Bioethics Blogs

Should someone who does not want biological children be diagnosed as infertile?

In my last
, I discussed some of the problems with the definition of infertility,
including that it is based mainly on women’s bodies, which implies that men are
less likely or not likely to be infertile, and it is based on heterosexual
activity, which implies that single individuals and/or individuals in the LGBTQ
community cannot experience infertility. I also distinguished between physiological
infertility (i.e. infertility due to a biological condition such as low sperm
count or blocked tubes) and social infertility (i.e. situational infertility,
such as whether one has a partner and if so, if that partner is fertile and
together one and one’s partner have the “right” parts to reproduce
biologically). In this blog, I want to reflect more on that it means to be infertile
and how the role social desire (i.e. the social desire to have biological
children) plays in diagnosing this condition.

Imagine two women with the same exact circumstances: they
are both 30 years old, in long term heterosexual relationships, and have been
having unprotected sex regularly for the last 3 years. The only difference is
that one woman, Jessica, wants to have biological children, while the other
woman, Katie does not. Should they both be classified as infertile? How does
their desire to have or not have biological children shape their medical
diagnosis? Should their partners be labeled as infertile too? Does it matter
whether Jessica and Katie are physiologically or socially infertile in
classifying them as infertile? Does their partners’ interest in having
biological children or lack thereof factor into determining if Jessica and
Katie are infertile?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.