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Rick Perry's War on Texas Women

The controversy over whether newspapers should run Doonesbury this week has proved that what Rick Perry deems appropriate for the Texas statutes is unfit for polite conversation in the rest of America.
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The controversy over whether newspapers should run Doonesbury this week has proved that what Rick Perry deems appropriate for the Texas statutes is unfit for polite conversation in the rest of America.

It is perfectly fine to gossip on TMZ about Snooki getting knocked up in the "smoosh room" on Jersey Shore, but heaven forefend a comic strip make fun of the Texas sonogram law. In 2011, Perry signed a bill forcing women seeking abortions to undergo invasive sonograms to tell them the shocking news that they're pregnant.

Garry Trudeau, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, devoted a week's worth of Doonesbury strips to mocking this law, and for his trouble dozens of newspapers are refusing to run his comic strip.

The Oregonian told its readers it was dumping Doonesbury this week because the storyline "went over the line of good taste and humor," something that could also be said about the Oregonian itself. The Portland daily did not cover itself in glory when it described former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt's longtime sexual relationship with his family's 14-year-old babysitter "an affair."

By forcing women to look at the results of their ultrasound, the Texas sonogram law supposes that women seeking abortions are either unaware of their pregnancy or the consequences of their choice, that is, that they're either ignorant or dumb. It's amazing they let women still vote around here, much less serve in the U.S. Senate.

Emitting a particularly noxious fume is the provision of the law detailing the manner of this ritual humiliation -- a 10-inch-long ultrasound probe. If you're upset about "individual mandates" when it comes to your health care decisions, the Texas sonogram law should upset you. This isn't the ultrasound where they squirt the jelly on your belly and rub the wand around until you see your baby's fingers and toes. The wand mandated in the Texas law is phallic for a reason. It gives new meaning to the term "yeehaw."

With all the controversy over a comic strip, it's possible we're missing the point. Forcing women to submit to having a big probe inserted into their Utah should be the source of our outrage, not the attempts to satirize this bad law by mocking the instrument as a "shaming wand."

Trudeau rightly points out that mocking stupid laws is a satirist's job.

"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. But to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice," he recently told the Washington Post.

This Doonesbury thing isn't even the biggest front in Perry's own private war on Texas women. Perry is now in a fight with the Obama administration over a program that provides birth control and other health services to 130,000 poor women in Texas. He'd rather none of the money go to Planned Parenthood on the grounds that they provide abortions -- even though all this program does is prevent unwanted pregnancies, and none of the money pays for abortions.

The state estimates that by helping women avoid unplanned pregnancies, this women's health program has saved Texas taxpayers $37.6 million over the last two years. But because women have to go to Planned Parenthood clinics to get the birth control, Perry zeroed this program out during the last session, forcing 11 clinics to shut their doors. Now Perry says he'll find the money to keep the program going but without Planned Parenthood, which is kind of like saying the Dallas Cowboys are welcome to have home games but that Texas Stadium is off-limits.

And then, because Perry's rhetorical style recalls a teenager driving after drinking his first six-pack, the governor called Rush Limbaugh's critics hypocrites for reasons that escape popular understanding. But then again, this is a governor whose idea of a good way to fund a sexual assault prevention program was to slap strip clubs with a $5 entrance fee tax. That's right. He passed a pole tax.

If the gender gap gets any worse, pretty soon men and women will be voting in separate bedrooms.

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