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Toddler Conceived After Father’s Death Gets His Benefits

May 30, 1995

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ A girl who was conceived after her father’s death by way his stored sperm is clearly his child and should get his Social Security benefits, an administrative law judge ruled.

``This will be a wonderful birthday present,″ the girl’s mother, Nancy Hart, said Tuesday.

Judith Christine Hart’s fourth birthday is Sunday. She was born 10 days short of the first anniversary of her father’s death from cancer.

Edward William Hart Jr. had stored his sperm because he and his wife wanted children, and doctors had told him chemotherapy might leave him sterile.

Shortly before her husband died in 1990, Mrs. Hart said, he reminded her of the frozen sperm and said, ``There could always be a child for you.″

All of the evidence supports the claim that Judith is Hart’s child and was conceived at his wish, Administrative Law Judge Elving Torres wrote in a decision received Tuesday at the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York, which represented Mrs. Hart.

Kathryn Kolbert, Mrs. Hart’s lawyer, said the ruling could mean a $9,000 or $10,000 lump-sum payment for Judith and about $700 a month after that.

But the amount is not settled and the government has two months to ask the Social Security Administration’s appeals council to hear the case.

Ms. Kolbert said no state recognizes a child conceived after the father’s death as legitimate.

The ruling does not settle a federal lawsuit asking to have Judith named her father’s legal heir in Louisiana. It was filed as a parallel attempt to win Social Security benefits for Judith; Hart’s two adult children by a previous marriage support Judith’s claim and there is no argument over Hart’s estate.

Ms. Kolbert said no decision has been made on whether to pursue the lawsuit if the appeals council upholds Torres’ ruling.

Mrs. Hart, a kindergarten teacher in Slidell, said Judith has a hard time understanding why she cannot see her father. It’s even harder to explain another fact of life, Mrs. Hart said.

``Now she’s telling me she wants a baby brother or baby sister,″ Mrs. Hart said. ``I have to tell her, `You can’t do that because you don’t have a daddy.′ She looks at me as if I’m crazy _ she doesn’t have one either.″