Val Demings Introduces the Science in Blood Donation Act

Last week, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., introduced the “Science in Blood Donation Act” which would have the federal government change its questions for potential blood donors, moving away from asking about sexual orientation to focus on sexual behavior.

With the support of U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., Demings introduced the bill on Friday.

“This legislation would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise 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, rather than categorization. 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,” the congresswoman’s office noted.

“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, sigma, 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,” Demings said at the end of last week.

“Blood is never at 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,” she continued. “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.”

“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 three-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,” Quigley said. “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.”

The bill was sent to the U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee at the end of last week. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

Demings enjoyed some national attention this year as she was considered by former Vice President Joe Biden to be added to this year’s Democratic presidential ticket. Attorney and Republican leader Vennia Francois and write-in candidate Sufiyah Yasmine are challenging Demings in November though the incumbent is the heavy favorite in the solidly Democratic Central Florida district.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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