Democratic Reps. Val Demmings (Fla.) and Mike Quigley (Ill.) introduced legislation Friday that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise restrictions on LGBT people, specifically gay men, that prohibit them from donating blood.
The bill, named the Science in Blood Donation Act of 2020, would mandate the FDA revise its guidance on reducing the risk of HIV transmission by blood and blood products based on testing accuracy and an “individual risk-based analysis” instead of based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a press release.
Previously, the guidance recommended that men who had sex with men abstain from sex for a year before giving blood.
But in March, the FDA loosened restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men amid a blood shortage brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused “unprecedented challenges” to the national blood supply.
The FDA revised guidelines that recommended a three-month deferral for men who have sex with men. The April guidelines were to remain throughout the pandemic.
Demmings, in the announcement, said that a blood donation could be “the difference between life and death,” noting that the current policy is based on “fear, stigma, and prejudice, not science.”
“Expanding the donor pool by hundreds of thousands of healthy Americans would save lives every day in emergency rooms and hospitals around the country,” she said.
Quigley, who said he was proud to take the lead on the issue, said that though Congress had made significant headway to allow men who have sex with men to give blood, it still was not enough.
“Over the course of many years, we have made significant progress in rolling back an indefinite ban on blood donations from MSM, to a 12 month deferral to the current 3 month deferral. This is still not enough. Our work will not be complete until FDA approves a non-discriminatory, science-based policy that properly addresses individual risk assessment, as we’ve seen countries across the world adopt,” Quigley said.
“The FDA cannot let an outdated and discriminatory ban on blood donations from gay and bi men get in the way of potentially life-saving treatment for the country’s painful current health crisis,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said earlier this year. “Continuing to enforce this antiquated policy is dangerous, irresponsible, and flies in the face of recommendations from medical experts.”