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Babies in the New Economy

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Want to make some extra cash in a depressed economy? All you may need is a young terminally ill man and a good dose of American entrepreneurial spirit.

On March 19th, the Supreme Court heard Astrue v. Capato. Karen Capato, a widow, claimed that her child should be entitled to the survivor social security benefits of her deceased husband. Capato's husband deposited sperm three years before he died, and she gave birth to twins conceived with his sperm after his death. Michael Astrue, on behalf of the Social Security Administration, argued that since someone cannot put an unconceived child into their estate for purposes of inheritance (a state by state regulation), children conceived after the passing of a parent -- specifically, of a father -- cannot be entitled to Social Security benefits.

The day Capato wins, my company will open its doors for business.

Paternity is a state designation. Thus, men in some states who intend to donate sperm, even those with private contracts with the child's mother, can find themselves having to pay child support as the legal father of a child. Many states will override the private contract, even when the donors had not intended to become fathers.

Here lies the brilliance of my business plan: If Capato wins, any future off-spring of a deceased father will be entitled to social security survivor benefits. A low-earning dead father will enable a child to get, say, $1500 a month until she or he is 18. That adds up to $324,000. A high earning father will yield much, much more.

Granted, the plan has some drawbacks. My niche market targets unmarried people: single women or same-sex couples. The mother must be willing to have the [dead] donor listed on the birth certificate as the father. The insemination will also have to be performed outside of a clinic, since in most states the use of a clinic implies that the father is relinquishing paternity.

As for the insemination itself, I'd do it the good old fashioned way -- with a turkey baster.

What about overhead costs, like testing for communicable and genetic diseases, you ask? Well, fortunately, the regulations for sperm are practically non-existent. My company will only have to test for the AIDS virus, Hepatitis B and C, human transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, and Treponema pallidum (the agent of syphilis). No need to expend any cash on genetic testing for other debilitating diseases such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia. The men will just give me self-reported health records, which according to today's standards, I'll have no obligation to verify.

And then there is the freezing itself. Unlike egg freezing, sperm freezing is straightforward. Yes, I'll have to pay the men, of course. After all, I am asking them to be celibate for two days before each donation, which is not nothing when they are terminally ill. But I'll pay market rates, $75 for an ejaculation. Each ejaculation will give me between one and twenty vials, and then I'd turn around and sell each vial for $20,000, current market price plus a little more -- since these babies are going to come home with a monthly check from Uncle Sam.

There are no regulations on how many children any donor can sire. Reports abound of men with 100 and 150 children. But that's not my problem. No one keeps records tracing live births back to donors anyway, so the scope of that potential issue is conveniently nebulous and unknown.

If it seems at first a little odd to be searching for terminally ill, youngish, men, think of it this way: My company will be giving these men an opportunity to spawn as if they were the royalty of previous generations, who spread their genetic, if not actual, wealth through wives, concubines, and housemaids.

This time though, instead of producing bastards that often ended up as orphans, they will be producing fully-fledged families who arrive with monthly checks.

Unfortunately, expansion into the egg donor market won't be possible. Ethically, my company does not believe in giving young healthy women untested fertility drugs the way the fertility industry does today. But the main problem lies in the legal designation of parenthood: Egg donors relinquish maternity when they donate. Despite the supposedly feminist technology of IVF, women will not be able to pass along Social Security survivor benefits to tens, perhaps hundreds, of off-spring after their departure from this world.

Gender inequity aside, the idea of survivor benefits was to help people who suddenly lost a parent, rather than someone who was planned for and conceived after the death of their donor. Still, people need financial help raising children. Where there is a market, there is a business opportunity.