Academic journal article Missouri Law Review

And Baby Makes Two: Posthumously Conceived Children and the Eighth Circuit's Denial of Survivors Benefits

Academic journal article Missouri Law Review

And Baby Makes Two: Posthumously Conceived Children and the Eighth Circuit's Denial of Survivors Benefits

Article excerpt

Beeler v. Astrue, 651 F.3d 954 (8th Cir. 2011), cert, denied, 132 S. Ct. 2679 (2012).


Amidst the ever-evolving definition of family, situations are becoming increasingly common in which the arrival of a newborn no longer solidifies a family of three (mom, dad, and baby) as expected. Rather, this baby, a successful result of assisted reproduction, makes two. Widows and single females alike are now able to become pregnant on their own, even after the death of the genetic father, as long as his sperm has been preserved and is available. Yet, such a revolutionary concept, referred to as posthumous conception, is not without controversy.

The Eighth Circuit case of Beeler v. Astrue is one in a line of cases that addresses the issue of whether posthumously conceived children may receive their deceased fathers' Social Security benefits. Unlike their traditionally conceived peers, posthumously conceived children face multiple obstacles to qualify for such financial award.

In light of the recent Supreme Court of the United States case of Astrue v. Capato, (1) which involved a similar issue, this Note will address the lack of uniformity and guidance among the respective appellate courts regarding the issue. Specifically, the emerging circuit split concerning posthumously conceived children and their rights to Social Security benefits based on the earning records of their deceased, genetic fathers will be examined. In order to do so, the facts and holding of Beeler are first discussed, followed by an explanation of Assisted Reproductive Technology. Next, the Social Security Act, along with relevant provisions and case law, will be explored. Lastly, this Note will analyze Beeler and its ramifications in Missouri, as well as its impact upon public policy. This Note ultimately concludes that the creation of a uniform federal standard, or at the very least state-specific statutes, for the children at issue is long overdue.


Following a five-month whirlwind romance, Bruce and Patti Beeler were engaged by February 2000 and planning for a spring wedding the next year. (2) Unfortunately, Bruce was diagnosed with acute leukemia, and because the couple's eventual desire to have children was threatened by the potential that chemotherapy treatments would render him sterile, Bruce banked his semen at an Iowa fertility clinic. (3)

Upon receiving grim news regarding Bruce's chances of survival, the couple married earlier than anticipated in December 2000. (4) Two months later, Bruce bequeathed his semen to Patti, only to be used by her "in the event of his death," and signed a hospital form acknowledging "paternity and child support responsibility" for any future children. (5) Following an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant, Bruce passed away in May 2001, comforted by the belief that "Patti would have his children after he died." (6)

Patti later underwent artificial insemination, (7) and her posthumously conceived daughter B.E.B. was bom in April 2003, with Bruce listed undisputedly as the biological father on the child's birth certificate. (8) Two months later, Patti filed an application for B.E.B.'s child survivor insurance benefits under 42 U.S.C. [section] 402(d), the relevant provision of the Social Security Act (Act). (9) This provision, which outlines the requirements for securing survivors insurance benefits, includes a specific segment regarding children of a deceased parent and their eligibility for such award. (10) One requirement is that a minor applicant fit within the definition of a "child" per section 416(e) of the same title. (11)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) denied both B.E.B.'s application and Patti's subsequent request for reconsideration on behalf of her daughter. (12) At a March 2008 hearing before an administrative law judge, the case was directed to the SSA's Appeals Council with a recommendation that B. …

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