Should we be forced to donate blood?

Here’s the deal: Your blood donation is going to save somebody’s life. Your blood is the ONLY BLOOD IN THE WHOLE WORLD that can save them. You’ve got protesters outside of your house, demanding that the ethical thing to do, the moral thing to do is to donate. And politicians are arguing that the government should force you to donate to save the life of this person, or risk legal action.*

So should you be forced to donate?

No way. What a weird argument. It’s like something out of a fictional dystopia. A very poorly-written fictional dystopia (I promise to never attempt to write a novel, y’all. Probably.)

What if your blood is the only blood that could save the President of the United States???

Nope, not even then.

Or if your blood could bring Carl Sagan back from the dead?

Welllllllll….mayb – Nah, I guess not.**

That’s the point put forth by this commenter in response to the anti-choice argument that people shouldn’t be allowed to have abortions because the little human inside of you needs your help to survive. I’ve heard this type of argument before, but I found this presentation compelling and worth sharing here.

Bodily Autonomy


Photo is from It shows an x-ray of a person sitting in meditative position with a VERY developed fetus cradled by the pelvis. Caption reads: IS IT REALLY JUST YOUR BODY?

Betterthanabortion writes:

“My body, my choice” only makes sense when someone else’s life isn’t at stake.

Fandomsandfeminism replies:

“Fun fact: If my younger sister was in a car accident and desperately needed a blood transfusion to live, and I was the only person on Earth who could donate blood to save her, and even though donating blood is a relatively easy, safe, and quick procedure no one can force me to give blood. Yes, even to save the life of a fully grown person, it would be ILLEGAL to FORCE me to donate blood if I didn’t want to.

See, we have this concept called “bodily autonomy.” It’s this…cultural notion that a person’s control over their own body is above all important and must not be infringed upon.

Like, we can’t even take LIFE SAVING organs from CORPSES unless the person whose copse it is gave consent before their death. Even corpses get bodily autonomy.

To tell people that they MUST sacrifice their bodily autonomy for 9 months against their will in an incredibly expensive, invasive, difficult process to save what YOU view as another human life (a debatable claim in the early stages of pregnancy when the VAST majority of abortions are performed) is desperately unethical. You can’t even ask people to sacrifice bodily autonomy to give up organs they aren’t using anymore after they have died.

You’re asking people who can become pregnant to accept less bodily autonomy than we grant to dead bodies.

Freaking brilliant.


*As an aside, I found a 2012 article from a Nigerian newspaper that described compulsory blood donation for pregnant women and/or spouses before the woman would be admitted to the hospital. So, I guess, in some places, forced blood donation could be a thing. I also found some articles on mandatory blood donation in China and the military, and theoretical discussions on whether organ donation should be compulsory. Interesting topics – maybe for another blog sometime.

**But maybe figure out how to synthesize that shit.

Should we be forced to donate blood?
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331 thoughts on “Should we be forced to donate blood?

  1. 1

    Hey, at least that ad showed the woman’s body, not just the fetus. The forced-birth literature I am accustomed to shows only the wee little tyke, floating in space, utterly independent, autonomous, and fully possessed of all rights (including, presumably, second amendment). The woman surrounding it is completely ignored.

    Which is precisely the point.

    1. 2.1

      If I may assume that you’re referring to the prohibition against blood donation by sexually-active gay men: Yeah, that fucking sucks. I sign every petition I find for this, and have even had a chance to throw a few bucks towards groups advocating to change the outdated, unneccesary rules.

      1. OT: It’s not just sexually active gay men, it’s any male person who’s ever had any sexual contact with another male, including rape. And unlike the deferral for nearly every other HIV risk factor, it’s for life.

      1. I’m with noastronomer, in the U.K I gave blood from the legal minimum age (18) for roughly 10 years, then did 5 more donating plasma once per month via plasmaphoresis, a procedure which takes way longer, and means YOU have to go to a fixed location rather than them come round to your town. So weird thing, if I went home I could donate again, here in Pennsylvania, I get the big no thanks, and from what I can recall Creutzfeld-Jacobs (vCJD) is already present here in the U.S.

  2. 3

    As I meant to continue with….

    Fandomsandfeminism’s thesis is brilliant. I think it illustrates quite well the main fallacy of the so-called right to lifers (who, for some reason, have no problem with capital punishment or war or using drones to indiscriminately bomb foreign villages, and who are the first to cut food, housing and medical services to mothers and children who have the audacity to be poor.)

  3. 4

    Akin to the “dying violinist” thought experiment (q.v.). Few, if any, of the soi-disant “pro-lifers” will insist that you remain attached to the violinist, but they all know that someone else must remain pregnant.

  4. 5

    After reading the The Only Moral Abortion Is My Abortion a few years ago I came up with a similar argument, though I’ve only had the chance to use it once. It seemed to work then since the person in question really did not want to give a straightforward reply. It goes as follows:

    Imagine that there is an event, such as an accident. The details of it are mostly beside the point with the following exceptions. First, you are the cause of the event. Maybe it happened due to your negligence and carelessness or it could have just happened despite any precautions you took. There could have been others involved, someone forced your hand perhaps. Regardless, you are the cause of this event.

    The other important detail is that, even though I was an innocent bystander, I am grievously injured as a result of this event. In fact, my injuries are fatal. I’m going to die soon because of your actions. However, I can be saved. All it takes is a simple operation but I need something, like an organ transplant or blood transfusion. It wouldn’t be dangerous to the donor but I need it quick. As it just happens you are a match, the only one actually once the immediacy of the situation is factored in.

    Here’s the question: whether you would or wouldn’t donate is irrelevant, what matters is, whether you would or wouldn’t, who gets to make that decision? Should it be up to you? Assuming I have the capacity, what about me? How about your family or my family? The other people involved, however tangential? Politicians, law enforcement agencies, special interest groups, doctors, religious organizations or clergy? Should it be up to any of them? Should any of them be able to force you?

    Once I got the person away from the irrelevant question of whether they would or wouldn’t*, they were hesitant to answer. They hemmed and hawed about how some of those others might have some useful advice and should be consulted though they never really answered the question outright. They eventually insisted that it was an unfair question and changed the subject.

    * You know they totally, without a doubt would, right?

  5. 6

    It wouldn’t be dangerous to the donor but I need it quick. As it just happens you are a match, the only one…

    Just to quibble a little, let’s not gloss over the possibility that pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous. (Less so than in the past, but more so than legal abortions or doses of the morning after pill.)

  6. 7

    I’ve used this argument with people and they hand wave it away because BABY is somehow special and different. When I point out they are only hand waving it away because what they really want to do is punish the woman they get pretty annoyed.

    1. me

      Punish the woman! Excellent as it never crossed my mind. That seems to be the source of the whole abortion thing. Point the finger at the guilty party and blame, to make themselves feel better for their short comings. I think it’s the source of all these arguments. If they are really for the child’s welfare then they could offer to raise the child in exchange for it’s life. A very noble deed and par with the injustice they claim to impede.

      1. If they are really for the child’s welfare then they could offer to raise the child in exchange for it’s life.

        Oh, me – they make THAT offer all the time. “Don’t kill your baby! We have families who want to adopt your baby. I will adopt your baby!” We even had one creepy young man offer to let a patient live with him until she gave birth, and then he would raise the baby.

  7. 8

    smhll- There is that. It does gloss over that fact. However, I wanted to get to what I see as the core question so I tried to remove as many of the factors that could be brought up to distract as I could, as important as they may be. In my experience in dealing with people that buy into certain positions, such as anti-choice, they tend to try and get the discussion out into the weeds in order to protect their beliefs. I try to frame things to prevent that as much as possible.

    Still, I could change it to something like “wouldn’t be very dangerous” or “there are some risks involved but they’re low” to acknowledge that it isn’t risk-free, as some groups seem to suggest.

  8. 9

    Jeremy Shaffer>

    Thanks for adding that, I think it’s a pretty convincing argument that even if someone is directly responsible (whether through mishap, negligence, or even outright malice) for killing or injuring someone, the person responsible still cannot be compelled to donate blood, even if that is the only thing that will save the victim.

    I think it pretty tidily wraps up the idea of ‘responsibility for one’s actions’ along with saving a life.

    Also, when you combine the argument of compelled/forced blood donation with the issue of forced-birthers trying to restrict access to/ban contraceptives, I think it’s all to clear that their real goal is punishing/controlling women.

  9. 10

    A similar discussion appeared on Pharyngula two to three weeks ago. Bodily autonomy and personal choice is paramount and should be respected, but that wasn’t the majority view in that thread. Many said organ donation should be “opt out”, taken from the dead without consent unless the person explicitly forbid it in writing, that the need for transplantable organs trumped the wishes of the dead simply because the person could no longer say no. Is a hospital really going to take the time to wait for a lawyer or family member with a will if they’re allowed to remove organs without consent, when there’s a patient in the operating room and the organs won’t last very long after death?

    I don’t see how forced organ donation is any different than forced blood donation or forcing women to carry unwanted foetuses, regardless of whether the person is alive, dead, or brain dead and on ventilators.

    I also found some articles on mandatory blood donation in China

    Did that include stories on blood pooling? I would guess so, but if it didn’t, blood was collected from farmers for money. The plasma was removed, then the blood was mixed together and reinjected into the population. The town of Henan, China has a huge number of HIV cases because of it. The PRC government has tried to cover it up, but failed thanks to activists.

    Regarding others’ comments about blood bans of who and where, I live in Taiwan. Despite the fact that foreigners are required to be tested for HIV and other diseases (you can’t get a work visa if you have any), foreigners are not allowed to donate blood or organs under any circumstances, regardless of one’s sexual history or even a lack of one.

  10. 11

    I’m afraid I disagree with most of the commenters here. I feel a moral obligation to other sentient beings. A fetus unless it is very near birth is not sentient, therefore there is no obligation to save its life. I have probably given blood 100 times in a procedure that is generally painless, short, and does me no harm. I would support a law calling for mandatory donation if that is the only way to save a life. Unlike libertarians I think absolutist property rights should not be a basis for morality, including my property right to my own blood..

    1. 11.1

      You are either ignoring or avoiding the key word in the discussion: voluntary. Your choices were choices, nobody forced it on you. The discussion here is invasive medical practices being forced on unwilling adults.

      Take note of New Mexico forcing a man to have surgery against his will – and then sending him a bill for it – because police “suspected” him of carrying drugs (read: it was a false positive by a sniffer dog).

  11. 12

    Lest people think this is just a thought experiment, there is a case on record where a court ruled a cousin with the right bone-marrow type was not obligated to donate to a stricken relative, no matter how necessary it might be. (And it was…the stricken relative died shortly after the ruling.)

  12. 13

    I find many abortion-ban advocates I’ve had this conversation with will lie when faced with this question. They lie and declare that it would be fine by them to force a person to donate tissue or organs against hir will to save another person’s life. Of course, they’re lying, we know they’re lying, but some will say anything if it supports their position. And then they will return to the slut-shaming.

  13. 14

    Oh, I see! You’re making an argument that will appeal to *conservatives*. It’s an interesting argument. But I feel it’s a little disingenuous to use arguments one oneself would not actually believe to convince those with another viewpoint.

    I do not hold body autonomy sacrosanct and I would support a law forcing me to give blood if it saved lives. Well, I actually wouldn’t because the fifty-year old me is very conservative compared to the mid-thirties me who would not only have supported such a law but would have been shocked and disgusted anyone could possibly oppose it. I find it very weird that you assume body autonomy is universally accepted as a fundamental right rather than the very conservative libertarian idea that it is.

    Seriously, if those seeking abortions were the moral equivalent of people letting others die because that choose not to give blood solely because it’s their right not to, then that would make the pro-choice movement as reprehensible as gun nuts opposing regulations in light of Sandy Hook.

    Conservative arguments for abortion are … interesting. But we still need liberal arguments and it’s the liberal arguments that keep me firmly pro-choice.

    1. 14.1


      I find it very weird that you assume body autonomy is universally accepted as a fundamental right rather than the very conservative libertarian idea that it is.

      You have a citation for this?

      It’s my body. Why should I be forced to save someone else’s life?
      Please note that there’s a huge distinction between being forced to donate a kidney to save someone’s life and making the personal choice to donate a kidney to save someone’s life.

    2. 14.2


      Seriously, if those seeking abortions were the moral equivalent of people letting others die because that choose not to give blood solely because it’s their right not to, then that would make the pro-choice movement as reprehensible as gun nuts opposing regulations in light of Sandy Hook.

      It’s a good thing that they aren’t equivalent.
      I give your poor attempt at reframing a D-.

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