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Illegal Beings: Human Clones

Disease Prevention and Treatment

Infertility is a Disease

by Linda Rader

I am always dismayed at human beings who exhibit callousness toward the illnesses of other human beings. Some of it I chalk up to an innate fear of contagion. Animals, for instance, have a genetic inclination to avoid other members of their species who appear diabled or diseased. No doubt this is a useful survival strategy that minimizes the spread of infectious diseases through a population. But what makes good population strategy, makes lousy morality on the indivdual level. While humans are animals, they are also far more than animals. We have what our animal relatives do not: the ability to think, reason and have compassion.

We teach our children not to make fun of crippled children, although we still don't always admonish them not to make fun of the fat kid in class. But adults who would cringe at the idea of the idea of belittling people with mental illness or clinical depression, still seem indifferent to the pain endured by men and women who have a socially unrecognized disability: infertility.

I do not mean to suggest that becoming a parent is vital to good mental health. Many people do not have children and are perfectly content to choose that lifestyle. The optimal word here is 'choice'.

It is not that having children is better or worse than being childless, but that every individual has the right to make that choice for themselves. And when that choice is taken away from them for whatever reason, the individual experiences real pain.

Therefore I was intrigued when I saw news that scientists had recently discovered depression among infertile women. I thought to myself, "Well, about time!"

The study concluded that women who are involuntarily childless tend to exhibit more long-lasting symptoms of distress than other women.

Women who had no biological or "social" children --social children meaning children incorporated into the family through adoption, step or foster children-- showed more signs of psychological distress than those who had always conceived with ease.

The report concluded that the cause of the women's sadness came not from the infertility itself, but from being "involuntary childlessness", because women who were childless by choice tended to show even fewer signs of distress than mothers who had no problems conceiving.

What was interesting to me is that so many women today experience a period of infertility. 1/3 of the participants in the study said they had experienced some period of infertility at some time in their lives.

Neither the women's education, employment, marital status or ethnicity had any bearing on her distress either. Educated women, and therefore women with other options for emotional outlets, were just as likely to be distressed over being childless as uneducated women. If you want children, then there is no substitute for them.

"The strong, long-term effect of motherhood denied supports an argument that frustrated attempts to achieve motherhood threaten a central life identity," the University of Nebraska researchers wrote.

I hope the publication of this study means that infertility is being taken more seriously and compassionately in our society.

Control over ones life is what leads to happiness. And it's time we recognized the right to bear children among the other valid choices that make up reproductive rights.