It’s always important to dig deeper when a quote seems to be disturbing (or even when it’s not). I found this in this morning’s Political Wire (this is the complete clip):
“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 (R-LA), quoted by Politico, saying maternal death rates are only bad if you count Black women.
If that’s as far as you read, you’d think Cassidy doesn’t care about Black women dying during pregnancy or in childbirth. It certainly fits our perception of what the GOP is like these days, and there’s a lot of justification for that perception. But not in this case. Here’s more of what Cassidy (one of four physicians in the Senate) had to say:
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said Louisiana’s maternal mortality rate — one of the worst in the nation — does not tell the whole story of maternal health in the state because of its large Black population and the uncommonly broad definition Louisiana uses.
“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 said in an interview with POLITICO for 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.” [emphasis added]
The article continues:
[Cassidy’s] proposed Connected MOM Act, S. 801 (117), co-sponsored by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), would tackle some of the access issues by requiring Medicare and Medicaid recommendations for mothers to remotely monitor their blood pressure, glucose and other health metrics. Cassidy also co-sponsored a bill named after late Rep. John Lewis, S. 320 (117), signed into law this March, to study racial health disparities.
(He also questioned the method Louisiana — and other states — use to define maternal mortality, which can include deaths up to a year after birth. But that’s a separate issue, not so tied to race.)
One can question how genuine Cassidy is, but on the evidence presented, I think it reasonable to say that his physician’s oath is, in this case, stronger than his racial or party loyalty.
I also have to say I’m disappointed in Political Wire, which I rely on for a lot of news. I rely, but I also double-check. “Trust but verify.”