A COUPLE have posed a fresh challenge to the legal and ethical consensus surrounding the status of children produced by artificial insemination through the birth of a baby girl to a father who had already had a sex change operation and become a woman.
William Wotherspoon, a former soldier, changed his name to Lisa-Anne Docherty following a six-hour operation to change his gender in 2001.
However, he also stored some of his own sperm samples in a refrigerator at home before the procedure and now claims to have used the samples to father a child with his partner, Lisa-Marie Barraclough, by artificial insemination.
Their baby daughter, Michelle, was born seven weeks ago and is being cared for by her parents at the couple’s home in Holytown, Lanarkshire.
The extraordinary case, which may be investigated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, has raised fresh concern over the welfare of children born by DIY insemination.
Mr Wotherspoon, 37, had already fathered four children as a man before he changed his gender in September 2001 in an operation at Nuffield Hospital in Sussex.
He attempted to have a child with his new girlfriend, Ms Barraclough, through natural conception before going ahead with the operation to remove his male sexual organs and construct female genitalia.
As a last resort, he bought a fridge with an accurate temperature control and stored 18 samples of sperm in plastic canisters, following advice discovered on an internet website.
Ms Barraclough fell pregnant after five attempts to impregnate herself using a syringe and gave birth to Michelle at Wishaw General Hospital on 7 March.
The baby weighed 6lbs 5oz and has Mr Wotherspoon listed as her father on the birth certificate.
Mr Wotherspoon, who served as a soldier in the Parachute Regiment in Kuwait during the first Gulf war, now plans to marry Ms Barraclough in a ceremony that will be legal because he is still a man in the eyes of the law.
Under the new name of Ms Docherty, he told the Mail on Sunday yesterday: "I can prove when I had the operation and I am willing to take a DNA test to prove I am Michelle’s father. It’s not a problem. However unlikely it might seem, Lisa and I know Michelle is ours."
He added: "We will tell Michelle the truth, but we don’t know when or how. I hope she’ll be able to take it all in, but it can’t fail to alter her perceptions of who we are. I’m dreading it already.
"We’ve read numerous accounts of grown-up, or relatively grown-up children having to accept that their father is going to change sex, but our daughter will never know me as a man, or as her father. We just have to hope that bringing her up in a stable and loving environment will be more important than fitting in with conventional notions of family life."
The couple said they would encourage their baby to call Ms Barraclough "Mummy" and Mr Wotherspoon "Maddy" - a cross between Mum and Daddy.
It is illegal to freeze sperm or human eggs without a licence and if Mr Wotherspoon and his girlfriend had gone to a fertility clinic for an assisted conception, their case would have had to be considered by a treatment ethics committee to determine the potential impact on the child of being raised by two mothers.
Medical experts also cast doubt on the couple’s claim, with one saying it was "highly unlikely" a child could have been conceived without his sperm being stored in a specialist freezer unit.
Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said the case illustrated the dangers of taking assisted conception too far.
"It doesn’t take the welfare of the child into consideration and is more about serving the selfish needs of the parents," he said.
The Rev Jim Cowie, the convener of the Church of Scotland’s board of social responsibility, said: "We are concerned that children are being brought up in a confused atmosphere. Little consideration seems to be given to their future."
Ms Barraclough said the parenthood of Michelle had been difficult for her family to accept. "I didn’t see my future like this. I imagined myself with a husband and children, but I’ll have Lisa and Michelle. I’ve given up normality to be with her, but she’s worth it," she added.