According to the Telegraph, the World Health Organization will change its definition of disabilities to classify people without a sexual partner as “infertile.” The controversial new classifications will make it so that heterosexual single men and women, as well as gay men and women who are seeking in vitro fertilization to have a child, will receive the same priority as couples. This could make access to public funds for IVF available to all.
The move to extend the definition of a disability to include social conditions has, predictably, angered some who consider it overreach by a medical organization that sets global standards.
Josephine Quintavalle, a pro-life activist and director of Comment on Reproductive Ethics told the Telegraph, “This absurd nonsense is not simply re-defining infertility but completely side-lining the biological process and significance of natural intercourse between a man and a woman.” The “natural intercourse” intercourse line is painful but expected. Quantaville took it a step further down the anti-science road by saying, “How long before babies are created and grown on request completely in the lab?”
For the WHO’s Dr. David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, this move is about creating medical equality. He says, “The definition of infertility is now written in such a way that it includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women.”
Dr. Adamson adds that, “It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual’s got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner.” For countries with government provided healthcare and public funding for IVF procedures, this could have significant ramifications. “It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should have access to healthcare. It sets an international legal standard. Countries are bound by it,” Adamson says.
Under the American Disabilities Act, a person with a disability is defined as someone with “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” Because the ADA does not name all of the impairments that are covered, the new WHO guidelines could apply, or even be unnecessary. After all, having children is a major life activity for many people.
The World Health Organization has still not made its new terms official but they seem to be moving forward. It remains to be seen what effects the move will have on individual countries’ health programs.