WASHINGTON The Supreme Court said on Monday it would decide whether children conceived through in vitro fertilization after the death of their parent were entitled to survivor benefits under the Social Security law.
The justices agreed to hear an appeal by the Obama administration of a ruling by a U.S. appeals court for a woman who seeks benefits for her twins conceived by artificial insemination after her husband's death.
At issue in the dispute are new reproductive technologies and the requirements to qualify for child survivor benefits under the Social Security Act.
In its appeal, administration lawyers said the Social Security Administration has received more than 100 applications for survivor benefits by posthumously conceived children, and the rate of such applications has increased significantly in recent years.
The case involved Karen Capato, who had sued in federal court in New Jersey after her request for Social Security benefits for her twins had been denied.
In 1999, her husband, Robert Capato deposited sperm at a fertility clinic after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He died in March 2002, and his wife then underwent in vitro fertilization. She gave birth to twins in September 2003.
The Social Security Administration has taken the position that eligibility for benefits depends partly on whether the applicable state law would allow a posthumously conceived child to inherit property in the absence of a will.
In the Capato case, the state law at issue bars children conceived posthumously from inheritance unless they are named in a will. Capato's only beneficiaries named in his will were his wife, their son and two children from a previous marriage.
Capato's attorneys opposed the government's appeal and said the Philadelphia-based appeals court had correctly determined that a posthumously conceived child fell within the law's definition of a child for the purpose of receiving Social Security survivor benefits.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case early next year, with a ruling due by the end of June.
The Supreme Court case is Astrue v. Capato, No. 11-159.
(Reporting by James Vicini; editing by Mohammad Zargham)