Louisiana holds one of the highest maternal death rates in the U.S, and a state senator blamed the figure on its high population of Black women.
Lousiana Senator Bill Cassidy told Politico that the state was an "outlier" in maternal death because "about a third of our population is African American; African Americans have a higher incidence of maternal mortality."
According to state officials, Lousiana ranks 47 out of 48 states where maternal deaths have been studied.
Cassidy said about the alarming figure, "So, if you correct our population for race, we're not as much of an outlier as it'd otherwise appear."
The Lousiana Senator continued, "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."
However, the reasons behind the disproportionate number of Black maternal deaths have been outlined by experts and the CDC. Per the CDC, Black women are disadvantaged in their "access to care, quality of care, prevalence of chronic diseases, structural racism, and implicit biases."
In Louisiana, "four black mothers die for every white mother," according to state health officials. This figure outpaces the nation's three-to-one ratio, which is the worst in the developed world, Politico reports.
Michelle Williams, Dean of Harvard School of Public Health, said of Cassidy's "disturbing" comments, "It's no mystery why maternal mortality rates are so high among Black women. They are high because of the devastating impacts of structural racism and individual bias."
Williams added, "This is not a moment to quibble about how states are ranked."
"It's not a moment to correct for race. It's a moment to assert that Louisiana — precisely because it has such a large population of Black women — must seize a leadership role in making pregnancy and childbirth safer for all," she continued.