An effort to address health disparities among women in Louisiana was pulled into the debate over whether transgender people should be granted access to medical care.
Senate Bill 116, by Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, creates an Office of Women’s Health within the Louisiana Department of Health. It would be “responsible for leading and coordinating efforts within the Louisiana Department of Health that are intended to improve women’s health outcomes through policy, education, evidence-based practices, programs, and services.” It passed unanimously in the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives.
“Louisiana sits at the bottom nationally for health outcomes among women and children. There are health disparities for women. Poverty, and hunger unfortunately affects women and children. Women have unique health concerns,” said Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Metairie, who brought the bill for Barrow to the House floor.
Louisiana has the second highest infant mortality rate in the U.S.; 7.6 infants die per 1,000 live births.
In addition, Black women in Louisiana are four times as likely as white women to die from complications related to pregnancy. The Black infant mortality rate, 10.5 infants per 1,000 live births, is more than twice the rate for white Louisianans.
Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, proposed an amendment that excludes transgender women from receiving services from the new office.
“I think it would defeat the whole objective of the bill to provide these services to a man,” Crews said.
The House approved the amendment in a 61-32 vote and advanced the bill Friday. The Senate unanimously concurred Sunday.
Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, objected to the amendment because she believed it was “a disservice to women all over Louisiana.” Marcelle also authored legislation to create an Office of Women’s Health.
Similar legislation died in the Louisiana Legislature during last year.
Clarification: This story was updated reflect the role of the Office of Women’s Health within the state health department.
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