The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that children conceived posthumously with IVF are not entitled to Social Security survivor benefits. In 1939, the Social Security Administration put in a provision that allowed dependent children to collect their parent’s benefits as survivors. In 1939 they did not have a crazy fertility industry willing to make children en masse for any reason for anyone. So the 1939 definition of “dependent child” was open for interpretation in 2012.
On Monday the Court, decided on Astrue vs. Capato against the Capatos. Before Robert Capato died of cancer, he banked his sperm. A year later his widow, Karen Capato, used that sperm to create IVF embryos and gave birth to twins. Karen applied to Social Security for “survivor” benefits for the twins. Those benefits were denied by the SSA and now the Supreme Court has upheld their decision saying that the Capato children were never truly dependent on Robert for his wages.
This case had many facets and elicits conflicting thoughts in me. On one hand the fiscal conservative in me said, “No way!” Children knowingly conceived with the gametes of a deceased person are not entitled to survivor benefits. Once Robert died, the marriage was over making Karen a single mother.
But the Catholic pro-lifer in me realizes that this is an untenable situation for these children. They were intentionally brought into this world never to know their father. They have been wronged by an out of control fertility industry. An industry that purposefully and knowingly creates children that will never meet their father. If anyone needs our compassion and our support, it is these twins who, in this Brave New World, were forced to argue, to the Supreme Court, that they deserve their father’s benefits. They are as much children of God as anyone who was naturally conceived and should not be punished for the decisions of their genetic parents.
I was not the only one who had this opinion. The Life Legal Defense Foundation, Jennifer Lahl, director of Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, Dr. Anthony Caruso, a former IVF practitioner, Stephanie Blessing and Kathleen R. LaBounty, donor-conceived adults, and Kathleen Sloan, a women’s rights advocate, submitted a friend of the court brief in favor of the Capatos.
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I was hoping that the Court would rule differently, not because I want to champion IVF. I wanted the Court to rule that the Capato children deserved survivor benefits to wake up America to what is going on in the fertility industry: that children are being created with the intent that they will never know their biological father. If we taxpayers have to support this practice, then for sure we would not only be aware of it, but that we have an interest in seeing that it does not continue.
In the end, the Court rule against Karen Capato 9-0 which is a clear indication that the Social Security Administration was within the law to deny survivor benefits for posthumously conceived children. Unfortunately, I don’t think this case raised the kind of awareness about the practices of the IVF industry that I had hoped it would.