where she is asked by a state legislator if she knows she’s a slut. A few days later, during the procedure, the attending nurse says, “Well, it’s not comfortable, honey. But Texas feels you should have thought of that.” During a vaginal probe, the doctor follows up: “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”

(MORE: Emanata: Doonesbury at 40)

The Texas “Sonogram Bill,” otherwise known as HB-15, requires that women seeking abortions, including victims of rape, be presented with an ultrasound and the fetus’ heartbeat 24 hours before they can have the procedure. They can opt-out of seeing the sonogram and hearing the sound, but they still cannot opt out of the actual physical procedure.

Trudeau explained to the Washington Post why he chose to go ahead with the comic:

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.

Some papers, such as the Oregonian, have decided to forgo the explicit material, though major newspapers like the Chicago Tribune are running the segment. Those who are not running the particular strip will be running old Doonesbury comics in its place. The Dallas Morning News was reported to have seriously considered pulling the comic, but went ahead and published the heated storyline.

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Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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