Society and Social Structures

Infertility redefined: World Health Organization declares Sir Cliff Richard “disabled”

The world has gone mad. Or, rather, the World Health Organization has gone mad. Hitherto, the definition of infertility has been based on the inability of the woman to become pregnant or sustain pregnancy to live birth; and the inability of the man to cause pregnancy. Fertility problems can be profoundly disturbing for both sexes; the mental and emotional pressures often exacerbated by the financial costs of medical treatments and surgical procedures to remedy the disability. And, by definition, it is a disability – a physical impairment; a restriction from participation in normality – though some may balk at the identification.

It is natural to want children: they are a blessing (Ps 127:3ff; Prov 17:6; Jn 16:21). To be barren is like a curse (Gen 25:21; Lev 20:21; Judg 13:3; Lk 1:7), but it is God who closes up wombs (20:18) and it is He who opens them to bear fruit (Ex 23:26). But what if you choose to remain single? What if it is one’s desire or vocation? What if, with St Paul, you are presently single and consider it good to remain so (1Cor 7:8)?


In their great wisdom, WHO is extending the definition of infertility to include singleness. Yes, Jesus is to be declared officially disabled, and so is St Paul, and so are all Roman Catholic priests. And so is Sir Cliff Richard, which is a bit harsh after the three years of purgatory he’s just endured.

What’s that you say? That’s not what the article says? “Single men and women without medical issues will be classed as ‘infertile’ if they do not have children but want to become a parent.” Jesus didn’t want to become a parent; nor, as far as we know, did St Paul. Roman Catholic priests may be called to a sacrificial life of singleness, but that doesn’t necessarily stop them wanting to become a father, does it? Sir Cliff has spoken a number of times about his desire: “I think I would have been a good father,” he told The Lady magazine as recently as 2013.

..the inability to find a suitable sexual partner – or the lack of sexual relationships which could achieve conception – could be considered an equal disability.

So the lack of children constitutes inequality and injustice. What emerges is an assertion of the “right to reproduce”. Rights belong to all people: if they are breached, there is injustice. Where people are deprived, they suffer oppression. Does the Roman Catholic Church really have the right to deprive priests of their rights? The question brings us back to Vicky Beeching’s plea to the Church of England. Isn’t enforced celibacy or forbidding people to marry a doctrine of devils (1Tim 4:1ff)?

No, no, priests aren’t enforced, deprived or forbidden: they surrender voluntarily and sacrifice willingly…

Dr David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, said: “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.

“It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual’s got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It’s a big change.”

No skubalon, Sherlock. Not only does this right circumvent basic biology, it eradicates natural-law complementarity, placing the reproductive rights of singles and same-sex couples on a par with heterosexual unions.

There is a certain irony that we live in a part of the world in which it is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of marital status, yet here we are, about to consider (/be bound by) guidelines (/legal standard) from an international body concerned with the physical, mental and emotional health of the whole world, which seeks to impose disability upon all single people, thereby mocking the truly disabled.

Perhaps Sir Cliff and all able-bodied single people might sue WHO for harassment and discrimination.