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In 26 U.S.C.S. § 213(d), the word "function" is followed by the prepositional phrase "of the body." That limiting modifier, referring as it does to one "body" rather than multiple "bodies," confirms what Section 213(d)'s plain language indicates—that at least in this context, "function" is an attribute of a singular thing and, accordingly, that the statutory definition should be understood to cover medical care that affects the function of one body, while excluding care that might be thought to affect some "function" achieved by the cooperation of multiple bodies.
Plaintiff-Appellant Joseph F. Morrissey was a homosexual man who characterized himself as effectively infertile. In 2010, plaintiff and his partner decided to try to have children through in vitro fertilization (“IVF”). The IVF process amounted to more than $100,000.00 of plaintiff’s expenses. In 2011 alone, plaintiff paid nearly $57,000 out of pocket for IVF-related expenses. Of the total, only about $1,500 went toward procedures performed directly on plaintiff’s body, and he spent the remaining $55,000 to identify and retain the women who served as the egg donor and the gestational surrogate, to compensate those women for their services, to reimburse their travel and other expenses, and to provide medical care for them. Plaintiff did not initially claim a deduction for medical expenses on his 2011 tax return. In December 2012, however, plaintiff filed an amended 2011 return that claimed a medical-expenses deduction in the amount of $36,538. Based on the newly claimed deduction, plaintiff’s amended return sought a $9,359 refund. The IRS disallowed the IVF-related deduction in its entirety, noting that under I.R.C. § 213, the medical care must be for medical services provided to the taxpayer, his spouse, or dependent. The IRS Office of Appeals upheld the disallowance. Subsequently, plaintiff filed the present refund suit, asserting that the Tax Code Section 213, as plainly written, authorized his requested deduction. Moreover, plaintiff asserted that the IRS's disallowance of his claimed deductions violated the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment for the IRS. Plaintiff appealed.
Could the IVF-related expenses be claimed as medical-expenses deduction from the plaintiff’s 2011 tax return?
The court affirmed the judgment of the district court, noting that the plaintiff was capable of producing and providing healthy sperm with or without the involvement of an egg donor or a gestational surrogate. Because the costs attributable to the identification, retention, compensation, and care of the egg donor and the surrogate weren't incurred for the purpose of affecting any function of the plaintiff’s body, he could not deduct them as "medical care" expenses under 26 U.S.C.S. § 213. The court further held that the plaintiff’s asserted right to IVF-and-surrogacy-assisted reproduction was not a fundamental right subject to equal rights protection. There was no evidence that the IRS's actual decisionmakers engaged in any intentional discrimination because the plaintiff was a homosexual, and he had not been treated differently from similarly situated heterosexual taxpayers.