Sen. Cassidy Defends Statemets Amid Backlash From Black Maternal Groups
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Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy Doubles Down On Statements About Black Maternal Health Amid Backlash

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Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy is defending his statements on Black maternal health in the Bayou State amid backlash from Black reproductive justice advocates.

In an interview with Politico last week, Cassidy, a Republican, said that although Black people make up one-third of the state’s population and experience higher rates of pregnancy-related deaths, “if you correct our population for race, we’re not as much of an outlier as it’d otherwise appear.”

“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,” Cassidy added.

Cassidy, a medical doctor, also suggested the disproportionate rates of pregnancy-related deaths could be skewed due to domestic violence.

“Sometimes maternal mortality includes up to a year after birth and would include someone being killed by her boyfriend,” Cassidy said. “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.”

The senator later said on Twitter people were misquoting and manipulating his statements. However, they largely define a state that has some of the highest Black maternal death rates in the country. According to U.S. News & World Report, Black women were 4.1 times as likely as white women to die while pregnant or within 42 days of childbirth from complications like blood loss, cardiomyopathy, and heart disease.

Black reproductive justice advocates have spent days pushing back against the senator’s words. Marcela Howell, president and CEO of the National Black Women’s Reproductive Agenda, told NBC News Cassidy’s comments prove Louisiana is not taking the issue seriously.

“That may be why the numbers are so poor,” Howell said. “Because he, like other elected officials in his state, don’t really care to address those factors that are causing Black maternal mortality.”

Howell added Cassidy’s remarks underscore the fact that Black Americans are still facing widespread discrimination and racism in the healthcare industry. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep divisions in the healthcare industry as Black Americans were infected and died at higher rates than all demographics except Native Americans.