Can the COVID-19 Interstate Travel Restrictions Help Lift the FDA’s Blood Ban?

7(1) Journal of Law and the Biosciences (2020)

11 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2020 Last revised: 27 Aug 2020

See all articles by Doron Dorfman

Doron Dorfman

Syracuse University - College of Law

Date Written: April 15, 2020


Optimism among health law scholars is rare in the time of coronavirus. Yet this piece suggests that the crisis might be helpful in overruling one controversial health law policy that predates the virus: the FDA’s blood donation ban for gay and bisexual men. The blood ban was developed in response to the 1980s HIV-AIDS outbreak. Scholars have criticized this policy for years now as being outdated and unconstitutional. A step in the right direction occurred on April 2, 2020, when the FDA issued new recommendations to blood banks changing the one-year deferral for donations from men who have sex with men to a three-month deferral due to the shortage in the blood supply and after a public outcry on the issue. Yet, the policy is still problematic as it expresses disdain about sex between men. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, states have issued travel restrictions on travelers from severely impacted states. This piece argues that outside of the dwindling blood supply, experience with stigma as a result of the travel restrictions has the potential to change public perceptions about the ban. Both policies, the blood ban and the COVID-19 interstate travel restrictions, are necessary for the short term, are based on activities connected with a disease, and create stigma with respect to the affected populations. Although no one can imagine the travel restrictions continuing after the pandemic is under control, the FDA’s ban has existed for decades after the end of the AIDS crisis. Drawing parallels between the policies and their stigmatizing effects could help mobilize the public against the blood ban and eventually have it lifted entirely.

Keywords: FDA; Blood Donations; Blood Ban; COVID-19; Interstate Travel Restrictions; Public Health Law; Constitutional Law; Law & Psychology; Stigma

Suggested Citation

Dorfman, Doron, Can the COVID-19 Interstate Travel Restrictions Help Lift the FDA’s Blood Ban? (April 15, 2020). 7(1) Journal of Law and the Biosciences (2020), Available at SSRN:

Doron Dorfman (Contact Author)

Syracuse University - College of Law ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244-1030
United States

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