WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), along with U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05) and Barbara Lee (CA-13), released the following statement regarding the tragic mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) blood donation deferral policy for men who have sex with men (MSM):
“The resiliency of the American people is always magnified after a tragedy, and we are witnessing that compassion as Floridians rally around the people of Orlando, and the local LGBT community, by lining up to donate much needed blood after Sunday’s horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub. However, we find it unacceptable that gay and bisexual men are banned from donating desperately needed blood in response to this tragedy. Blood donations are needed now more than ever, yet gay and bisexual men remain unable to donate blood due to an outdated and discriminatory FDA rule. For years, we have worked through both authorizing and appropriations committees to overturn the FDA's donor referral policy for men who have sex with men. We've made progress; this past year, the FDA reversed a lifetime ban to a 12-month deferral policy. But this revision does not go far enough in ending an outdated policy that is medically and scientifically unwarranted and that perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes. Tragedies like the one we witnessed in the early morning hours on Sunday show how crucial it is for FDA to develop better blood donor policies that are based on science and on individual risk factors; that don’t unfairly single out one group of individuals; and that allow all healthy Americans to donate. Given the enormous response by the citizens of Orlando, including members of the LGBT community, to donate blood to help heal their community, the FDA should lift this prejudicial ban once and for all.”
Senator Baldwin has long been a leader on this issue. In December 2014, Senator Baldwin led over 75 members of Congress in calling on HHS Secretary Burwell to end the outdated and discriminatory ban, and replace it by instituting a risk-based policy. A year later, 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.