Donald Trump says he had nothing to do with the easing of restrictions on blood donations by men who have sex with men, but that hasn’t kept the Log Cabin Republicans from giving him credit for it.
The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it was recommending that blood banks allow donations by gay and bisexual men if they haven’t had sex with another man in the past three months. This is down from a year under a policy that came out in 2015 and from an earlier lifetime ban, dating from the height of the AIDS crisis. The shorter deferral period is meant to encourage donations amid a shortage of blood and plasma due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Washington Blade reporter asked Trump about the new policy during Friday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing, and the president didn’t object to the policy but said it didn’t come from him. “I didn’t know anything about that,” he said, according to the Blade. “That was done by the FDA, very capable people at the FDA.”
Log Cabin, which had praised Trump for the easing of restrictions, adhered to that position despite his remarks. “On March 19, President Trump ordered the ‘removal of outdated FDA rules and bureaucracy,’” Log Cabin Managing Director Charles Moran told the Blade. “That’s exactly what happened when the FDA issued its relaxed guidelines. … So yes, I stand by my statement that he had a role in this.”
Since the FDA statement is only a recommendation and nonbinding, some blood banks may choose to keep more stringent regulations, LGBTQ activists noted last week. Activists have also called for a donation policy based on individual risk factors for HIV and other blood-borne infections rather than one based on group identity. All donated blood products are screened for such infections, although there is a period in which recent infections can’t be detected.
GLAAD said Trump should have used the Blade’s question as an opportunity to urge the adoption of a risk-based policy instead of an identity-based one. “The inclusion of this issue in such a prominent venue is a signal to the FDA that the LGBTQ community will not stop fighting this ban until all of us can donate blood without restrictions,” a spokesperson told the Blade. “Trump could have used this press conference to stand with LGBTQ Americans as well as the leading medical and scientific experts who are now calling on the FDA to end the three month deferral. However, given his poor track record on LGBTQ issues and listening to science, his non-response was disappointing but not surprising.”
Lucas Acosta, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, also issued a statement on the matter, saying, “LGBTQ people are not Trump’s priority. Never have been, and by every indicator, never will be.”