Haaland, Schiff Highlight Need for Nondiscriminatory Blood Donation Guidelines

June 2, 2020
Press Release
As Coronavirus Threatens Nation’s Blood Supply, Resolution Expresses Support for FDA to Develop New Guidance Based on Individual Risk Assessment

Albuquerque, N.M. – Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM) joined Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introducing a resolution highlighting the need for nondiscriminatory blood donation guidelines, which has become even more urgent in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The resolution underscores the need for policies governing blood and blood product donation to be grounded in science and based on individual risk factors that do not unfairly single out any group of individuals so that all those who can safely donate are able to do so. 

“Four years ago, sidewalks in Orlando were filled with people waiting to donate blood and help the survivors of the Pulse massacre, but the FDA’s outdated and fear-based policies prevented gay individuals from helping their own community in a time of great need,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland. “Now amid a pandemic, we face a blood shortage and our researchers need more plasma from COVID survivors to study the virus and help us find treatments and a vaccine. It’s good that the FDA finally improved their regulations, but more must be done to stop discriminating against an entire community and develop a science-based risk assessments for blood donations.” 

“Our nation faces a severe blood shortage, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever we need to remove any impediment that needlessly prevents Americans from donating blood to help save lives,” said Rep. Schiff. “There is a large contingent of healthy people that are able and willing to donate blood and plasma, but antiquated regulations prevent them from doing so. This resolution calls for a repeal of discriminatory guidelines against members of the LGBTQ community, and encourages them to be replaced with science-based criteria for individual-risk assessment. It’s long past time these changes were made, especially during the current global crisis.”

U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Katherine Clark (D-MA) also joined the introduction of the resolution.

The resolution is supported by the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal, two organizations pushing for equal rights for LGBTQ+ individuals. 

  “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. We appreciate the leadership of Rep. Adam Schiff in introducing this resolution calling for blood donation policies that are equitable, based on science and not unfairly singling out any group.”

“Lambda Legal is pleased to see members of Congress pushing the FDA to further modify blood donation criteria to eliminate discrimination against gay and bisexual men,” said Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal. “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.  Lambda Legal looks forward to the adoption of an individualized risk assessment for every potential blood donor, thereby ensuring a safe and abundant blood supply.”

  In April, the Food and Drug Administration announced an updated blood donation deferral policy to allow more healthy gay and bisexual men to donate blood. The new policy lowers the 12-month deferral to a 3-month deferral on blood donations for men who have sex with men (MSM).

The full text of the resolution is available here.

Specifically the resolution calls for blood product donation guidelines:

  • be grounded in science;
  • minimize deferral periods;
  • be based on individual risk factors; 
  • not unfairly single out any group of individuals; 
  • and allow donation by all those who can safely do so.