May 23, 2022

Rep. Watson Coleman Statement on Recent Remarks by Sen. Bill Cassidy

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) issued the following statement in response to Senator Bill Cassidy’s (R-LA) recent comments concerning his state’s high maternal mortality rate:

“In an interview with Politico last week, Senator Cassidy stated that his state’s maternal death rate is only high if you do not, and I quote, ‘correct our population for race.’ Louisiana’s population is approximately one-third Black. The Senator is suggesting that ‘correcting’ his state’s maternal mortality data means eliminating Black maternal health outcomes entirely. In no uncertain terms, the Senator’s comments are rooted in white supremacy.

“Following his comment about ‘correcting’ maternal mortality data by erasing the lived experiences of Black mothers, the Senator from Louisiana stated that, quote, ‘for whatever reason, people of color have a higher incidence of maternal mortality.’ The implication here is that mothers of color — specifically Black mothers — die at disproportionately high rates for some mysterious, inexplicable reason.

“This, of course, is far from the truth. We know that structural inequities in our health care system, from implicit bias among medical professionals to generations of disinvestment in underserved communities, are the reason that Black mothers are three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white mothers. In Louisiana, that number jumps to four, because in Senator Cassidy’s home state, health inequities are even more pronounced than they are on the national level.

“Senator Cassidy, of course, most likely knows this. After all, he is a licensed medical doctor. But whether or not he is aware of the barriers to care that Black mothers face is not the point. What matters here is that Republican elected officials like Senator Cassidy have no desire to address the injustices that pervade almost every aspect of life in our country. Doing so would mean acknowledging the existence of systemic racism, and it is against the Republican Party’s best interests to do that.

“We cannot forget that Senator Cassidy belongs to the political party whose members foment artificial moral panics about so-called critical race theory and spew the vile, violent ‘great replacement’ rhetoric that led to the Buffalo shooting. Given that context, it is unfortunately no surprise that the Senator is content to ignore the plight of Black mothers in his state and his country.

“The hypocrisy in the Senator’s attitude toward the Black maternal health crisis is appalling. Senator Cassidy has described himself as ‘unapologetically pro-life.’ One would think that a truly ‘pro-life’ elected leader should have a vested interest in eliminating the health care disparities that are killing Black mothers at frightening rates. But based on his comments — and his party’s open acceptance of white supremacist ideology — Senator Cassidy seems comfortable allowing Black mothers to die as a result of pregnancies that his party would like to force them to carry.

“I am disappointed, I am angry, I am horrified, but I am not surprised by the Senator’s comments. Today and always, Black lives matter. Black mothers matter. However, thanks to elected officials like Senator Cassidy, we as a nation have yet to fully acknowledge this.

“From the New Jersey General Assembly to the halls of Congress, I have made it my mission to put equity first in everything I do. Our nation cannot and will not live up to its great promise until we dismantle the racism woven into the fabric of our society.”