Court: Benefits for babies born after dad's death?
WASHINGTON (AP) — Karen Capato used the frozen sperm of her deceased husband to conceive twins, but the government denied them Social Security benefits as their father's survivors. Her situation, more common as reproductive technology advances, had a mostly unsympathetic Supreme Court grappling Monday with the definition of "child,' inheritance law and artificial insemination.
The case had justices trying to shoehorn a 1930s law that gave Social Security survivor benefits to the dependent "child or legally adopted child" of a person into a modern situation where a man can bank his sperm for use months or years later to produce a child he will never see.
"You want us to sort of apply this old law to new technology," Justice Stephen Breyer said to Charles Rothfeld, the lawyer for Capato, the mother of twins fathered by her deceased husband, Robert. Lawmakers who wrote the survivor benefits law "never had any inkling about the situation that has arisen in this case," added Justice Samuel Alito.
But Justice Antonin Scalia said that they weren't trying to delve into new technology. "What is at issue here is not whether children that have been born through artificial insemination get benefits. It's whether children who are born after the father's death gets benefits," Scalia said.
The Capato twins were born through using Robert Capato's frozen sperm 18 months after he died of esophageal cancer. Karen Capato's application for survivor benefits on behalf of the twins was rejected by the Social Security Administration, which said that for them to qualify, Robert Capato needed to be alive during their conception. A federal judge agreed, saying they had to qualify as Capato's children before his death or qualify under state inheritance law as children who could legally inherit.
Florida law expressly bars children conceived posthumously from inheritance, unless they are named in a will. The only beneficiaries named in Capato's will are his wife, their son and his two children from a previous marriage.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia overturned that decision, saying the Capato twins were clearly the biological children of Robert Capato and deserved the survivor benefits. But other federal appellate courts have ruled differently in similar cases, leaving the Supreme Court to come to a final conclusion.
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