Amid National Blood Shortage, Oversight Committee Democrats Urge FDA to Reassess Blood Donation Restrictions for Gay and Bisexual Men

Red Cross Has Declared National Blood Shortage Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

January 13, 2022

Washington, D.C. (January 13, 2022)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Committee Members Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Katie Porter, sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the agency to reassess its recommended three-month blanket deferral period for men who have sex with men, which has had the discriminatory effect of preventing gay and bisexual men from safely donating blood amid a national blood shortage.

“While FDA’s 2020 revision was a step in the right direction, the three-month deferral period continues to prevent gay and bisexual men from safely donating blood,” wrote the Members.  “In light of the urgent crisis facing America’s blood supply, we urge FDA to take immediate action to reassess the existing three-month blanket deferral period for gay and bisexual men so that every person who can safely donate blood in the United States has the opportunity to do so.” 

On January 11, 2022, the American Red Cross declared its first-ever national blood crisis amid the surge of the Omicron coronavirus variant across the United States.   Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Red Cross has seen a 10% decline in the number of people donating blood.   Last year, the organization experienced a 34% decrease in new donors.

At the outset of the pandemic, and in an effort to ease the strain on the nation’s blood supply during a public health emergency, Chairwoman Maloney and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez successfully pushed FDA to revise its previous blood donation guidance of a blanket one-year deferral period.  As a result of the Committee’s efforts, FDA reduced its blood donation deferral period for gay and bisexual men to three months.  Now, to ensure an adequate and stable blood supply as the nation battles the Omicron variant, the Members are once again calling on FDA to reassess its blood donation restrictions on gay and bisexual men.

The Committee has also taken other steps to end discriminatory restrictions on blood and blood product donations, including sending a May 7, 2020 letter to FDA from Chairwoman Maloney, Chairman Raskin, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Porter, urging the agency to further modify its deferral recommendations so that gay and bisexual men who had recovered from COVID-19 and could safely donate plasma to support treatment research efforts would be able to do so.

Additionally, on April 2, 2021—exactly one year after FDA shortened the deferral period for blood donation by gay and bisexual men—Chairwoman Maloney and Rep. Adam Schiff led their colleagues in reintroducing a resolution underscoring the need for policies governing blood and blood product donation to be grounded in science and based on individual risk so that all those who can safely donate are able to do so.

Click here to read the letter to FDA.