Australian Capital Territory
Pregnancy can be confusing and scary, particularly for a young person. If you’re pregnant, it is a good idea to talk to someone about your situation. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone that you know such your parents, or a friend you trust, you can always talk to a school counselor. There are also a number of other organisations you can call. You could try:
If you are pregnant, the most important issue is to make sure you receive health care and support throughout your pregnancy. It is important for you to talk to a heath care professional, who will be able to best explain all the options you have and their consequences. In Australia, free medical treatment is provided to all citizens and permanent residents through the Medicare system. For more information see the LawStuff Medicare page.
If you are under 18 years of age, the doctor will need to determine whether you are able to consent (agree) to medical treatment (including seeing a General Practitioner) based on your age, maturity, the seriousness of the treatment you are wanting or need and whether you fully understand what is involved. If the doctor thinks that you are able to consent, then the doctor will be able to see you without telling your parents.
This means whatever treatment the doctor proscribes you or whatever you discuss with the doctor, is private and the doctor must not tell anyone else this information, including your parents. However, if the doctor thinks that you are not able to consent because you do not understand what is involved in the medical treatment; the doctor might want your parents to be involved. For more information see the Lawstuff Medical page
There is no law that requires you to tell your parents about any medical treatment you have received or that you are pregnant. You may think that your parents will disapprove or be upset when they find out you are pregnant. If you need some help telling your parents you are pregnant you can call the Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800, which offers a free counselling service. http://www.kidshelp.com.au
Once you have found out that you are pregnant you have a number of options. If you decide that you do not want to raise the child, you may be able to have an abortion or give the baby up for adoption. You may also decide you want to raise the child yourself.
You can get an abortion in the ACT so long as:
• A medical doctor performs the procedure;
• The procedure is performed at an approved medical facility; and
• The doctor chooses to carry out the abortion, as they are not obliged to.
If you want to get an abortion and you are under 18 years old, the same laws about seeing a doctor without your parents’ permission apply. The doctor must think you are mature enough to be able to understand the procedure and what is involved before they will perform the procedure on you. For more information see the Lawstuff Medical page.
You also need to consent to the procedure. Your consent needs to be ‘informed’. This means:
- Your doctor discusses the options with you and answers any questions you have or explains anything you don’t understand. This includes the doctor explaining the possible risks associated with the procedure.
- It is entirely your decision.
- Your doctor makes a formal record of the agreed decision.
If the doctor does not obtain proper consent, there can be legal consequences for them. If you are under the age of 14, the law is a bit uncertain when it comes to consent. As a result, even if you are able to consent, some medical centres may require you to have your parents’ permission before they perform an abortion procedure. Parents can also, in some circumstances, consent to a procedure on your behalf, even if you don’t consent. However, this requires a court order.
The father does not need to know about the pregnancy, or consent to the abortion for the procedure to be performed, as parenting rights only come into existence once a child is born.
You might decide to have the baby but may not feel that you are able to (or want to) raise the child yourself. You may decide you want to put the child up for adoption. This means the child will legally and permanently become part of a new family, and the birth parents no longer have legal rights over the child and cannot claim the child back. This means the birth parents will not be able to make decisions for the child or have any responsibilities over the child. All adoption agreements must be made through the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support.
To begin the adoption process, you and the father must both agree to have the child adopted. Before you agree, the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support will offer you information about the adoption process and counselling. After both parents have agreed to the adoption, both birth parents have 28 days to change their mind about the adoption. In this period you or the father can file a notice of revocation in the Supreme Court to say that you no longer agree to have the child adopted.
After this period, an adoption order can be made which will give the adoptive parents all the legal rights over the child and the birth parents will no longer be able to make decisions for the child or have any responsibilities over the child
If you go to a public school, your school cannot ask you to leave or request that you continue your studies from home just because you are pregnant or have a baby. This is discrimination and it is illegal. If your school asks you to leave or requests that you stay at home while you are pregnant then you should contact the Department of Education and Training or the Human Rights Commission. For more information see the LawStuff School Discrimination page
Once you have the baby, you may like to return to school or engage in flexible or part time study. You should talk to your school to discuss the best options and what will work well for you.
Unfortunately, not all schools have to follow anti-discrimination law Religious schools do not have to follow some anti-discrimination laws. This means that if pregnancy or having a child is against their religious beliefs, private schools are able to:
What do I have to do after the baby is born?
- expel you for being pregnant;
- ask you to leave for the duration of the pregnancy;
- ask you to study from home while you are pregnant;
- deny you access to other benefits you would ordinarily receive if you were not pregnant; or
- refuse your application for admission because you are pregnant.
After you have the baby, you must register the birth at the Office of Regulatory Services: Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry within 6 months of the child’s birth. You must register the birth even if the baby was not born in a hospital. The hospital, doctor, or midwife will give you the forms to fill out to register the baby’s birth. There is no cost to register your child. However, if you want a birth certificate you will need to pay a fee of $42 plus postage. http://www.ors.act.gov.au/community/births_deaths_and_marriages
Health Care after the baby is born
If you have the baby, your baby will be entitled to free health care through Medicare. During the first years of the baby’s life, your baby may require many important immunisations. It is not compulsory to immunise your baby however your child’s history of immunisations must be given to the school when you enrol your child into school for the first time and your child may be excluded from school if there is an outbreak of a contagious disease at the school if he or she is not immunised.
In the Australian Capital Territory, Child and Family Centres provide a valuable free service to help new parents care for and raise their baby. Centres offer information for new parents on areas like breastfeeding, the baby’s growth and development, immunisation and safety. All these services are offered free of charge to ACT residents.A list of the early childhood centres near you can be found at the ACT Community Services website:
Going back to school after the baby is born
If you are school age and have a baby you can still attend school. Education institutions recognise the importance of everyone having access to learning. Some schools have developed education and support programs for pregnant and parenting students. In conjunction with ACT Health the schools offer flexible learning plans and support services such as:
- Online curriculum;
- Access to community support agencies;
- Child immunisations onsite;
- Antenatal nurse visits;
- Transport assistance;
- Child minding and Playgroup;
- Adopt a grandparent program;
- Access to employment agencies.
You can read more about going back to school with a baby here. http://www.canberrac.act.edu.au/information/programs/cc_cares
This page was last updated 21 April 2015.