Alejandra Campoverdi is running for Congress and she is not afraid to let her campaign take a personal tone.
The former White House aide to President Obama who is now running for a congressional seat in a special election to fill Xavier Becerra's vacant seat in California's 34th district. She also just disclosed she has a rare gene mutation making her highly likely to develop breast cancer.
Similarly to Angelina Jolie, who in 2013 disclosed her choice to get a preventive double mastectomy after doctors gave her an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer, Campoverdi has chosen to undergo the same surgery.
But now that Congressional Republicans have officially introduced an Affordable Care Act replacement bill, she’s worried about her own health coverage.
"Breast cancer took my grandmother's life, and it nearly took my mom's,” the candidate says in a new ad released Thursday. “I've inherited the harmful BRCA2 gene mutation, which has increased my risk of breast cancer to 85 percent. Because of this pre-existing condition, I could be denied coverage without Obamacare. If Donald Trump wants to have a conversation about women's bodies, let's start with mine."
Like many women in America watching the tumultuous negotiations over the fate of health insurance, Campoverdi is afraid to lose many of the gains ushered in by the Affordable Care Act. From Trump’s proposed “deal” to preserve Planned Parenthood federal funding strictly if they stop providing abortion (something that could put the health of women at risk) to the potential gaps in coverage for people cannot afford “continuous coverage,” there’s a lot to lose.
Although the Republicans’ proposed American Health Care Act would preserve Obamacare’s pre-existing condition provision, Campoverdi says she is worried about access to preventative services that women need to thwart diseases like the one that runs in her family.
“I don't trust Donald Trump and Republicans to be honest about my health care,” she told Vox. “They have chosen to play political games with women's health by cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, and limiting access to potentially life-saving preventive screening and treatment for millions of women, such as pap smears and mammograms.”
Campoverdi says these services and the access to birth control “are critical for women in low-income and rural communities.” In fact, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women and the improvements in the survival rate are partly due to an emphasis on early screening. For instance, England had one of the sharpest declines in mortality rates for breast cancer and a report by Cancer Research UK and the Department of Health in the United Kingdom shows a “20 percent reduction in breast cancer mortality in women invited for screening.”
Campoverdi is not the first political figure to share such personal health information to make a point. Back in 2011, when Republicans in the House were pushing to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) took the floor and opened up about her own abortion after Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) disparaged abortion as “dismemberment” of babies and that it could not be “healthy” for a woman. “That procedure you just talked about was a procedure I endured. I lost a baby,” Speier said. “But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous.” The congresswoman could recently be seen enthusiastically giving the thumbs down when Donald Trump mentioned his plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act during his recent address to Congress.
Women shouldn’t be forced to share private and intimate experiences in order for their health concerns to be treated seriously by policymakers. But since their perspective is still a minority in both chambers of congress (both hover around 20 percent women generally, and 7 percent for women of color) they often have to speak up for women, who, although we often forget it, do make up a majority of the population.
Like many other women who have been galvanized to run for office following Trump’s election, Campoverdi says she is eager to use her voice to elevate the voices and concerns of women.
“I’ll make sure women’s voices are loud and well-represented on the floor of Congress, and will be a fearless champion for women’s health, using every megaphone at my disposal to channel the energy we are seeing around the country into Washington,” she told me.
Campoverdi’s double mastectomy won’t be until 2019. She’ll be 39 years old — ten years younger than when her own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. But she’s not afraid of the surgery, or of Donald Trump. In fact, she hopes to take her story and those of millions of others women straight to his office.