This Week in Reproductive Rights: A Title X vote and backwards views on parental leave


In top-line reproductive rights news, Vice President Mike Pence had the unique honor of casting the tie-breaking vote advancing legislation that would give states the green light to withhold funds from abortion clinics. 

In fact, the decision came down to Pence twice — once Thursday morning during a procedural vote and then later that afternoon during the Senate's final vote. 

A reporter in Washington tweeted that Pence seemed to take a certain pleasure in breaking the tie, writing that the vice president was "smiling" when he cast his vote. 

Sure — because what's more fun than blocking funds from clinics that provide patients with breast cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment for STIs and well-woman exams? 

Pool/Getty Images

Here's the gist of what else you might have missed this week:

• The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit to keep the last remaining abortion clinic in Kentucky from having to close its doors. Gov. Matt Bevin's administration insists the clinic, EMW Women's Surgical Center, isn't up to code because it lacks admitting privileges to local hospitals — a requirement the Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional in its landmark Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt decision.

• Monday brought troubling news that one in seven Americans still don't believe in paternity leave, which would be an important step toward doing away with gendered ideas about parenting and family roles.

• Alabama just became the third state to offer baby boxes to new and expecting parents as a way to combat its particularly high infant mortality rate. The boxes come with essentials for newborns and double as a safe bed for them (without the lids on, of course).

• On Tuesday, West Virginia lawmakers passed a "compromise bill" curtailing adolescent access to abortion. Minors there have to secure parental permission at least 24 hours before the procedure, unless they have a waiver from a doctor or a judge. Conservatives wanted to remove doctors from that equation, but Democratic lawmakers revised the bill so that psychiatrists and psychologists can give teens the waiver. Small victories.

• On Wednesday, the anti-abortion activists behind those roundly discredited Planned Parenthood sting videos, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were charged with 15 felonies, marking the second occasion on which they've been publicly reprimanded for their their actions to conduct the smear campaign. 

Pat Sullivan/AP

• Also on Wednesday, Missouri declined $8.3 million in federal Medicaid money earmarked for reproductive health care. Why? To block money for abortion clinics — i.e., the state's single Planned Parenthood that provides abortions — which doesn't use that funding for abortion, anyway. Oh — and the state plans to make up the difference with money from the state.

• Kentucky received the dubious honor of "first state to make doctors investigate women seeking care" on Wednesday, when Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed HB 1434  into law. Ostensibly aimed at preventing sex-selective abortions, the bill actually obligates doctors to spend an indefinite amount of "time and effort" combing through the "entire pregnancy history" of women seeking abortions.

• Meanwhile, California could become the first state to let its public colleges and universities offer students the abortion pill. State legislators are considering a bill that would make getting an early stage, medical abortion as simple as walking to the campus health center.

• Italy is currently weighing legislation that would afford women with excessively painful periods three days of paid leave each month. The concept of "menstrual leave" for Italian women has sparked debate: On the one hand, instituting paid leave could reinforce stereotypes about menstruation and weakness, and might expand the country's sexist hiring practices. On the other, some people get nightmarish periods that make doing their jobs hard. What do you think?