Alumna’s Cancer Journey Inspires Legislation

Proposed federal legislation to boost lifesaving cancer screening for women of color has been named in memory of a 2016 UC Hastings Law graduate who died of cervical cancer at age 32.

The Jeanette Acosta Invest in Women’s Health Act would provide funding for preventative health care services such as tests for breast and gynecological cancer, with the goal of expanding access to women of color. The bill, introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Patty Murray and in the House by Rep. Jimmy Gomez, would also fund training for health care providers and research studies on access to care.

Before Acosta died in 2017, she was a well-known and well-loved member of the UC Hastings community who earned a Student of the Year Award for her scholarly dedication, social justice advocacy, and leadership at the school.

After graduation, she began a career in law and policy on Capitol Hill. Her cancer diagnosis transformed her into an outspoken champion of preventative care. She wrote that she was heartbroken to find data showing that Black women suffer the highest mortality rate due to cervical cancer and Latinas suffer from the highest incidence rate.

Jeanette Acosta ’16

Acosta received care from Planned Parenthood, a key supporter of the legislation, whose President & CEO Alexis McGill Johnson described Acosta as a “fierce health care advocate.”

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 preventative health care,” Johnson said, citing a 2019 study by the National Institutes of Health.

Acosta’s legacy at UC Hastings includes a scholarship established in her honor for students who are committed to social justice and helping the Latino community through work or volunteer activities. Gabby Sergi, 2L, was the first recipient of the Jeanette M. Acosta Memorial Scholarship in 2020.