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May 9, 1977

'Illegitimate' Is Not Legitimate

Author Affiliations

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Cleveland

JAMA. 1977;237(19):2037. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270460023010

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To the Editor.—  While agreeing wholeheartedly with the spirit and the letter of the editorial "Illegitimacy—A Professional Concern" (237: 574, 1977), I am moved to write about the unfairness of referring to children born out of wedlock as illegitimate, thus stigmatizing these innocent victims of parental indiscretion. Inasmuch as relatively few of us have much to say about or control over the circumstances under which we were conceived, it strikes me that referring to children born outside of customarily accepted social circumstances as illegitimate is castigating blameless victims for their progenitors' behavior. As someone once sagely observed, "There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents."The word "bastard" is perjorative and derogatory, as we all know. In the past, babies conceived by and born to parents not united by the bonds of matrimony were referred to as "natural children." "Out-of-wedlock children" is a neutral term that states the unhappy facts