"Virgin Births" Are Probably Not On The Rise, Despite What You May Be Reading — So Everybody Can Just Calm Down Already
We all know that there's more than one way to make a baby. Surrogacy is on the rise, despite its staggering costs. And in vitro fertilization has become an increasingly popular choice for single women who don't want to wait around for Mr. Right to come along, as well as for women who have already found Ms. Right. But what about those who aren't looking at all? U.K. fertility doctor Maha Ragunath recently told ABC News that she's seen patients who have never had any kind of sexual relationship whatsoever. With her help, these virgins are becoming mothers. "The women that are treated had never been in a relationship ever and that was a personal choice," Ragunath told the outlet.
The so-called "trend" has been making headlines across Britain over the last week. "Virgin Births Are on the Rise!" scream the outlets, as more and more of them pick up the story. But if you look past the headlines, you'll see it's not much of a rise after all. Just how many virgins are we talking about, exactly? According to The Daily Mail, 25 heterosexual virgins gave birth at Ragunath's clinic in the last five years. (That's hardly a "rise" if you ask me.) And when ABC reached out to the U.S.-based National Infertility Association for comment, they responded pretty bluntly: "This is not a trend that we have seen or could speak to," the rep stated. Hmmm ... so it looks like virgin births are a big, fat, nothingburger after all.
Still, that hasn't stopped the headlines from coming — or Twitter from getting super confused.
To keep things in perspective, though, the concept of single motherhood by choice is far from new. It just seems to be taking us a while to consider it part of the norm. Back in the '90s, fictional TV character Murphy Brown enraged Vice President Dan Quayle by "mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice." (She dared to have a baby without a father by being artificially inseminated.) But the reality is that these days in the U.S., over 40 percent of babies are born to unmarried women. And while some may hope to eventually "complete" their family with a romantic partner, many don't. Sure, it can be argued that it's harder to parent a child alone, but it's far from impossible. And many women prefer it that way.
And here's the other obvious problem the term "virgin mother" presents. Now that heterosexual sex is not the only way to conceive, it seems strange to make it a prerequisite for motherhood. After all, plenty of lesbians, married or not, conceive through IVF, and nobody's calling them virgins (I hope). And with 1 percent of the population identifying as asexual, we may very well see a rise in actual virgin births one day. (It just doesn't seem like that day is today.)
Rather than worry about how exactly a woman conceived her children, and exactly what else has been up to with her vagina, we should simply commend her for choosing to become a mother, and offer help, support, and maybe a little wine along the way.