Sen. Bill Cassidy proves America doesn’t care about Black women

OPINION: The Louisiana Republican’s comments on maternal mortality rates illustrate why Black women are going to suffer the most when Roe is overturned.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) leaves the Senate luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

America is decidedly anti-Black. 

This is nothing new; it has been this way since the founding of this country. Whether it’s police shooting us dead in the street or vigilantes taking the law into their own hands or the hate crimes in which white supremacists decide Black people don’t deserve to breathe, we have been shown time and time again that just existing and being our Black selves is entirely too much for white people. 

They hate us. 

The type of implicit bias that causes even those who claim to “not have a racist bone in their body” to view us with skepticism is inherent in all the systems we need and use in our daily lives, including the medical system. That is why the impending overturning of Roe v. Wade is of particular concern for Black women. 

The United States already has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world. There were a total of 861 maternal deaths in the U.S. in 2020. 

Black women made up 293 of those deaths or 34 percent. 

Read that again. Black women made up more than one-third of the maternal deaths reported in this country in the year 2020. According to data from the CDC, for every 100,000 live births in the U.S., there are 17.3 maternal deaths. For Black women, that number is 41.7. Translated, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than anyone else. 

If you let Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana tell it, Black women shouldn’t be counted in those numbers anyway. 

In a recent interview with Politico, Cassidy was asked about the maternal death rate in his state. In Louisiana, the maternal mortality rate exceeds the national average, and the state is ranked 47th out of 48 states. The infant mortality rate in the state is the fifth highest in the country. 

And for Black mothers and babies in Louisiana, that number is decidedly worse. In Louisiana, Black mothers are four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related issues. Black babies are 2.5 times more likely to die than white babies. 

Cassidy told Politico that the numbers in his state aren’t that bad if you don’t count the Black people. 

Yes. He said the quiet part out loud. 

The actual quote: “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. 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.”

The hoods are off, and these people are speaking directly into the camera now. This man straight up said Black women don’t count. 

First of all, to say that “For whatever reason, people of color have a higher incidence of maternal mortality” is to completely ignore and step over the fact that the medical field is full of implicit bias when it comes to Black bodies. 

Our complaints get ignored. They believe we can tolerate more pain than anyone else. Our concerns are not taken as seriously. Implicit bias in the medical field is real, and it’s killing us.

Cassidy, who is also a sponsor of a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, was dismissive of the idea that overturning Roe v. Wade could make things worse. 

This is because Cassidy, who is an actual medical doctor (!!!), has a very myopic view of why women get abortions. He doesn’t get that women who have been raped need these services. He doesn’t get that women with conditions that could possibly kill them if they carry a baby to term need these services. 

And it’s not just that he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t care, either. 

Cassidy is not alone in his thinking. He is one of many working to legislate women’s bodies without any regard for their right to privacy, their right to make their own decisions for themselves and their right to decide whether they want to start a family or not. 

This is concerning because when Roe does get overturned, Black women will be the ones who suffer the most. 

It is egregious and heartbreaking and overwhelming when you consider it. 

But if all of those jockeying to strip away women’s rights to mind their own bodies have their way, women will be forced to carry babies they can’t afford or don’t want or shouldn’t have in the first place. 

How can you call yourself pro-life if you only care about the baby when it’s in the womb? When social programs for mothers and children are the first things to go, how can you say you care about their lives?

The simple answer is they don’t care. They don’t care about women. They don’t care about children. They don’t care about rights or agency or privacy. 

And they most definitely don’t care about Black women. 

I just want to know why. 


Monique Judge

Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.

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