There has been a wonderful consensus in a cynical nation that Diane Blood's latest pregnancy constitutes a heart-warming piece of news. Pictured beaming as she hugs her first son Liam, Mrs Blood announced on behalf of her late husband Stephen that he "would have been delighted that he is to be a father again".
Well, he might have been, were he alive. But then if Stephen Blood were alive, he would have been in a position to rear his children as well as beget them. The problem about the late Mr Blood and his paternity is that he is seven years dead. He is to be a father by virtue of the use to which his single-minded widow has put his semen, which was extracted from his comatose body back in 1995.
Mrs Blood is a great woman for family values. Her latest battle with the state is to ensure that her children will have their father's name on their birth certificate. God forbid that they should be classed with the offspring of those unfortunate single mothers who have children by men to whom they are not married and who are too shy to admit to their paternity.
When she pitched up at the Appeal Court, where she fought a tenacious battle for two years to secure the use of her husband's sperm, she bolstered her case by clutching a copy of the prayer book with the marriage service she used at her wedding in 1991. The point, as far as she was concerned, was that the marriage service encouraged procreation. Indeed, the wording of the Anglican prayer book is embarrassingly blunt on the subject: "Matrimony," it says, was "ordained for the increase of mankind". So, by Mrs Blood's reasoning, she was simply fulfilling her marriage vows retrospectively in her effort to export her husband's semen to a Belgian fertility clinic.
But it seemed at the time, and it seems still to me, that Mrs Blood is taking liberties with her children, with the late Mr Blood – and with us. Even now that we're hardened to the notion of reproduction being dissociated from sex, there was something repellent about extracting sperm from a comatose body using the equivalent of an electric shock.
It is an odd paradox that it took this respectable married woman to turn sperm into a commodity, to be extracted by electrodes and fought over in the courts. The dignity of the late Stephen Blood seems to be the one thing that never deterred this tenacious widow in her attempt to ensure that his potential for fatherhood survived his death, for her benefit. It's a kind of sexless necrophilia, a one-sided engagement with the dead to which they cannot consent.
And for all her attempts to throw the mantle of matrimony forward from her marriage in 1991 to embrace the children she has procured in that Belgian fertility clinic, to bring babies into the world without a living father seems just a little feckless. She may recall that her marriage service referred to the mutual society and comfort that men and women are to each other.
There are children whose fathers die before they are born; they are generally regarded as victims of a tragic mischance. There are women who have children by simply resorting to a sperm clinic and do an admirable job of rearing them alone; but their children do not grow up with the burden of knowing that they are a bond for their mother with their dead father, a means of transcending death by biology.
Our confidence in Mrs Blood's integrity is not enhanced either by seeing her exhibit her first child Liam, all of four years old, to the press as a means of vindicating her actions to date. This is a widow who has turned her attempt to keep her dead husband alive by procreation, seven years after he should have been laid to rest, into a human right. It's not. It's selfishness that has the sanction of the law.Reuse content