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NEW YORK — Former Texas representative and 2020 Democrat presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke told black voters Wednesday that systemic racism is partly responsible for black mothers and their infants dying at a higher rate than their white counterparts.
Speaking to a predominantly African American audience at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network convention at the Sheraton Times Square hotel, O’Rourke said that even when women of color have access to health care their lives and that of their infants continue to be impacted by systemic racism.
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“We have an infant mortality discrepancy between white and black America that is worse today than it was in 1850, 15 years before the abolition of slavery,” he said.
Infant mortality, according to the CDC, is the death of an infant before his or her first birthday. The infant mortality rate is the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births.
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“We have a maternal mortality crisis in this country. It is three times as deadly for women of color,” O’Rourke continued.
“And it is not just owing to the fact that we do not have universal health care for every American, which we must. And it’s not just to blame on the state of Texas, the epicenter of the maternal mortality crisis that has shut down more than a quarter of its family planning clinics, denied so many women the right to a cervical cancer screening, family planning help or a provider of any kind,” he said.
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“It is the way that this country was founded. It is the system in which these women are living right now. The daily weathering that they endure when even they are able to get health care, it is not sufficient, it is not enough and it only begins to help to explain these discrepancies,” he said.
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