I never liked The Cold Equations for exactly this reason, but I can't imagine it's still considered relevant in this day and age, being literally 60 years old now. Heck, I kinda wonder if it ever was.
Remember folks, Science Fiction has it's fair share (or more) of terrible contributions. Especially Sci-Fi from the early developmental years, when the genre was still trying to find itself and the concepts at play where still so very shockingly new.
In 1954, television was only eighteen years old, and for about half of that time it was restricted to around 40,000 or so units in and around New York city. Nuclear weapons were still less than a decade old, and nuclear power was only invented in 1951. The Sound Barrier had only been officially broken a scant seven years prior, the same year microwave ovens became available.
More striking, perhaps, are the things which had not yet even been invented. Space Flight was not yet a reality. Sputnik wouldn't enter orbit until 1957, and no human would leave the atmosphere until 1961. The world's first programable digital robot went into service the same year. The world's first laser went into operation a year before that, in 1960.
The world was a bizarre, exciting, horrifying place at the time. New, revolutionary technologies were emerging right and left, all under the spectre of potential nuclear annihilation as the Cold War got going in full earnest. People were only just really starting to recover from the exhausting years of WWII, and now things were changing faster and more unpredictably than anyone had ever known them to at any time in history.
Godwin's story was a product of it's times - fueled at least in part by general social fears and hopes for technology, and anxiety over the very real possibility of mankind unleashing entirely avoidable attrocities upon itself by virtue of being too inflexible and absurdly self-limiting.
Was Godwin aware of this when he wrote The Cold Equations? I doubt it. Does it excuse the underlying absurdity of the story? Not really.
The more fascinating question, in my mind, is why does this story crop up again and again? It was called rubbish when it came out, then it languished in obscurity for awhile. In 1970 the SFWA revived interest by inexplicably giving it an award and entering it into their Hall of Fame, and it's limped on ever since. In the 90's there were a few critical responses, including satires and direct parodies of the piece, and it fell out of favor again.
Why is it every 20 years or so, this story comes back to haunt us?