Got a question? Ask Lawmail

Send your questions to Lawmail

Can't find the info you are looking for?Got a problem you can’t solve?

If you're under 25, or an adult asking on behalf of a person under 18, you can send your questions to Lawmail and we will email an answer to you in under 10 days. Urgent matters are dealt with more quickly.

Go to Lawmail. It’s free and confidential.

All donations over $2 are tax deductible.

Pregnancy

What can I do if I’m pregnant?

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:

Do I need my parents’ permission to go to the doctor? Will the doctors tell my parents that I am pregnant?

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 Medical 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.


Do I have to tell my parents that I am pregnant?

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


What are my options after I’ve found out I’m pregnant?

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. 


Can I get an abortion?

In NSW, abortions are only lawful if
  • The procedure is performed by a doctor  and,
  • You are able to consent (agree) and have consented to the abortion and,
  • The doctor honestly believes that an abortion is necessary to prevent serious danger to your life, or your physical or mental health that might occur during the pregnancy or after the birth of the child and,
  • The danger of the abortion procedure is not out of proportion to the danger of continuing the pregnancy.
Each of these requirements will be explained below.

Able to consent
If you are under 18, for you to be able to agree to the abortion, the doctor must think you are mature enough to be able to understand the procedure and what is involved. For more information see the Lawstuff Medical page.

The Doctor honestly believes that an abortion is necessary to prevent serious danger to your life, or physical or mental health
In order to determine whether continuing the pregnancy is necessary, the doctor is able to consider any economic, social or medical factors that might affect you. For example, the doctor might consider where you are living, where you will be living if you have the baby, your ability to support and care for the baby, and the level of mental stress caused by the pregnancy or the baby. If the doctor honestly believes that having the baby will cause serious harm to your life, or to your mental or physical health, they might believe that the abortion procedure is necessary.

Danger of abortion is not out of proportion to the danger of continuing the pregnancy
This requires the doctor to compare the dangers of performing the abortion procedure on you with the dangers of continuing the pregnancy. In doing so, the doctor might consider at what stage of the pregnancy you are at when you want to get an abortion. The later in the pregnancy that you want to have an abortion, the more dangerous the operation will be for you. This means that a doctor may not want to perform an abortion after 10 or 12 weeks of you being pregnant, because the danger of the operation can outweigh the dangers of continuing with the pregnancy.

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.

However, even if the doctor thinks you are able to consent, if you are under 14 years old, some medical centres may require you to have your parents’ permission before they perform an abortion procedure.

These laws mean that in NSW, you need a medical reason in order to have an abortion. Getting an abortion in any other circumstances is a criminal offence.

Can I put the child up for adoption?

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 Department of Child Services.

To begin the adoption process, you and the father must agree to have the child adopted. After both parents have agreed to the adoption, both birth parents have 30 days to change their mind about the adoption. In this period you or the father can write to the Department of Child Services 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 are under 18 years of age, you must have independent legal advice before you give consent to the adoption.

  

Can I go to school while I’m pregnant or after I have the baby?

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, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Tribunal or the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.  For more information see the LawStuff 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 religious schools are able to
  • 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.


What do I have to do after the baby is born?

After you have the baby, you must register the birth at the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry within 60 days 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.
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. There is currently no law that requires you to get your child immunised. However, your child’s history of immunisations must be given to childcare and school when you enrol your child and your child will be excluded from school if there is an outbreak of a contagious disease at the school if he or she is not immunised. You can claim back the cost of the immunisations through Medicare.

In New South Wales, the Children’s Heathcare Network provides a valuable free service to help new parents care for and raise their baby. The hospital where you have your baby will advise you where your closest clinic is. 

If you have a question about pregnancy that we haven’t answered here please send us a Lawmail.

This page was last updated 23 April 2015.