Louisiana has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the country: It ranks 47th out of the 48 states assessed, according to state officials. But U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, one of two white male Republican senators representing the state, says that’s only because Louisiana’s statistics include Black women.
“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,” Cassidy said in an interview with POLITICO. “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.”
Firstly, yes, Black women are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts in Louisiana (three times more likely nationwide) because our medical system is deeply racist. And speaking of racism: I can’t really think of a more racist thing to say than “if you correct our population for race” in this context. He’s essentially saying that Black women’s lives don’t matter—as long the maternal mortality rate for white women in Louisiana isn’t that comparatively bad, everything is fine.
Cassidy’s attitude is exactly why doctors tend to dismiss the pain of Black patients, and why pregnant and postpartum Black women are 243 percent more likely to die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related conditions than white women. And it’s not just low-income mothers: Even wealthy and famous Black women, like Serena Williams, have harrowing stories of being ignored and dismissed by medical providers because of the color of their skin—so much so that women of color are having their own #MeToo moment right now, sharing their harrowing stories en masse in hopes of getting anyone in power to care.
Of course, no one is surprised to learn that Cassidy is racist. He opposes a federal voting rights bill and told NPR that Black people in Louisiana were disproportionately dying of covid in the state for “physiological” reasons—not because of systemic racial bias in the medical system.
I suppose, by Cassidy’s logic, the United States would be a much less racist country if you didn’t count white people.