Cartoon: How Banning the Abortion Pill Works

If court cases are lost, cops will be investigating any and all miscarriages – do you want or will you stand for this invasion of personal rights?


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I can’t always say what inspires any particular cartoon. But in this case, I know exactly. Jessica Valenti tweeted this:

Not one anti-choice legislator has answered this question: If a woman  shows up at a hospital, losing her pregnancy – how will you determine  who is having a miscarriage and who deliberately ended it? Pregnancy  loss from taking an abortion pill is indistinguishable from miscarriage.

Building off of Jessica’s point, Lindsay Beyerstein wrote a thread on Twitter, beginning with this tweet:

If history is any guide, they’ll put cops in hospital rooms to quiz  bleeding, drugged-up women; they’ll subpoena phone and internet records;  they’ll grill and threaten friends and coworkers to turn on her; you know, the usual criminal justice stuff.

I checked with Jessica and Lindsay, both of whom very nicely told me to go ahead, and then I wrote this strip.

It’s easy to ignore the kind of police state methods that will be necessary to enforce laws about something as personal as how people reproduce. This is especially the case with banning “the abortion pill,” a drug that should ideally be taken under a doctor’s supervision, but can be taken in private.

Not every cop is abusive, and not every D.A. is abusive. But enough of them are, and the justice system has evolved to accommodate the abuse and protect the abusers. Laws banning mifepristone are inevitably going to target patients who are at their most vulnerable. For something that should never be illegal in the first place.

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Scripting this one took a while. My first drafts, following on Lindsey’s tweets, also talked about how forensic “science” will be used to prosecute, regardless of if it’s reliable. We think of forensics as a very reliable science – just look at what they do with it on CSI! But in practice, it’s a field that’s bursting with pseudoscience, corruption, and guesswork disguised as certainty. To give just one example, identifying people based on bite-marks is completely unreliable – but one that’s been used to prosecute people. There are horrifying stories of dubious convictions based on unscientific nonsense about burn patterns – including at least one execution. Bloodstain analysis, which seems so certain on Dexter, is anything but. Even fingerprints are less reliable than Sherlock Holmes believed.

But trying to explain how unreliable forensic evidence actually is ended up being too much to fit into one cartoon. The script was overloaded and clunky, and so I streamlined by getting rid of the forensic angle. Maybe I’ll return to that in a future strip.

Then, what should the situation be? I knew I wanted the gag to be a ban proponent telling the horrifying truth about what a  mifepristone ban would look like, and then correcting himself in the final panel. My first thought was a Senator at a press conference, telling the truth in thought balloons but then saying the sanitized version aloud; then I tried a Senator being briefed by a pro-life lobbyist.

In the end, seeking to simplify and streamline, I went with the “ask me anything” forum. I liked the device of having him type in an answer, and then deleting and rewording – because it just felt so relatable. Who among us hasn’t done that?

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Folks supporting my patreon got to see this strip a week ago! I’m just saying.

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TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has nine panels, arranged in a three by three grid. Every panel shows the same subject: A man wearing glasses and a polo shirt, sitting at a small table, with a laptop computer open in front of him.

PANEL 1

The man sits typing on his laptop. There’s a “tap tap tap” sound effect for his typing. Above him, in Ariel font (a font commonly used for computer text), we can see what he’s typing. He is smiling and looks relaxed.

MAN (typing): Hello, “ask me anything” forum. I wrote proposed legislation to make using Mifepristone, also known as “the abortion pill,” a felony. Ask me anything!

PANEL 2

The man speaks aloud (in the usual faux-handwritten comic book font I use), looking pleasantly surprised.

MAN: I wonder how long it takes for… Oh, someone’s asked me a question already!

PANEL 3

The man reads aloud from his laptop screen. (Again, regular comic book font.)

MAN: “Pregnancy loss from taking an abortion pill is indistinguishable from miscarriage. How will you know who to arrest?”

PANEL 4

The man, still smiling and looking relaxed, types on his laptop.

MAN (types): Great question! First, we’ll tell doctors and nurses to immediately call the police if they think a miscarriage is suspicious.

PANEL 5

The same scene, but closer up. His smile looks creepier, however.

MAN (types): Cops will show up and grill women while they’re still bleeding and drugged. The perfect time to get a confession!

PANEL 6

Even closer up. His smile looks downright malicious now.

MAN (types): Experience suggests that certain classes of women- like poor women and black women -will more often be seen as “suspicious.” That shouldn’t bother you becau

PANEL 7

The man leans back from the laptop and puts a hand on the side of his face as he thinks. He’s no longer smiling.

PANEL 8

Leaning forward again, frowning, the man hits the “delete” key a few times. We know this because of the sound effect, which says: “Delete! Delete! Delete!”

PANEL 9

The man types again, once more looking relaxed.

MAN (types): Great question! We’ll know who to arrest through good old-fashioned police work.