SGA condemns FDA for current blood donation policy

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The Student Government Association passed a resolution last week condemning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s lifetime deferral policy against gay men who wish to donate blood. The policy, enacted in 1983, states that “males who have had sex with males at any time since 1977,” are currently deferred as blood donors, according to the FDA Web site. The SGA resolution states that the policy is “discriminatory” and should be modified “based on high-risk behavior, not sexual orientation.” It urges the Vermont congressional delegation in Washington to take “immediate action” on the issue, and “strongly urges” the FDA to reassess the rule. Freshman Senator Ana Dru Ellis drafted the resolution that passed last week. “This resolution is important because it is the foundation to a much larger project that could potentially change our country,” Ellis said. The resolution comes in the wake of a heated debate over a bill that would have banned the American Red Cross (ARC) from holding on-campus blood drives, because the organization complies with the FDA lifetime deferral policy. Ellis co-sponsored the ARC resolution that was defeated last month. Senior Senator Jesse Bragg, chair of the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Environmental Ethics, said that the resolution addresses a more manageable piece of what last month’s ARC legislation attempted to undertake. Sophomore Senator John Colin Quinn, who authored the ARC legislation, said he did not support the resolution that passed last week however, because “it was not real action.” Quinn said that the resolution does not address the local issue of gay UVM students being deferred from on-campus blood drives. Sophomore Senator Josh Mangiagli had similar objection. “My concern is that addressing the FDA, as opposed to the Red Cross, will yield a lesser result in changing the discriminatory policy at hand,” he said. “In shifting our focus to the FDA we are picking an inevitably less responsive organization to focus our energy on,” Mangiagli said. Ellis told the SGA senate last week that the resolution would be “the roots of a larger project.” She said she and other SGA senators would prepare petitions, a scientific report, and a letter to send to the FDA, urging them to modify the deferral policy.