Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) says the maternal mortality rate isn’t all that alarming in his state provided you don’t count the number of black women who die every year in Louisiana while giving birth.

Cassidy made that startling remark during an interview with Sarah Owermohle of Politico:

Owermohle asked the senator, who just so happens to be a medical doctor:

“Because you raised maternal care and the importance of, you know, caring for mothers throughout pregnancy and childbirth, I know that Louisiana ranks very low or I should say very high on maternal deaths amongst the states. So what do you think needs to be done there to improve that, especially if forms of abortion or birth control could be limited in the future?”

Sen. Cassidy responded:

“I’m not sure people are talking about limiting forms of birth control. And and shall we say, if you’re using abortion to limit maternal death, that’s kind of a odd way to approach the problem. But anyway, that said. Louisiana. About a third of our population is African-American. African-Americans have a higher incidence of maternal mortality. So if you correct our population for race, we’re not as much of an outlier as it would otherwise appear. Now, I say that not to minimize the issue, but to focus the issue as to where it would be. Um, for whatever reason, people of color have a higher incidence of maternal mortality. Now, to be sure, there’s different definitions of maternal mortality. Sometimes maternal mortality includes up to a year after birth and would include someone being killed by her boyfriend. So. So in my mind, it’s better to restrict your definition to that, which is the perinatal, if you will, the time just before and in the subsequent period after she has delivered.”

Correct our population for race? So the lives of black mothers don’t matter statistically because so many of them are “killed by (their) boyfriend?” Does Cassidy have any idea how blatantly racist and dismissive that sounds? If so, he needs to issue an immediate apology.

Bess Levin of Vanity Fair took Cassidy to task by sharing his remarks with a public health expert:

There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the idea that Cassidy—who wants to defund Planned Parenthood is all, Yes, on its face, our maternal mortality rates are abysmal, but if you only count white women, they’re not that bad! Then there’s the phrase “for whatever reason.” In fact, there is one very big reason in particular— perhaps you can take a guess? “It’s no mystery why maternal mortality rates are so high among Black women,” Michelle Williams, the dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health said in response. “They are high because of the devastating impacts of structural racism and individual bias.” As Politico notes, Black mothers are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white mothers in the U.S., which has the worst mortality rate among developed nations and where “17 mothers die for every 100,000 pregnancies in the country.” In Louisiana, Black mothers are four times as likely to die than white mothers.

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