Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy doesn’t think Black women and babies matter. In a recent interview with Politico, the senator argued that if his state “corrected for race in the population,” the maternal mortality numbers wouldn’t be so bad.
Black women in Louisiana aren’t just bad data points to be tossed aside. And instead of looking for a way to minimize the optics of a problem, elected officials like Cassidy should figure out how to address the actual situation.
And Cassidy did recognize that the disparity in maternal health outcomes is real. He refuses to grapple with the fact that Black women are also his constituents and deserve his advocacy not being set aside.
Politico also interviewed Dr. Veronica Gillepsie-Bell, who leads the state’s Perinatal Quality Collaborative and Pregnancy Associated Mortality Review. A practicing obstetrician, Gillepsie-Bell, said the senator’s assessment that correcting the population for race as Cassidy suggests misses the entire conversation.
“To say that ‘because we have a lot of Black people in Louisiana, that’s why our outcomes are bad’ is out of context,” Gillepsie-Bell told Politico.
It’s not that Cassidy is speaking out of ignorance of the issue. He simply doesn’t care about the well-being of Black women. Generations of “correcting for race” in data have exacerbated the current crisis.
Rep. Gwen Moore called out Cassidy, noting that he’s also a doctor. Given his medical background, his comment underscores the issues with racism in the profession.
As previously reported by Nola.com, more than half of Louisiana’s parishes have little to no maternal care. And access to maternal care is compounded by the distance to a provider for many pregnant women and people.
Despite co-sponsoring two bills somewhat connected to the maternal mortality crisis, Cassidy voted against providing needed care to new mothers and postpartum people when he voted against the president’s American Rescue Plan.
In April, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that Louisiana was the first state to take advantage of a new provision that extends postpartum Medicaid care up to 12 months.
“Having postpartum care can be life-saving and lead to better long-term health outcomes for new parents and newborns,” said Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, we are able to make it easier for states like Louisiana to give thousands more pregnant and postpartum people across the country access to high-quality, affordable coverage for the essential first year after birth. The Biden-Harris Administration has made maternal health and equity a priority, and we are working to ensure every parent has access to the care they and their child deserve.”
In addition to maternal mortality, Louisiana is one of seven states to receive an F from the March of Dimes on its 2021 state report card. According to the report card, Louisiana has an infant mortality rate higher than the national average across all racial groups. And like maternal mortality, infant mortality is considered “an important summary reflecting social, political, health care delivery and medical outcomes in a geographic area.”
It is estimated that a majority of maternal death are preventable, suggesting that medical professionals are also missing warning signs. As previously reported by NewsOne, “60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable, suggesting the focus of legislation at the state and federal levels should be on expanding reproductive health, not restricting it.”
Black women and pregnant people not receiving proper treatment and care suggest something inherently wrong with the system, not the people dying.