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Supreme Court takes up IVF/benefits case

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court will rule if children conceived by in vitro fertilization following the death of their father can receive Social Security benefits.

The high court will decide if the Third Circuit Court of Appeals was correct in ruling that twins born four years after the death of their father qualify as his children under the Social Security law of the 1930s.

Robert Capato provided semen for deposit in a sperm bank in 1999. After he died of esophageal cancer in March 2002 while a resident of Florida, his widow, Karen, underwent in vitro fertilization with his sperm. She gave birth to twins in September 2003. She had conceived naturally and given birth to a son in 2001.

Karen Capato filed for survivors benefits on behalf of the twins, but the Social Security Administration rejected her claim. An administrative law judge also denied benefits, saying Florida law permits children to inherit personal property only if they are conceived before a parent's death. A federal judge in New Jersey agreed with that decision.

The Third Circuit, based in Philadelphia, Pa., overturned the lower court, ruling dependence on state law was not required in this case. According to the court of appeals, "the undisputed biological children of a deceased wage earner and his widow 'children' within the meaning" of the Social Security law.


Lawyers for the Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to review the Third Circuit decision and overturn it, pointing out it conflicts with a ruling by the Fourth Circuit. They said the Social Security Administration has received more than 100 applications for benefits by children conceived after parental deaths, according to Bloomberg News. That number has grown markedly in recent years, they said.

The justices, who announced Nov. 14 they had accepted the appeal, are expected to rule in the case before their term ends next summer.

Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press.

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Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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