House Democrats have introduced a resolution calling for an end to the gay blood ban.
Representatives Adam Schiff (CA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Barbara Lee (TX), and Carolyn Maloney (NY) introduced the resolution calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop using sexual orientation to assess potential blood donors and to instead evaluate a donor’s risk based on an individual, science-based assessment.
In 1983, the FDA banned all men who had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood, as well as women who had sex with a man who had sex with a man.
In 2015, the FDA lowered the lifetime ban to a 12-month deferral period since the last time a man had sex with another man, and earlier this year that deferral period was lowered to three months. The shorter deferral period has not yet been implemented.
House Resolution 989 calls on the FDA to completely end the deferral period “to transition away from policy that defers categories of persons based on attributing to all members risks associated with a population and toward policy that defers individual donors on grounds of evidence-based risk assessment.”
The resolution cites the shortage of blood donations since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic.
“More than 4,000 blood drives across the United States have been canceled due to the COVID–19 pandemic, resulting in approximately 130,000 fewer donations,” the resolution states, citing an estimate by the Williams Institute that ending the deferral period could result in 360,600 new donors.
The resolution calls on the FDA to institute a policy that would “(1) be grounded in science; (2) minimize deferral periods; (3) be based on individual risk factors; (4) not unfairly single out any group of individuals; and (5) allow donations by all those who can safely do so.”
LGBTQ organizations hailed the resolution.
“A shorter deferral period applied to all people engaged in certain risk behaviors, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, will create a truly nondiscriminatory policy,” said Scott Schoettes of Lambda Legal.
“Federal policy for donating blood should be based on science, not based on fear and bias,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “As the global pandemic wears on, we must continue to push the federal government to change this policy, which is not only discriminatory but undermines efforts to support and protect our communities.”
Earlier this year, Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Maloney sent a letter to the FDA asking for the policy to be reexamined. Thirty Democratic members of Congress sent a separate letter to the FDA asking for a reassessment, and 17 Senate Democrats led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (WI) sent a letter to the FDA.
In April, the FDA reduced the deferral period.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges to the U.S. blood supply,” the FDA said in its policy statement. “Donor centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of social distancing and the cancellation of blood drives.”
The American Red Cross interprets the ban as preventing transgender men who have sex with men from donating blood but not transgender women who have sex with men.