Doonesbury strip pulled to avoid confusing Georgia readers
Agreeing or disagreeing is never a good reason to censor the idea. Neither is pulling it from your paper because you're afraid that your readers might confuse the strip for commentary on their own state's news instead of knowing that it's about Texas.
So let's break this down. First, Jim Thompson, the Editorial Page editor for the Athens Banner-Herald, wrote Sunday in the "Editor's Corner" that he wouldn't be running the Doonesbury strip about the Texas ultrasound requirement because it would confuse his Georgia readers. Quote:
Given that the Georgia General Assembly is considering an abortion bill — House Bill 954, sponsored by Rep. Doug McKillip, R-Athens, which would prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy — I made a unilateral decision not to publish the “Doonesbury” strips intended for publication this week. Quite simply, I thought there was a real possibility that readers might confuse the topic of this week’s “Doonesbury” with Georgia’s proposed abortion legislation, and I didn’t want to add any confusion to the ongoing concerns, pro and con, about House Bill 954.
Since then, his reasons have been picked up and roundly mocked by major news sites. Thompson wrote today that he was reconsidering his stance: "That decision has, though, been viewed by many readers as an insult to their intelligence. I certainly understand that viewpoint, and that’s why I’m taking a new look at the issue." He says there might be a change -- a restoration of new Doonesbury instead of Doonesbury reruns -- on Wednesday.
Yes, that says Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.
Is it possible to confuse the Doonesbury strip from today with what's happening in Georgia? Eh, maybe, if all you read is the comics. If not, the debate over HB954 has been pretty big news in the Peach state for the last few weeks -- particularly since the bill passed the House two weeks ago. If it were to take effect, this law would make all abortions illegal after 20 weeks unless the health of the mother or another unborn fetus were at risk. It specifically excludes psychological health, including suicidal impulses, from the reasons for termination. Doctors would also be required to report that they had proven gestational age to be at 20 weeks or below before performing any abortion services.
The bill has been hotly debated in this very Georgia newspaper, with one local doctor charging the bill could make caring obstetricians into criminals while another doctor chimed in to say neither male legislators nor uninvolved parties should be making the "agonizing" decisions best left between women and their physicians.
In fact, most of the debate about this bill centers around two points of argument: the bill's sponsor's contention of when a fetus can feel pain, and opponents' charges that the bill would force women to carry non-viable fetuses to term. Ultrasounds were't a spotlight star here.
So could you see the Doonesbury strip and, as a loyal and intelligent Georgian, become confused about what it means? Maybe! Maybe all abortion debates run together in your head. Truthfully, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. If running the Doonesbury strip got readers in Georgia to thinking and discussing further what limitations they're willing to accept -- and what governmental interference they're willing to endorse -- I'm not sure that's a bad thing.
Real learning often comes from confusion, after all, and wouldn't it be a blessing to see a little uncertainty interjected into a debate where, currently, certainty of righteousness is fueling a crusade for further restrictions nationwide.