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February 7, 1977

Illegitimacy—A Professional Concern

Author Affiliations

AMA Committee on Transfusion and Transplantation Bethesda, Md; ABA Ad Hoc Committee on Standards for the Judicial Use of Scientific Evidence in the Ascertainment of Paternity Champaign, Ill

JAMA. 1977;237(6):574. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270330064025

Despite the availability of liberalized abortions and surgical sterilization procedures as well as a wide assortment of contraceptive drugs and devices, the number of illegitimate children is escalating. More than 1,700,000 illegitimate children were born in the five-year period between 1966 and 1970.

In contrast to the overall birth rate, which is declining, the rate of illegitimate births has been increasing and now exceeds 10% of all births. In many urban areas illegitimacy stands at 40%, and in some it exceeds 50%.

"New life styles" and the reduced social stigma of illegitimacy have combined to produce the highest proportion of births out of wedlock on the American record. It is not surprising that the law and legal practice in the United States are adapting to changing and unchanging social facts—changing in terms of the increased acceptability of illegitimacy, and unchanging in terms of each child's right to, and need of,