Thursday, January 05, 2006

Reader Mailbag - Abortion?

One interesting part of this job is, the comics you're sure will cause a shitstorm often don't, and the ones you think couldn't possibly offend anyone often manage to draw out the crazies who get offended by the weirdest things. A reader wrote to me a few years ago, for instance, to complain that one of the characters wears sunglasses at night. Why, he asked, would I so callously encourage our nation's children to do something that would cause blindness, accidents and horrible mangled suffering? There are some readers who surprise me, not because they write in about stupid things, but because they were able to read the comic strip in the first place.

A few days ago, I posted an e-mail exchange with the "Stupid Reader of the Day." Thankfully, most of Candorville's readers are more intelligent, and even when they disagree with the strip, they manage to present that disagreement in a respectful, thoughtful way.

Today's strip was conjecture about one side effect of the State's decision to allow pharmacists to deny birth control to women if it violates their religious beliefs. I received a few e-mails about it, but surprisingly, they were all thoughtful and polite. Here's one that's representative of those e-mails:

Mr. Bell --

I imagine you would prefer to receive comments about your strips on your message boards, but I hope you don't mind -- I preferred to contact you directly.

I'm assuming that the comic I will refer to below ran on Jan 5th everywhere, but my paper -- the Chicago Tribune -- accidentally ran the same page of comics on Jan 3rd and 4th, so it may be off by one day. It was the strip that contained panels that showed:

2002 -- a reference to pharmacaists that choose to follow their conscience and not prescribe drugs that they feel destroys a living human being

2020 -- a reference to the Republican party being projected to do well in an election

I want to thank you for this creating this strip as a "cautionary tale" for the Democratic party -- (I would also say for the black community, but since I am white, I will not presume.)

Unless the Democratic party wakes up and realizes that the generation of those saved from the tragedy of abortion began voting around 1993 -- not some point in the future, let alone 2020 -- they will continue to founder.

These children realize that it is primarily the Republican party that did not condemn them to a death sentence simply based on their color, their economic status, their parents' age or marital status, their own size/age, their physical deficits, their father's evil actions, their mother's treatable mental or physical status, etc

You don't need to tell me all that is wrong with the Republican party -- I am aware that all political parties should work for better conditions for women, children, and families -- but they alone defend what is really at stake -- the right to be born and given a chance at life.

The Republican party doesn't deny the unborn a chance to prove that every child (and their mother and/or father) has the potential to rise above all temporary setbacks and live a great life -- if given that chance.

I am a member of Feminists for Life (which you can find our more about at which is not affiliated with any political party. It sometime pains me to that I have to vote Republican, but until the Democratic party allows for even the slightest reconsideration on this issue, it's where I'll stay -- and where the growing pro-life community will continue to gravitate.

In closing, I don't always agree with your strip, but I read it everyday as I find it relevant without being rude (most of the time) unlike The Boondocks (most of the time!) while remaining funny (ditto!)

Thank you for your time,


What I try to do with Candorville is contribute to the national dialogue, to get people to think. I don't really care whether people agree with me, I just think there isn't enough critical thought in this country. Since 9-11, asking questions, connecting dots and doubting the intentions of government have become taboo, and I'm trying to do my part to chip away at that attitude. So I appreciate when people who disagree with me take the time to tell me why, because it tells me it's working.

These days, I still receive a few e-mails telling me to "Shut up," or that "nobody wants to hear that," or asking why I hate America, and after I exchange an e-mail or two with them to confirm that they're idiots, I add them to Mail's "nut" list and they automatically get the following form reply from me from then on:

Dear reader,

While we try to answer every e-mail, even the crazy ones, some are just way too crazy to bother with. If you are on this list, congratulations, you have joined the incredibly small handful of nuts who've been blocked by this e-mail address:


1. You are a bigot.
2. You are just WAY too easily offended.
3. After we've sent you several links to our sources, you continue to deny that a recent comic strip was factually correct.
4. You believe the numbers on the bus stop signs in Candorville are communicating secret messages having to do with aliens.
5. You believe you speak for God, that your religion is superior to all others, and that anyone who disagrees with you is hopelessly lost.
6. You began your e-mail with "I believe in free speech, BUT..."
7. You spelled "loser" or "stupid" incorrectly.

Your e-mails will not be answered unless they are accompanied by a note from an accredited psychiatrist.

Good luck to you.


Darrin Bell
Cartoonist, "Candorville"
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But when they write to me, as "C.M." did, to present their views thoughtfully, I respect that. Even if I think they're dead wrong. My response to "C.M.":

Ms. "C.M.",

Thank you for taking the time to write.

I'm confused about why you say a generation of Americans "saved from abortion" began voting in 1993. After all, the generation that began voting in the Nineties was the first generation born after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationally.

I'm also confused by the language you use, which seems to suggest you believe Democrats are anti-life and are engaged in some sort of genocide against people based on their economic status, race, etc...

That simply is not the case. Democrats seem to have two major arguments, one based on practicality, the other based on principle:

The practical argument is that women have always sought abortions. Always. And when it wasn't legal, women still obtained them and in many cases this resulted in severe injury or death. Legalizing abortion has virtually ended the back-alley abortion industry and its horrible conditions.

The principled argument is that government has no right to decide what people do with their own bodies. People do not agree on when life begins or when it ends, and that such a decision is a personal one to be made by those directly involved. Whether it's with the issue of abortion or the issue of discontinuing life support, the principled argument is that that's personal, and shouldn't be used as a political football for partisan purposes.

That said, the comic strip you mentioned was not about abortion, it was about birth control pills and the morning after pill (neither of which aborts a fetus; rather they both work to inhibit ovulation, fertilization, and implantation of the egg in the uterus. In other words, the woman never becomes pregnant in the first place.). If you are against abortion, you should favor both the birth control pill and the morning after pill, because they prevent the formation of life in the body of a woman who would otherwise be likely to abort it.

As for the pharmacists, I believe that if they're going to let their personal beliefs prevent them from providing any legal drugs to adults who are legally allowed to purchase them, they should go into another line of work. In my opinion, they, and government, have no right to make such a personal decision for women.

And as for the Democratic Party foundering because of their support of the freedom to choose, that's unsupported by the facts. Most Americans are pro-choice. If that were the issue people were basing their vote on, Democrats would control all three branches of government right now. The Democrats are foundering because they don't fight as hard as Republicans do, they don't articulate the morality of their position (it's moral to ensure safe working conditions for miners, for instance, rather than ensuring the mine companies can avoid penalties for unsafe working conditions - look up the cuts the White House has made to the Mine Safety and Health Administration since 2002).

Thanks again for taking the time to write, and for reading Candorville!


Darrin Bell
Cartoonist, "Candorville"


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Brenna said...

Thank you for being one of the few men who understand that women have a right to control their own bodies (even though that wasn't what the strip was about)! It really annoys me when the majority of people who can alter the law are not part of the majority they affect. I love the comics.

a voice in the wilderness... said...

I'm glad your mom was not pro-choice.

Darrin Bell said...

Brenna, I agree completely. Thanks for writing!

Voice in the Wilderness, I appreciate your comment, and understand what you mean. But I think you're operating on a false conception about what "pro-choice" means. My mother was (and is) pro-choice. She chose to have me. And my personal belief is, if she didn't want me, I'd rather my eternal soul was born in the child of a woman who did.

Anja Maria said...

Wow, I'm very impressed by your reply. C.M. obviously deeply believes in the morality of anti-abortion legislation, and as such, a discussion on the subject must be tactful. It's nice to see you point out that the issue is not abortion itself; the issue is women's right to personal choice. I would never get an abortion (because of my own convictions and circumstances), but I don't think the government should make that decision for me.

Of course, like you say, abortion wasn't really the subject of the strip... So congratulations for pointing that out and deftly handling the topic anyway.

(Also, it's kind of tragic when people say, "It sometime pains me to that I have to vote Republican, but until the Democratic party allows for even the slightest reconsideration on this issue, it's where I'll stay..." or the like. No, no, no. You are clearly a good, compassionate person; vote for the party that will improve and protect lives, not the one that manipulates your feelings on one specific issue.)

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