While the World Health Organization’s redefinition of “infertile” to include singles and the unmarried who do not have a sexual partner to receive access to invitro fertilization may appear like a good idea on the surface to some, it only pushes stigmas that are already attached to singles. This new definition fails to recognize the psychological harm and emotional heartache that individuals who are infertile experience when they learn that they unable to have children. Further, it also does a disservice to the scientific and sexual health community by including singles as infertile when it comes to studying and researching infertility. There are five ways that the World Health Organization’s new definition of infertile hurts singles.
Definition of Single
The strictest definition of single by Merriam Webster is someone who is “not married.” A broader definition of single would be anyone who is is not dating or who does not have a sexual partner. However, it is important to point out that this does not mean that singles and unmarried cannot have sexual relationships with others that they meet over apps, at a bar, or with friends with benefits. In short, the WHO’s new definition of “infertile” includes a broad group of people, which is intentional, but by doing so only furthers the stigmas that society already attaches to those who are single.
It Makes Singles Think There is Something Wrong with Them
Singles are already told by society and popular culture that if they are not dating, living with someone, or married than there is something wrong with them. The standard belief perpetuated by society is that those who are unmarried are told that since they are not dating, then there is something wrong with them and they are not attractive enough or desirable enough for someone to want to pursue them. However, by being called “infertile,” it only adds to that stigma. It makes singles think there is something wrong with their current status and for those who are single by choice, when an organization that is responsible for directing international health within the United Nations classifies being as a disability and “infertile.” This is for the purpose to give more people access to a service to IVF. However, not all singles may not want to use IVF treatment or are interested in getting married or having children.
It Hurts Singles Who Are Infertile
This new definition of “infertile” that the WHO is considering will combine singles who are fertile with singles who are truly infertile. This is a problem on both a medical level and on a semantic definition level. People who struggle with infertility struggle with loneliness along with emotional and psychological pain. For those singles that have learned that they are infertile, according to the medical definition, this experience brings pains and struggles as they must now deal with the reality that they are unable to conceive or to bear children. This new definition of “infertility” by the WHO disrespects those who are single and unmarried with this medical condition. Most importantly, it disrespects those are infertile and who deeply want to have children.
It’s Offensive to Singles and Other Communities
The World Health Organization’s definition is not only offensive to singles, but also offensive to other communities such as the LGBTQ+. Adam D Blum, who is the Director and Founder of the Gay Therapy Center, said that the WHO’s new “infertility” definition could be offensive to same-sex couples and the LGBT+ community. Blum told USA Today, “That’s a medical term that is problem-focused. That’s not how we think of it as gay people. We aren’t having a medical problem. We don’t expect to have a child to our own bodies.” A similar response can be given about the single and unmarried community. Not every single plans, or wants, to have children and this definition implies that they eventually plan to have children naturally or by using IVF because it is now a disability to be single and not to have a sexual partner.
There are Better Ways to Give Singles Access to IVF
There are better solutions to give singles and other communities access to having children, whether through adoption or by utilizing IVF. But redefining a scientific and medical term to make it more inclusive is not the answer. A better way would be to make or change laws in states and countries to give different people the ability to have access to these services. There is currently no such laws regarding who can and cannot access IVF. Those singles, unmarried, and LGBTQ+ who want to have access to these services should contact their representatives and legislators to tell them that they are interested in being able to have access and to write new legislation that allows them to be treated equally under the law like other couples. The law still has to catch up as the definition of family has broadened and it has become more culturally acceptable for singles and the unmarried to have children through modern means.
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