A mom who opted to have her husband’s sperm collected post-mortem won’t be getting any financial help from the government to raise her.
Gabriela Vernoff’s husband died in an accident in 1995, but she had his sperm extracted and frozen so she could have their baby four years later, in 1999. Now, ten years later, she’s been told she cannot collect Social Security benefits on the dead man’s child because she wasn’t a dependent during his life.
Vernoff first applied for benefits to help cover the costs of raising daughter Brandalynn in 1999, and she’s been working her way through the courts ever since. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said this week that it didn’t matter that Gabriela was married to Brandalynn’s father at the time of his death.
There was no baby, and no expectation that there would be one (in other words, she wasn’t pregnant).
Although I feel for Gabriela Vernoff for having lost her husband, I’ve never been a fan of postmortem sperm removal. It doesn’t seem fair to the man – that’s his sperm, his child out there. Granted, his life was cut short unexpectedly (this isn’t like the recent cases of men who banked sperm to undergo cancer treatments only to die and then have someone try to take his sperm to make a baby), and he did not have the chance to decide whether he wanted kids. Then again, he didn’t have the chance to decide he DIDN’T want kids if someone went in and took his sperm.
All that aside, Gabriela Vernoff did this with full knowledge that she was going to be a single mom. It sounds cruel to bring it up, but the fact is, her husband was deceased. Anyone who opts to harvest a dead man’s sperm – even his surviving widow – has to step away from the pure emotion and think “can I support this child on my solo income?” If you can’t, you don’t make the baby – it’s that simple.
Should the Social Security Administration (you and I and our tax dollars) be expected to step in here?