Senator Bill Cassidy facing backlash for comments on Louisiana's Black maternal mortality rate
BATON ROUGE - U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy is under fire after he suggested Louisiana's high maternal mortality rate is not as bad if you factored out its larger Black population compared to other states.
The backlash stems from an interview Cassidy gave during an interview for POLITICO's 'Public Health on the Brink' series.
“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. Cassidy said during the interview. “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.”
Maternal mortality rates are calculated differently in some states—some states include deaths up to one year after a mother gives birth—but Louisiana is among the worst in every count. The rate is even worse among the state's Black mothers.
Louisiana's maternal mortality is 58.1 per 100,000 live births, according to World Population Review. That's the highest in the U.S. and more than triple the national average of 17.4.
In the days since the May 19 interview, Cassidy has been inundated with ire over the comments. Cassidy has since responded to the criticism, saying he was misquoted and that "fake news and false outrage hurt our ability to make progress."
1/6 Individuals are cutting off & misquoting my statements highlighting minority health disparities to create a malicious & fake narrative. My entire conversation was about my work to address racial bias in healthcare & address high maternal mortality among African American moms: pic.twitter.com/JpVwNMAVt4— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (@SenBillCassidy) May 22, 2022
The senator went on to point out that he's pushed legislation aiming to address racial disparity in healthcare, including the John Lewis National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) Research Endowment Revitalization Act of 2021 which secured investments in universities researching such disparities.