A.R.T. and the Social Security Act

The United States Supreme Court recently decided a case involving children born through the use of assisted reproductive technology or ART. In the case of Astrue v. Capato, the court considered whether these children were entitled to survivor benefits due to the death of the biological father.

Shortly after Karen and Robert Capato were married, Robert was diagnosed with cancer. Because the doctors told them that the cancer treatment would result in Robert being infertile, the couple decided to have Robert's sperm frozen so that the couple could have children in the future. After Robert died, Karen decided to use Robert's sperm and became pregnant with twins through ART. After the twins were born, Karen applied for Social Security survivor benefits on behalf of the twins.

The Supreme Court held that being a "biological" parent to a child does not necessarily make that child your legal child for purposes of the Social Security Act. The court noted that the purpose of the Act was to provide for children that were dependent on the wage earner. Having a biological relationship with the wage earner was not determinative as the Act provides benefits for stepchildren and adopted children.