Wyden, Merkley Welcome Updated Blood Donation Policy

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today that federal officials’ updated blood donation deferral policy takes a needed first step in the middle of the COVID-19 public health crisis to let more healthy gay and bisexual men donate blood.

The new FDA policy comes after the Oregon senators had joined more than a dozen colleagues last week in pressing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse course on discriminatory blood donor deferral policies that effectively prohibit many healthy gay and bisexual men from donating.

The new FDA policy lowers the 12-month deferral to a three-month deferral for men who have sex with men, and includes a commitment to gather further evidence on pursuing blood donation policies based on individual risk factors, rather than a blanket deferral.

At a time when the global coronavirus pandemic has generated a serious blood shortage in Oregon and nationwide, it’s more important than ever to increase our nation’s supply based on science and facts,” Wyden said. “This FDA announcement marks a good step, but more work remains to solve this shortage to be done so all healthy gay and bisexual men can donate.”

“This is an important step forward in our fight to end a decades-old policy that discriminates against gay and bisexual men in our blood banks,” said Merkley. “As we face a nationwide blood shortage spurred by the coronavirus crisis, the consequences of this misguided policy that turns healthy individuals away from donating are more serious than ever. I’m going to keep pushing for the policies we need to support the health of all communities—policies based in science, not prejudice—including a full repeal of this dangerous ban.”  

A web version of this release is here.