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Court agrees with SSA, denies benefits to widow after in vitro

Published on June 14th, 2012

A case made headlines recently because many of the circumstances were perhaps unprecedented. A woman in another state used in vitro fertilization to conceive twins after her husband passed away. The Social Security Administration denied benefits for the twins, and now the Supreme Court has backed up that decision.

Shortly after the couple was married in 1999, the husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. The wife gave birth to a son in 2001, and then the husband died in 2002. Several months later, she used sperm he had donated to conceive twins using in vitro fertilization, and the twins were born 18 months after his death.

In the man’s will, he did not refer to any “unborn children” and listed their son and his two children from a previous marriage as beneficiaries.

After the twins were born, the SSA would not grant the woman insurance benefits on the twins’ behalf since they were conceived after the husband’s death. However, a 3rd circuit court ruled last year that the children must be considered “undisputed biological offspring of a deceased wage earner and his widow.”

The case then went to the Supreme Court, which apparently disagreed. The court disputed the woman’s assertion that the twins qualified as “biological children of married parents,” as she described them, because that definition would not cover posthumously conceived children.

The ruling is bound to be a controversial one given the circumstances, since the woman could be facing financial hardship in her situation.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Supreme Court sides with Social Security in dispute over in vitro fertilization”, Barbara Leonard, May 21, 2012

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