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Professor Arrested After Challenging Red Cross Blood Donor Rules
Updated May 5, 2013 1:07 AM | Filed under: WBIW News
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(BLOOMINGTON) - A Philadelphia man teaching a summer class at Indiana University faces charges of disorderly conduct, resisting law enforcement and battery, and has been placed on paid leave by the university after his recent arrest.

Abby Tonsing of the Herald Times reports that Uri Horesh was trying to give blood at a Red Cross bloodmobile on campus at the time of his arrest.

Knowing he'd be turned away from donating blood after answering 48 questions on a Food and Drug Administration-mandated donor history, Horesh said he went to the blood donation bus with a copy of the university's policy that prohibits discrimination in his pocket.

He knew he'd be asked the question: "From 1977 to the present, have you had sexual contact with another male, even once?"

"Being the honest gay man that I am, I answered yes," Horesh said in a phone interview Thursday.

Banned from donating

The FDA's donor deferral policy of men who have had sex with other men dates back to 1983, according to the agency's website. Its current policy has been in place since 1992, and indefinitely bans men who have had any sexual contact, even one sexual encounter, with another man since 1977.

The FDA addresses the issue of discrimination and states the policy is based on "the documented increased risk of certain transfusion-transmissible infections" and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is not based on any judgment concerning sexual orientation.

Men who have had sex with men are referred to as MSM in FDA materials. "Scientific evidence has not yet been provided to FDA that shows that blood donated by MSM or a subgroup of these potential donors, is as safe as blood from currently accepted donors," the FDA states on its website.

The same policy applies for donors who have ever received money, drugs or other payment for sex since 1977, and those who have used needles to take drugs, steroids or anything not prescribed by a doctor.

Double standard?

Women, on the other hand, who have had sexual contact with men who have had sexual contact with another man since 1977 are deferred from giving blood for 12 months from the date of last sexual contact.

The same yearlong donation deferral applies to people who have given money or drugs in exchange for sex, and for people who have had sexual contact with those who have used needles to take drugs or steroids.

The donor history questionnaire also asks questions about general wellness, medications, medical history and recent travel.

Rita Chappelle, a member of the FDA's press office, said Friday that advisory committees are examining the issue. "A number of studies (are) under way ... that are designed currently to take a look at the policy as it relates to MSM," she said Friday afternoon.

Horesh calls the MSM indefinite deferral policy outdated, unjust and "just another building block in this homophobic atmosphere that the FDA policy has become a part of."

Charges filed

Horesh, 42, was arrested the afternoon of June 20 by IU police on preliminary charges of confinement, resisting law enforcement, battery and disorderly conduct. The Monroe County Prosecutor's Office filed misdemeanor charges of resisting law enforcement, battery and disorderly conduct the next day. During an initial hearing, Horesh entered a plea of not guilty to the charges.

Horesh had been teaching Arabic this summer at IU's Summer Workshop in Slavic, East European and Central Asian Languages program.

According to university spokesman Mark Land, Horesh has been placed on paid leave. All of his students were reassigned to other classes. Horesh was teaching one Arabic class for the university; it is the first time he's taught at IU.

According to an IU police report, officers were called to the north side of Ballantine Hall to a report of a man refusing to leave a Red Cross bus. When police arrived, the man continued to refuse to leave and was placed under arrest. "He was physically holding on and wouldn't let go of the inside of the bus," Chief Keith Cash said.

A Red Cross employee accused Horesh of spitting on her and blocking her from leaving her booth inside the bus, and said she had to scream for a supervisor for help. "They asked him to leave, and he said he was being discriminated against," Cash said. "Our concern, obviously, was for the safety of everybody and to restore order."

IU's policy vs. FDA's

On the day he tried to give blood, Horesh said he had printed out a copy of IU's policy that prohibits discrimination based on age, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status. "I came with that in my pocket in case something like this would come up," he said.

Horesh has been rejected from donating blood before -- when he served as the director of Arabic at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. The college, like IU, also has a nondiscrimination policy.

In that protest, Horesh went to a blood drive at the college's student center. He refused to leave, but wasn't arrested. He said he stayed at the site until they "just packed their things and left."

When Horesh was denied the opportunity to give blood June 20, he said he told a female Red Cross employee that this practice was in violation of the university's nondiscrimination policy. She replied it's not the Red Cross's policy, but the FDA guidelines they must follow. "I couldn't fault her," he said.

Horesh said he talked to a few workers and supervisors on the bus. One Red Cross employee, a man, was sympathetic and called the MSM policy "crap," Horesh recalled.
Still, Horesh refused to leave and later was taken away in handcuffs.

Horesh maintains he did not spit on a Red Cross woman. "The disorderly conduct charge, I can swallow that. But being accused of something degrading like spitting on someone, learning that's a battery charge. That was quite shocking to me."
'A civil liberty'

Like his experience at Franklin & Marshall College, Horesh said his motivation on IU's campus was "to protest the FDA policy in what I deemed to be a safe environment."

"I was in a situation where the people who were exercising this discriminatory policy dictated by the FDA were doing so within the confines of an institution that has a policy that is more progressive than the federal government," he said. He said he carried out his FDA protest, in part, because he felt like he was in a "safer environment for exercising a civil liberty."

He stressed: "I wouldn't go to a Red Cross building somewhere and just do this."

'An unjust situation'

Word of his arrest spread to other media outlets, including The Huffington Post and Sirius XM Radio. He's blogged about his experience, and been blogged about. "There's an unjust situation here with the blood ban."

According to the FDA's website, 14 million units of blood are donated by volunteers each year. It's the FDA's role to ensure that the 3.5 million patients who receive blood transfusions each year are protected. The donation process includes donor screenings, like the questionnaire; blood testing for infectious and transmissible diseases; lists of deferred donors; and a quarantine period for donated blood before it is tested and shown to be free of infectious agents, among other safety measures.



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