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Star Tribune, Pioneer Press pull Doonesbury ‘rape’ strips

Comics lampoon Texas anti-abortion laws, but you’ll have to go online to see them.

The Star Tribune and Pioneer Press will not run “Doonesbury” strips in their papers next week. The strips mock Texas’s mandate that women seeking abortions get a sonogram wand inserted in their vaginas.

According to columnist Jim Romenesko, Thursday’s strip contains the line, “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”

An upcoming Star Tribune statement will tell readers, “We have substituted Garry Trudeau’s ‘Doonesbury’ cartoon strip planned for this week  with alternatives. We believe the original strips planned for this week regarding Texas abortion laws contained inappropriate material for family reading.”

The Strib will direct readers online — to startribune.com/doonesbury.

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The Pioneer Press will do something similar. Features editor Amy Nelson told Romenesko, “We are subbing in print at the Pioneer Press and directing readers to online if they want to read them. Not appropriate for Comics pages with its mix of Garfield and The Duplex and not a great solution to move them to the Opinion pages for a week.”

The theory seems to be the strips are so objectionable the papers can’t even risk kids bumping into them on the editorial page. (Then again, kids are a lot more likely to be online … though probably not on a newspaper website.) Perhaps some children of Strib readers stumbled into this recent headline: “Cottage Grove man charged with raping pre-teen girl for years.”

The locals are being more cautious than similar regional papers such as the Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and Cleveland Plain Dealer. Portland’s Oregonian and the Kansas City Star are also pulling the strips. The Tulsa World chose the editorial page.

Trudeau told the Washington Post’s “Comic Riffs” that ignoring the subject — which gained national prominence when Virginia nearly passed a similar law — would be “comedy malpractice.”

As for calling it rape, Trudeau said of the Texas law: “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.”

For a look at one of the panels — but not the rape one — click here.