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This week:

Melania Trump leaves for Africa, another Supreme Court victory for women in India, and a “Fill in the Blank” with curator Ashley James.

The nation is deeply divided over the Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh hearing

Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh’s testimony at a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday captured the attention of the country — and the world. More than 20 million people watched as Ford answered questions about her allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school, saying she was “100 percent” certain it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her. Kavanaugh vehemently denied the assault allegation , at times becoming combative with Democratic lawmakers.

A YouGov survey released Saturday shows that the country is deeply divided on the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing: 41 percent of Americans said they “definitely” or “probably” believe the testimony of Ford, while 35 percent said they “definitely” or “probably” believe Kavanaugh’s testimony. The results were partisan in nature — 73 percent of Democrats said they believe Ford’s testimony, while 74 percent of Republicans said they believe Kavanaugh. And among independents, 33 percent said they believe Ford and 32 percent said they believe Kavanaugh. People took to Twitter to applaud — and cast doubt — on the testimony from both Ford and Kavanaugh.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted on party lines Friday to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination, 11 to 10. But Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who was considered a swing vote, voted for Kavanaugh with one request: that the Senate delay the full vote for a week to allow the FBI to investigate claims of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. President Trump ordered the supplemental background investigation Friday, and said Saturday that the FBI would have “free rein.” The Senate Judiciary Committee has said the investigation will be limited to “current, credible allegations” and will wrap up by the end of this week.

So far, the FBI has reached out to several people whom Ford said were present at the party where the alleged assault took place, as well as Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate who alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself during a drinking game in college. It is unclear if the FBI will investigate claims by a third woman, Julie Swetnick, who said Kavanaugh was verbally and physically aggressive with women in high school. Kavanaugh has denied all of the allegations.

In a statement Saturday, the president of the American Civil Liberties Union, Susan Herman, said the organization opposed Kavanaugh “in light of the credible allegations of sexual assault against him” — a rarity for a body that typically does not endorse or oppose judicial nominees. This is the fourth time in the ACLU’s 98-year existence it has voted to oppose a nominee.

Bill Cosby sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison

Bill Cosby. (Matt Rourke/AP/Lily illustration) ^
Bill Cosby. (Matt Rourke/AP/Lily illustration) ^

More than 60 women have accused Bill Cosby, the comedian and actor, of sexual assault or harassment in incidents that date back to the 1960s. On Tuesday, Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for just one case: the 2004 sexual assault of Andrea Constand, for which he’d been convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He was also designated a sexually violent predator.

Constand, who was a 31-year-old Temple University women’s basketball official at the time, said Cosby gave her pills at his home that left her unable to stop him from violating her. In a victim impact statement, Constand wrote: “He robbed me of my health and vitality, my open nature, and my trust in myself and others.”

First lady Melania Trump departs on her solo trip to Africa

First lady Melania Trump leaves on a weeklong trip to Africa today with members of her staff and a group of journalists. She’ll visit Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt, and will travel without her husband. The trip is similar to those of other first ladies; Barbara Bush , Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama all took trips to Africa during their tenures.

First lady Michelle Obama comforts a woman overcome with emotion at a multigenerational women leaders luncheon at the Sanitas Tea Garden in Gaborone, Botswana, in 2011. (Charles Dharapak/AP)
First lady Michelle Obama comforts a woman overcome with emotion at a multigenerational women leaders luncheon at the Sanitas Tea Garden in Gaborone, Botswana, in 2011. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

The first lady has said she plans to emphasize child welfare on the trip, but hasn’t released details about what she’ll do in each country. Back in January, President Trump came under fire for comments he made that immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries came from “shithole” countries.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter Chelsea on Goree Island in Dakar, Senegal, in 1997. (Doug Mills/AP)
Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter Chelsea on Goree Island in Dakar, Senegal, in 1997. (Doug Mills/AP)

Women serving prison sentences for abortions in El Salvador are appealing their convictions

Alba Lorena Rodríguez poses inside of Ilopango women’s prison. (Fred Ramos for The Washington Post)
Alba Lorena Rodríguez poses inside of Ilopango women’s prison. (Fred Ramos for The Washington Post)

Lawyers, activists and lawmakers in El Salvador are hoping that two recent cases — in which two women who had been incarcerated for abortions successfully appealed their convictions — will translate into a more lenient abortion law in the country. El Salvador is one of 26 countries with an absolute ban on abortion, and at least 25 women have been incarcerated, many facing decades-long sentences, since the country made abortion illegal there in 1998.

Activist groups helped secure the release of the women, but passing legislation has been more challenging; two proposals that would legalize abortion in certain cases were introduced in El Salvador’s legislature but not brought to a vote this past spring.

California becomes the first state to require female board directors

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a law Sunday that requires any publicly traded California-based company to include women on their boards of directors. It’s the first state to impose such a requirement on companies, and stipulates that each board must include at least one female director by the end of next year and up to three female directors by the end of 2021, depending on the number of board seats.

New lawsuit alleges Michigan State board member covered up Larry Nassar sex abuse

Larry Nassar. (Paul Sancya/AP; Lily illustration)
Larry Nassar. (Paul Sancya/AP; Lily illustration)

Former Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar, who more than 130 women accused of sexual assault and who pleaded guilty to several counts of sexual assault, has landed in prison for what will likely be the rest of his life, and has derailed the careers of many MSU staff members, including former president Lou Anna K. Simon. The Atlantic reports that one group, though, has escaped the sex abuse scandal unscathed: the university’s board of trustees. A new lawsuit alleges that one of the eight current members on the board, George Perles, had direct knowledge of Nassar’s abuse for decades and helped cover it up in the 1990s when he was an athletic director at the school. P erles denies the allegations.

In India, a string of Supreme Court victories for women

Indian activists of the LGBTQ community celebrate after hearing the Supreme Court verdict, in Bangalore, India. (Jagadeesh Nv/EPA/EFE)
Indian activists of the LGBTQ community celebrate after hearing the Supreme Court verdict, in Bangalore, India. (Jagadeesh Nv/EPA/EFE)

On Friday, India’s Supreme Court overturned an effective ban on the admission of women of menstruating age at one of its venerated Hindu temples. Previously, women aged 10 to 50 weren’t allowed inside the temple, which dates back to the 12th century and is located in southern Kerala.

That ruling came just a day after another victory for women’s rights, in which the Supreme Court abolished a law criminalizing extramarital affairs. In early September, the court also decriminalized gay sex. The court’s chief justice, Dipak Misra, is preparing to retire Tuesday. “Historically, women have been treated with inequality,” he said as he delivered the verdict to lift the temple’s restrictions on women’s entry.

The origins of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

First lady Nancy Reagan, with President Ronald Reagan, looks at flowers received from well-wishers after undergoing surgery for breast cancer. (AP/HO)
First lady Nancy Reagan, with President Ronald Reagan, looks at flowers received from well-wishers after undergoing surgery for breast cancer. (AP/HO)

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means that organizations, celebrities and survivors will be bringing attention to the most common cancer in women worldwide. But openness in talking about breast cancer didn’t start until the 1970s and ’80s, when prominent women began sharing their own experiences with the public.

First ladies Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan were among the first women to publicly share their battles with breast cancer. In the 1970s, when doctors discovered a lump in Ford’s right breast, Ford wanted the public to know. She made the details of her mastectomy available to the press, and, when Reagan underwent a mastectomy in 1987, the White House similarly kept the American public informed.

First lady Betty Ford examines breast cancer cells under a microscope with the aid of Dr. Frank Rauscher. (John Duricka/AP)
First lady Betty Ford examines breast cancer cells under a microscope with the aid of Dr. Frank Rauscher. (John Duricka/AP)

In 1982, Nancy Brinker founded the Susan G. Komen Foundation and launched the Komen Race for the Cure in 1983, which both educated the public and helped raise funds. By 1985, October was designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month by the American Cancer Society and a number of pharmaceutical companies.

This year, celebrities have already started bringing attention to the cause. In a video, Serena Williams sang a line from the Divinyls song “I Touch Myself” — the lead singer of Divinyls, Chrissy Amphlett, who had breast cancer and multiple sclerosis and died in 2013, had wanted the song to remind women to check their breasts for lumps. Actress Sofia Vergara, a survivor of thyroid cancer, is the face of designer Stella McCartney’s annual breast cancer awareness campaign, the proceeds of which will benefit breast cancer charities and treatment centers.

In America, breast cancer disproportionately affects young black women, largely because of a lack of access to information.

Ashley James. (Andrew E. Dowe)
Ashley James. (Andrew E. Dowe)

Ashley James is an assistant curator of contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum, where she recently helped bring “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” to life. The exhibition features over 150 works by African American artists and examines a period of great political and social upheaval in America: 1963 to 1983. James is a doctoral candidate in African American studies, English literature, and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Yale University. This week, we asked her to fill in the blank.

This book is magnificent. It’s witty; it’s dark. The concept is daring. The protagonist is a baby inside his mother’s womb, trying to prevent a terrible crime. The story resides at the corner of creepy and interesting, my favorite narrative intersection.

Nneka McGuire, Lily multiplatform editor

On Friday, two protesters blocked an elevator door at the Capitol and confronted Flake after he announced he intended to vote to confirm Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. Reporters swarmed around the women — 39-year-old Ana Maria Archila and 23-year-old Maria Gallagher, who faced allegations of sexual assault. A video of the exchange, in which Flake looked “ashamed,” according to Archila, went viral.

Were you and your friends texting as you watched Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday? We want screenshots of the most surprising, poignant or insightful moments from your group chats. With your friends’ permission, submit the best moment from your group chat here.

*Have an idea for a news-inspired baiku? Send us your creation at lily [at] washpost [dot] com, and you might see it in the next Lily Lines. We follow 5-7-5.

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