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Tuesday 13 March 2012

Rick And Gary And Nadine And Rush

[Updates, two so far, at end of post]

Anyone worried about the appearance of the religion lobby on the horizon of the recent debates on abortion providers was right to be concerned: the likes of (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries and her pals at Christian Concern are only the first wave of the potential attack coming out of the “pro-life” movement, as can be seen from this week’s US controversy over, well, a cartoon strip.

Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury – carried for many, many years by the deeply subversive Guardian – has never shied away from lampooning politicians of all stripes, and has consistently challenged what its author sees as the wackier and more worrying results of the legislative and lobbying process. So it has been with Texas Governor Rick Perry and his abortion law.

The Texas legislation – passed into law in May last year – mandates that any woman choosing to have a termination must undergo a sonogram. Moreover, as the HuffPo report puts it, “The law requires doctors to show women images from sonograms, play fetal heartbeats aloud and describe the features of foetuses at least 24 hours before abortions”. There are exceptions to this rule in certain circumstances.

This week’s Doonesbury strips include a scenario where a young woman wanting an abortion has to take a seat in the “shaming room, where a “middle-aged, male state legislatorthen calls her a “slut – echoes of Rush Limbaugh there – and will include a doctor reading a script on behalf of Gov. Perry before welcoming her to a “compulsory transvaginal examination”.

Trudeau’s reaction to the controversy – some papers that usually take the Doonesbury strip have declined to run it this week, while others have moved it from the comics part of the paper to the editorial page – bears repetition. He said it would have been “comedy malpractice” to avoid the issue (Texas is not the only state enacting this kind of law, with others set to follow suit).

As Trudeau put it, “For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why Rick Santorum, Rush Limbaugh et al thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate, I cannot say”. And declaring war on half the electorate is effectively what these laws, and the assault on contraception, amount to.

That, of course, potentially hobbles the Republican campaign to unseat Barack Obama before the party even has a candidate in place. But that there is a significant movement on the right wanting to enact such legislation, and that this is making its way across the North Atlantic, should concern anyone working in this area in the UK. But those pushing for changes affecting abortion providers could ease those fears.

All that Nadine Dorries et al have to do is disown the Perry Law. So how about it?

[UPDATE1 14 March 0930 hours: the kind folks at Gawker have put all six of the Doonesbury strips together (see them HERE), so you can see just what Rick Perry's new law means. Somehow I doubt that Christian Concern and its champions in Parliament will be looking in]

[UPDATE2 14 March 1810 hours: You Couldn't Make It Up Dept - "A proposed law in Arizona could give employers the right to fire women who use birth control" begins this article. Anyone in any doubt about the assault from the right on what should be nothing more than a health issue should read it]

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