Last week’s anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, combined with the frail image of Chief Justice William Rehnquist swearing in a pro-life president, seemed like a good time to ask the question: Why draw cartoons about abortion?
They make our editors nervous. Our publishers hate them. Half of what we draw on the issue outrages half of our readers, and the rest outrages the other half. And almost no one, with the interesting exception of Ms. Roe herself, has ever changed her view on the subject.
So why do we bother?
The factors above argue not for the futility of hot-button-issue cartoons but rather for their utility. Abortion is divisive, sure, but no more so than war, religion or the sexual orientation of SpongeBob. Cartoons, even more than editorials, ought to take a strong stance, prod, cajole, needle, spark debate. And if the cajoling seems like cudgeling to some, so be it.
Legal scholars may quibble over the constitutional right to privacy, but the 1st Amendment is undeniable. On that subject, journalists tend to be strict constructionists. Failing to exercise our rights threatens the health of the motherland.Joel Pett is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist of the Lexington Herald-Leader. His work also appears in USA Today.