Diane Blood, the British woman who made legal history by fighting for three years to have a baby by being inseminated with her late husband Stephen's sperm, has had success in her latest legal challenge.
Mrs Blood has two children conceived by sperm taken from her husband when he was dying from bacterial meningitis seven years ago. Because her husband had not given his written consent to use the sperm, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) refused to allow her to be inseminated with his sperm in the UK. But they did allow her to take the sperm abroad to be treated, and she conceived her first child, Liam, after treatment at a Belgian hospital. Mrs Blood travelled to the same Belgian hospital for the treatment that resulted in her second son, Joel.
She has been campaigning for existing legislation to be changed, so that her husband's name can appear on the children's birth certificates. Currently, their birth certificates show the father as 'unknown'. The Government promised to amend the law retrospectively in August 2000, but the resultant Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Deceased Fathers) Bill was talked out of time in April 2001. Lawyers acting for Mrs Blood then issued a challenge to the birth registration rules under the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998.
In the latest case, Mr Justice Sullivan has condemned the behaviour of the Department of Health, which has fought Mrs Blood's claims for more than three years, before its lawyers agreed to settle the human rights claim before it even went to court. The lawyers accepted that the law was 'incompatible' with Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) - the admission could lead to a change in the law which would allow Liam and Joel to have their father's name on their birth certificates. A private member's bill is due for a second reading at the end of March - if successful it will change the law so that it complies with the ECHR. If the bill fails, the Health Secretary will have to decide whether or not to use the 'fast track' procedure under the HRA to give effect to the court's ruling. If he does not, Mrs Blood vows to continue her fight until the law is amended.