WASHINGTON — Twins conceived through in vitro fertilization after their father's death are not eligible for Social Security survivor benefits, the Supreme Court decided Monday in its first review of "posthumous conception."
The eligibility decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for a unanimous court, depends on whether the offspring are eligible under a state's inheritance law. And in the case of the twins born to Karen Capato 18 months after the death of her husband, Robert, Florida law does not recognize their eligibility.
The case tasked the court with reconciling modern science with old laws.
"The technology that made the twins' conception and birth possible, it is safe to say, was not contemplated by Congress when the relevant provisions of the Social Security Act originated (1939) or were amended to read as they now do (1965)," Ginsburg wrote.
After the twins arrived, Karen Capato applied for Social Security survivor benefits. But a judge said the Social Security Act looked to state laws to determine whether the benefit seeker is eligible to inherit property. In some states, such posthumously conceived children would be covered, but under Florida law they are not.
Surveillance case: The Supreme Court agreed to decide next term whether a group of lawyers, human rights activists and journalists may challenge the government's widespread use of electronic surveillance to monitor suspected terrorist activities overseas. The Americans challenging the program say they have a "well-founded fear" that telephone calls and other communications with overseas clients and sources are swept up in the "dragnet surveillance."