Maloney, Ocasio-Cortez call on FDA to revise ban on gay men from donating blood amid shortage

Apr 1, 2020
In The News

Two House Democrats are calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise its restriction that limits gay and bisexual men from donating blood as the nation grapples with a shortage of donations.

“This antiquated policy is not based on current science, stigmatizes the LGBTQIA+ community, and undermines crucial efforts to increase the nation’s blood supply as the United States grapples with the coronavirus crisis,” House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter to the FDA Wednesday. 

The American Red Cross announced last month nearly 2,700 blood drives, where the organization collects more than 80 percent of its blood donations, had been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a call for healthy Americans to donate blood in response to the nationwide shortage. 

Maloney and Ocasio-Cortez’s letter follows one sent by more than a dozen Democratic senators last week with the same message for the FDA. 

The national LGBTQ nonprofit GLAAD similarly organized a petition last week to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood. 

Maloney and Ocasio-Cortez urged FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to “immediately revise” the administration's recommendation that blood centers turn away men who have sex with men who have been sexually active in the past 12 months. 

The Democrats write that the recommendation is “not based on current science,” and that revising the restriction could result in “as many as an estimated 615,000 additional” donated pints of blood each year.“In light of the potential long-term impacts the coronavirus outbreak may have on the nation’s blood supply, we urge FDA to act swiftly in revising its policy so every person who can safely donate blood in the United States has the opportunity to do so,” Maloney and Ocasio-Cortez wrote. 

A spokesperson for the FDA said it has received the letter and will respond directly to the representatives.