SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Sen. Bill Cassidy on Tuesday addressed comments he made recently about maternity rates in Louisiana that he says were taken out of context.

The Republican senator from Louisiana offered the clarification during his monthly call with reporters to talk about a range of issues that he and other lawmakers are working on and topics his constituents want to know about.

Maternal mortality rates

A May 20 article published in Vanity Fair caused a stir when Cassidy made comments about Louisiana’s maternal mortality rates. Cassidy called the article a “hit piece” that took his professional medical understanding of maternal mortality out of context.

Cassidy’s comments were in response to the reporter asking about the state’s high maternal mortality rate.

“Louisiana ranks very low—or I should say very high on maternal deaths amongst the state. So what do you think needs to be done there to improve that, especially if forms of abortion or birth control could be limited in the future?”

“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,” was Cassidy’s response.”

Many people took exception to the phrase “correcting the statistics for race.”

Cassidy insists that he was speaking as a physician and his medical colleagues would agree that populations are often segmented as a means of understanding what can be done about health disparities.

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“My comments were meant to focus the attention on specific legislation for maternal mortality in general and identify racial disparities specifically. I was attempting to highlight minority health disparities in the country. As a doctor I’m looking for solutions,” Cassidy said.

Louisiana abortion laws

Cassidy was complimentary of Louisiana State Senator Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) who authored Senate Bill 342 which increased existing penalties levied against abortion providers except in cases where the mother’s life is in jeopardy.

“I understand that being pro-life is a bipartisan position in Louisiana and you don’t want someone doing a life-saving procedure to save a mother to be prosecuted for that.”

During the call, Cassidy also spoke candidly about oil and gas production, gas prices and also answered questions about topics that are at the top of the minds of most Americans: gun violence and mental health, and social security.

U.S. energy production

Cassidy addressed U.S. oil production or what he feels is a lack thereof. He blamed the Biden administration’s lag in issuing permits for production. He mentioned the Keystone Pipeline, a major point of contention between democratic and republican lawmakers.

The Senator says the best thing the administration could do right now is to speed up permitting. That alone, Cassidy says would increase the number of permits in the Gulf of Mexico will relieve the pain at the pump, and also create jobs for the state.

“How vigorously the administration applies solutions that it has it within their ability to bring down gas prices is how quickly prices will come down.”

Cassidy also knocked the administration’s push for increased electric car manufacturing.

Social Security

The Social Security Trust Fund has been an issue that lawmakers have struggled to get a handle on through many presidential administrations. According to Cassidy, as it is the Social Security Trustfund will be insolvent by 2024. Inaction means that Social Security benefits would have to be cut – leaving seniors and those unable to work because of disabilities with a 20% decrease in benefits.

Cassidy says he spoke with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen about what could be done to prevent the fund from heading over a financial cliff. He says Yellen has no plan to prevent the worst-case scenario, which means that Congress must come up with a plan.

Crime and the gun control debate

Cassidy was asked Tuesday to specifically address recent acts of brazen crime in New Orleans. He responded by saying he could not single out New Orleans when crime is an issue that affects every parish in the state.

The Senator was firm about the need for district attorneys to aggressively prosecute crime. Cassidy said criminals understand that a prosecutor that is soft on crime opens the door for them to commit more crimes.

Cassidy says what he can do as a legislator is to provide law enforcement agencies with tools to monitor and track criminals and improve prosecutorial outcomes.

“I am focused on mental health and weapons safety,” Cassidy said. “Mental health affects our whole society, especially youth. There is a high rate of suicide among young people. Far more youth have died of suicide than mass shootings.”

Cassidy insists that his primary focus in the gun debate is on ensuring that guns are safely locked away and as a doctor, he wants to ensure that mental health issues in the country are addressed.

He said he is working on legislation that would incentivize the purchase of gun safety systems and gun locks for legal owners of firearms.

There is a bipartisan group of Senators working on gun control legislation. Cassidy stopped short of saying what would need to be in that bill to get his support, but he knows exactly what he will not vote for.

“I will not support legislation that impedes law-abiding citizens’ gun rights,” Cassidy said. “The 4th Circuit Court says its unconstitutional.”