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affiliation order

According to The New Penguin English Dictionary (1986), an affiliation order is, “a legal order that the father of an illegitimate child must pay towards its maintenance.” What the hell? Illegitimate? I recognize that the dictionary was published in 1986, but that’s 1986, not 1886 or 1786.

Why the hell were they still talking about “illegitimate” children then? Some people have sex out of wedlock. I know it’s shocking, but it’s true. And unless the couple protects against it, sex can sometimes lead to children. And the available protection options sometimes fail to prevent pregnancies. The children who result are legitimate. They are deserving of the same legal protections as absolutely everyone else.

I know social mores were different in olden times, but we’re not talking about all that long ago. By 1986 Ronald Reagan was already President of the United States and Margaret Thatcher was already Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Oh. That explains it. Never mind. Hopefully modern dictionaries have eliminated the use of illegitimate in this context.

For the record, I think affiliation orders are good and just. The fact that sex might lead to children is not a secret that’s kept from the general public. That’s a reality you have to accept when you decide to engage in sex. And, because sex was your choice, you should also be prepared to accept the possible consequences, whether intended or not, of sex. That means that, unless the woman chooses to have an abortion, both responsible parties bear responsibility for giving the child the best possible shot at a good life.

(The point about having sex being a choice and, therefore, cause to accept responsibility for the consequences, brings up an interesting question. Shouldn’t a rapist be forced to provide for the bulk of the maintenance of a resulting child seeing as though, in that case, sex was not the choice of the mother?)

I should probably note that the belief in taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions is made somewhat easier for me because I have not fathered a child. Hopefully I would hold the same belief if I had.

I have another objection to the definition provided by the dictionary. The definition uses the possessive pronoun “its” when talking about the baby’s maintenance. Its is an impersonal pronoun.

When talking about people we use the personal possessive pronouns “his” and “her.” I recognize that it’s longer and more cumbersome to say “her or his” rather than its, but show a little respect, if only to make up for the indignity of referring to the baby as illegitimate.

This is, after all, a human baby we’re talking about, not a dog’s chew toy. (If the baby does become a dog’s chew toy I’ll have a few rather nasty things to say about the parents’ parenting skills.)

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