In light of the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, 24 Senators join letter urging FDA to develop better blood donation policies based on individual risk
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led a bipartisan group of 24 Senators in calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to swiftly move to end the discriminatory blood donation deferral policy for men who have sex with men (MSM). The bipartisan letter was sent in light of the recent mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and requests an update on FDA’s efforts to implement the updated one year deferral policy and to completely end the blood ban by developing better blood donor deferral policies that are grounded in science, based on individual risk factors, don’t unfairly single out one group of individuals, and allow all healthy Americans to donate.
“During times of tragedy, the American people are quick to demonstrate their resiliency and mobilize in solidarity with victims and affected communities. We have witnessed that compassion as Floridians quickly lined up to donate blood for the wounded. Yet, some of those most touched by this tragedy—members of the LGBT community, who are especially eager to contribute to the response effort—are finding themselves turned away. Due to the FDA’s current MSM deferral policy, many healthy gay and bisexual men remain prohibited from donating needed blood,” the senators wrote. “We are steadfastly committed to ending the FDA’s discriminatory policy that prohibits many healthy MSM from donating blood and moving to policies that secure our nation’s blood supply in a scientifically sound manner based on individual risk.”
Joining Senators Baldwin and Warren in sending the letter are Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
At the end of last year, the FDA released guidance that lifted the lifetime ban on blood donation and implemented a new policy requiring a year of abstinence prior to donating blood. While the Senators express support for this step forward, they maintain that a time-based deferral not based on individual risk remains discriminatory. In December 2014, over 75 members of Congress in called on HHS Secretary Burwell to end the outdated and discriminatory ban, and replace it by instituting a risk-based policy.
A copy of the letter is available online here.