Talk about victim shaming. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) doesn’t think that the maternal death rate in the United States is bad — despite being the worst among 11 other developed nations in a recent study — at least if you eliminate American Black women from the calculation.
Apparently, the mortality rate among Black mothers in this country — which has been proven to be two to three times higher than that of White women — is not concerning because Black women simply don’t count in the infernal calculations of the Republican Louisiana senator.
“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’d otherwise appear,” Sen. Bill Cassidy told POLITICO fin an interview at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health series Public Health on the Brink. “Now, I say that not to minimize the issue but to focus the issue as to where it would be. For whatever reason, people of color have a higher incidence of maternal mortality.”
Senator Cassidy was trying to explain away the horrendous record that the state he represents has when it comes to maternal mortality. Louisiana ranks 47th out of 48 states assessed by officials and four black mothers in the state die during childbirth for every single White woman who perishes, a significantly worse number than the already shameful three-to-one ratio seen in the USA as a whole.
The reason for the difference between the races is widely acknowledged to be directly related to different levels of access to prenatal health care among Louisiana citizens.
“There’s two things that are always going to drive the disparities. It’s going to be systemic racism — the historical processes and policies that have been put in place that disenfranchise Black and brown people — and then the other part of that is going to be implicit bias,” Veronica Gillispie-Bell, medical director of Louisiana’s Perinatal Quality Collaborative and Pregnancy Associated Mortality Review and an obstetrician at Ochsner Health told POLITICO. “Black and brown individuals don’t always get the same quality of health care in the health care system as their white counterparts.”
If the level of maternal deaths is already higher than any advanced industrial society should accept from its health care system, imagine how much worse it will get if the Supreme Court follows through on the impending threat of its reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision that certified women’s right to bodily autonomy in this country.
Not that Senator Cassidy is much concerned about the effect that any potential abortion ban will have on the number of maternal deaths.
“If we’re using abortion to limit maternal deaths, that’s kind of an odd way to approach the problem,” Senator Cassidy — who practiced medicine before running for Congress — said.
Perhaps it’s not just Black mothers that Senator Cassidy discounts the value of. That kind of thinking is just as harmful for pregnant women of any race.
You can watch the interview with Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy where he made his unfortunate remarks in the video clip below.
Original reporting by Sarah Owermohle at POLITICO.