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Bill aims to make cancer screenings more widely available and to reduce disparities in access to quality, affordable preventive care

WASHINGTON – Today, health care champions Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA-34) moved to increase people’s access to lifesaving cancer screenings by introducing the Jeanette Acosta Invest in Women’s Health Act in the United States Senate and House. This bill will expand funding for preventive health care services with a focus on breast and gynecological cancer screenings, particularly for women of color. It will also create training opportunities for health care providers — including specialty training for treating women of color and women with low incomes — and initiate research studies on awareness and availability of effective cancer screening options.

Jeanette Acosta was a bold activist and community leader, a former Capitol Hill staffer, and a former Planned Parenthood patient. Jeanette passed away in 2017 after a diagnosis of cervical cancer; she was 32. The bill, named in her memory, has been endorsed by a wide array of organizations, including Black Women’s Health Imperative and Human Rights Watch.

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America: 

“It is deeply moving to watch Sen. Murray and Rep. Gomez introduce this critical legislation, which honors the spirit and memory of a fierce health care advocate, Jeanette Acosta. We know education, preventive screening, and early detection increase the chance of surviving cervical and breast cancer. And we know that, because of centuries of systemic racism, Black women, Indigenous women, and Latinas die far too often from these horrific diseases, in large part because of barriers to preventive health care. Planned Parenthood Federation of America is proud to support this bill and to offer these critical health services to our patients. Congress must pass this legislation as quickly as possible — lives are at stake.”

In 2021, there will be an estimated 386,660 new cases of breast, uterine, ovarian, and cervical cancer. Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that are primarily engaged in sexual and reproductive health care provide critical cancer screenings, education, and referrals to patients. From October 2018 to September 2019, Planned Parenthood health centers across the country provided more than 598,000 services to prevent and screen for cancer.

Due to centuries of systemic racism, women of color in the U.S. face barriers to accessing quality health care. All too often, these barriers have devastating consequences, including higher rates of certain cancers, delayed diagnoses and treatment, and increased mortality rates. Black women and other women of color die at higher rates from cervical cancer than white women. And while white women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, Black women are more likely to die from the disease. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging for many people to access preventive health services due to loss of employment, change in insurance status, reduced in-person care, and other factors. This is especially true for people of color: While 29% of white women report that the pandemic made it harder to access reproductive health care, 38% of Black women and 45% of Hispanic women report facing increased barriers. 

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.