Reps. Quigley and Demings Introduce Bill to Remove LGBTQ+ Discrimination in Blood Donations
U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05), who serves as Vice-Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, and Val Demings (FL-10) introduced the Science in Blood Donation Act of 2020, which would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise its outdated blood donation guidance. The legislation would specifically require the FDA to update its Guidance on Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission (HIV) by Blood and Blood Products based on an assessment of current testing accuracy and individual risk-based analysis. It would also require the FDA to revise the donor questionnaire based on an individual risk assessment of sexual behaviors upon which all donors are evaluated equally, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I’ve been proud to lead on this issue in Congress and am equally proud to introduce this bill with my good friend Rep. Val Demings. 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. An arbitrary blanket ban, especially during a crisis, is simply unacceptable,” said Quigley. “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.”
“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. This 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,” said Demings. “Blood is never at a higher demand than in an emergency. Orlando knows the pain of mass shootings, and discriminatory sexual orientation guidelines denied victims’ friends and families the opportunity to donate blood afterward. It’s time to move away from these archaic rules and ideologies. When we know better, we should do better. By basing our medicine on science, we can maximize our donor pool while keeping our blood supply safe.”
Quigley has long championed Congressional efforts to overturn the MSM blood ban, successfully including Appropriations language instructing FDA to implement a risk-based blood donor questionnaire, leading over 115 bipartisan Members in a letter to FDA after the Pulse Nightclub shooting and partnering with LGBTQ+ advocates to continually raise awareness on the need for a nondiscriminatory blood donor policy.
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). Earlier this year, in light of the blood shortage driven by the COVID-19 outbreak, Quigley also introduced a resolution underscoring 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.