This is not the way the era of assisted reproduction was supposed to work. An unnamed woman in the UK has been jailed for five years after artificially inseminating her 14-year-old adopted daughter in order to get another child.
The harrowing case came to light after the secretive Court of Protection released a judgement by Mr Justice Jackson. He said that he had "an abiding sense of disbelief that a parent could behave in such a wicked and selfish way towards a vulnerable child".
The case came to light when the 48-year-old mother behaved strangely in the hospital after her daughter had given birth. She tried to prevent her from breastfeeding, saying, "we don't want any of that attachment thing". The staff noticed how reluctant the daughter was to hand the baby to her mother and when she attempted to remove the baby from the ward they contacted child protection workers.
The mother was clearly a strange and domineering woman. Her divorced husband had not seen her for 10 years. The woman did not want to give birth herself because she had diabetes and did not want to pass on the disease to her children. So she had herself sterilized and adopted three children, two before her divorce and one afterwards as a single mother. She home-schooled them and raised them in seclusion, or as the judge put in, in a “toxic cocoon”.
However, the woman was not happy with only three children and applied to adopt a fourth. When her application was denied she ordered her 14-year-old virgin daughter to bear a child for her. The girl told the court:
‘Mum said to me, “A, the only way I can have a fourth child is for you to get pregnant”. ‘I was shocked, pretty shocked at first. And then I suddenly thought, “Maybe if I do this then everything will be over. Mum will be happy like she was before”. ‘And I also thought from a selfish point of view, “If I do this . . . maybe she will love me more”.’
The woman’s system was crude. She forced the girl to inseminate herself "alone in her bedroom, using syringes of semen and douches prepared by the mother". This happened seven times. Once she bought semen from a casual visitor, but the other time it came via post from the Danish sperm bank Cryos.
Mr Justice Jackson said there were "no effective checks on a person's ability to obtain sperm from Cryos" and that no "meaningful medical involvement is demanded", except for the approval of a doctor (which the mother forged).
The girl may have miscarried once at 14, the judge believes, but finally, at the age of 16, she gave birth to a boy.
The case was a clear failure of adoption procedures and child welfare authorities. The woman was reported several times to the authorities, but no effective action was taken. The local Safeguarding Children Board said in a statement, "Nothing can change what has happened to the children in this truly terrible case. It is clear that public bodies must highlight the major public policy issues which arise from this case."