Two Congressional Democrats have introduced a bill attempting to end the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on LGBTQ+ people — and queer men especially — giving blood.
Representative Mike Quigley of Illinois and Representative Val Demings of Florida introduced the bill, named the Science in Blood Donation Act of 2020. In essence, the hopeful law would require the FDA to change its rules on reducing the risk of HIV transmission via blood by basing someone’s eligibility on a “window period” (the time it takes HIV antibodies to show up in the blood after testing) and an “individual risk analysis.”
“Over the course of many years, we have made significant progress in rolling back an indefinite ban on blood donations from [gay men] to a 12 month deferral to the current 3 month deferral; this is still not enough,” said Quigley, who also serves as vice chair of the House LGBT caucus. “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. An arbitrary blanket ban, especially during a crisis, is simply unacceptable. This past year, awareness on this issue has continued to grow and this bill marks yet another important step in Congress’s fight for the full and equal treatment of all Americans.”
The new bill comes after the FDA’s recent reduction in the deferral period (the time between the last time they had sex and when they become eligible to give blood) for queer men giving blood. When the law was adopted in 1983, it issued a lifetime blood ban for men who have sex with other men. In 2015, under the Obama administration, the agency changed the deferral period to a year. But in April, amid concerns over coronavirus and a medical need for blood, the FDA eased restrictions to only three months.
“Every day, across the United States, donated blood marks the difference between life and death. There is no substitute. Yet our country turns away thousands of healthy and willing blood donors based solely on their gender identity and sexual orientation,” noted Demings. “This policy is based on fear, sigma, 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. Blood is never at higher demand than in an emergency.”