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Fake News: Single Men Will NOT Get The Right To Start A Family Under New Definition Of Infertility

  • by: Alan Duke
  • (Thu, 10 Oct 2019 15:32:53 Z)
Will single men get the right to start a family under a new definition of infertility adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO)? No, that's not true: WHO made it clear in a statement issued a day after the claim appeared in a British newspaper that it was not changing its definition to consider single men who could not find a fertile mate as suffering the disability of infertility, which could lead to new rights for them.
A chief source cited in the report told a fact checker that his quotes were "the result of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, conflation of statements, statements taken out of context or without accompanying qualifications." The new definition had not been adopted three years after the initial claim was published.

The story originated from an article (archived here) published by The Telegraph on October 20, 2016 under the title "Single men will get the right to start a family under new definition of infertility". It opened:

Single men and women without medical issues will be classed as "infertile" if they do not have children but want to become a parent, the World Health Organisation is to announce.

In a move which dramatically changes the definition of infertility, the WHO will declare that it should no longer be regarded as simply a medical condition.

The authors of the new global standards said the revised definition gave every individual "the right to reproduce".

Until now, the WHO's definition of infertility - which it classes as a disability - has been the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex.

Screenshot of https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/19/single-men-will-get-the-right-to-start-a-family-under-new-defini/

This is what social media users saw:

The Telegraph report created a stir in October 2016 because of the implication that single gay men could be put on equal footing with opposite sex couples seeking government-funded infertility services. But a day after it was published, WHO tweeted this statement making it clear the Telegraph report was wrong:

The WHO tweet linked to this statement:

Multiple definitions of infertility
21 October 2016
In 2009, WHO joined with the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART) and other partners to develop a Glossary of definitions for infertility and fertility care. This Glossary included the clinical definition for infertility as "a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse." This is keeping with WHO definition of male and female infertility in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD 10)

WHO has not changed its use of this definition. It is important to note that this definition provides a clinical description of infertility. It does not make any recommendations about the provision of fertility care services.

WHO is not planning to make any changes to the definition on infertility. WHO is currently developing guidelines on the diagnosis and management of infertility. These guidelines will not revise the definition of infertility.

The Telegraph story stayed under the fact-checking radar until July 2019 when it was used as the basis for a report on the Kenyan website Star. AFP Fact Check debunked that story in an article titled "No, being unable to find a sexual partner will not make you 'disabled' under new World Health Organization guidelines." As part of its reporting, AFP interviewed a doctor who was cited by The Telegraph:

We reached out to Dr David Adamson, the fertility expert cited by the Telegraph, about the comments attributed to him in the newspaper's 2016 article.

"Some of the statements in the article are the result of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, conflation of statements, statements taken out of context or without accompanying qualifications," he told AFP in an email.

"While I commented that the definition being considered created the potential for impacting individual, societal and legal aspects of reproductive rights, I was very clear in stating this was not the accepted WHO definition or policy in 2016. It is not now either. Unfortunately, this fact was not clearly stated in the article."

When Lead Stories contacted the Telegraph for a response, Andy King of the paper's editorial compliance desk sent this statement via email:

As you must be aware, our article did not state or suggest that the WHO definition of infertility had already been changed and adopted as WHO policy. We are therefore at a loss to understand the relevance of Dr Adamson's insistence to you in correspondence that he had told our reporter that the 'new' definition was not WHO policy at the time, nor how Dr Adamson's words could have been 'taken out of context'. The basis of our article was information given to our journalist, in company with two others, during two interviews conducted with Dr Adamson in person. The WHO was contacted before publication for comment, but it offered none. We stand by our report of what Dr Adamson told us, the accuracy of which we note he does not dispute.

We note moreover that this article has been online for almost three years, during which time no complaint about its accuracy has been brought either by Dr Adamson, the WHO or any other body or individual.

The age of the report is not a factor in accuracy. It was being shared and sourced on social platforms three years later, prompting this fact check.

The Telegraph story did make several declarations that proved false, including the headline that stated:

Single men will get the right to start a family under new definition of infertility

And the opening sentences:

Single men and women without medical issues will be classed as "infertile" if they do not have children but want to become a parent, the World Health Organisation is to announce.

In a move which dramatically changes the definition of infertility, the WHO will declare that it should no longer be regarded as simply a medical condition.

None of this happened and WHO quickly made it clear it would not happen.

Another version of the false claim was published by Gizmodo.com in an October 22, 2016 article titled "Being Single Is Now a Disability, According to the World Health Organization."

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes telegraph.co.uk as:

The website of the Daily Telegraph, a leading British daily newspaper. Founded in 1855, the Telegraph has been traditionally supportive of the Conservative Party.

According to NewsGuard the site can generally be trusted to maintain journalistic standards. Read their full assessment here.

We wrote about telegraph.co.uk before, here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

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About the author:

Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke co-founded Lead Stories after ending a 26-year career with CNN, where he mainly covered entertainment, current affairs and politics. Duke closely covered domestic terrorism cases for CNN, including the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, the UNABOMBER and search for Southeast bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. CNN moved Duke to Los Angeles in 2009 to cover the entertainment beat. Duke also co-hosted a daily podcast with former HLN host Nancy Grace, "Crime Stories with Nancy Grace" and hosted the podcast series "Stan Lee's World: His Real Life Battle with Heroes & Villains." You'll also see Duke in many news documentaries, including on the Reelz channel, CNN and HLN.

Read more about or contact Alan Duke

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