Widow looks to Bill to reverse sperm ruling

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Diane Blood, the widow fighting for the right to have a baby by her dead husband, yesterday welcomed as "fantastic news" the possibility of a Private Member's Bill which could reverse last week's court ruling against her.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Health denied that the Government would support a Bill. "We sympathise, but we are not giving support as such. The Government is neutral, and regards a vote on the issue as a free vote," he said.

Joan Lestor, the Labour MP, has promised to bring in a Bill but, unless the Government promises to make parliamentary time for it, the Bill stands no chance of becoming law.

At a news conference yesterday, Mrs Blood, 30, said she would continue her appeal against last week's High Court ruling that she could not use her husband Stephen's sperm, taken as he lay in a coma in March last year, to become pregnant.

The President of the Family Division of the High Court ruled the law banned her from being artificially inseminated since her husband died without giving his written consent.

Mrs Blood said she was still confident her case could be won on appeal. A fund to help support the costs of the new legal action has brought in more than pounds 20,000 since on Thursday.

She accepted the fact that the decision by Stephen Dorrell, the Secretary of State for Health, "not to stand in the way of a Private Member's Bill" would not help her, but claimed it vindicated her taking the case to the Appeal Court.

The basis of her case is that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority had discretionary powers to allow her to go ahead.

"But my particular case is still far from won. My only course of action can be to pursue my appeal in the courts and hope that in the meantime the HFEA will reconsider their decision and allow the sperm to be released," she said.

A statement from Mrs Blood's lawyer, Richard Stein, said: "The suggestion of a Private Member's Bill to amend the law must be excellent news for people who may find themselves in Diane's unfortunate situation in the future."

A family friend, Paul Plant, said of the couple: "The two of them were inseparable. He would come to my home and loved playing with my children. He just wanted a child himself."