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 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 prescribes 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. www.kidshelpline.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 get an abortion or give the baby up for adoption. You may also decide you want to raise the child yourself.
In the Northern Territory, you can go to a doctor and get an abortion up to 14 weeks of being pregnant if two doctors believe
- That the dangers of continuing the pregnancy are greater than the dangers that come with performing the abortion procedure or,
- There is a real risk that if the abortion procedure was not performed the child would be born with a serious physical or mental disability or mental abnormality
The abortion procedure must be performed in a hospital. One of the doctors must be a gynaecologist or an obstetrician, unless it is not reasonable in the circumstances for you to see a gynaecologist or an obstetrician. A gynaecologist is a doctor who specialises in medical problems that affect women and girls. An obstetrician is a doctor who specialises in childbirth.
You can also get an abortion up to 23 weeks of being pregnant if a doctor honestly believes that
- The abortion is necessary to prevent serious harm to your physical or mental health.
If you are under 16 years of age, the law says that you are not able to consent by yourself. “Someone with authority in law” must consent for you. This could be your parent or your guardian.
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 Children and Families.
To begin the adoption process, you and the father must agree to have the child adopted. Before you agree, you and the father will be given information and counselling about the adoption and any alternatives there may be to adoption. This is in order to make sure you understand what is involved in the adoption process. After both parents have consented to the adoption, both birth parents have one month from the date that the birth parents agree to change their mind about giving the child up for adoption. In this period you or the father can write to the Department of Children and Families 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, generally 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 Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission or the Australian 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. However, if your pregnancy or being a parent means requires the school to put in place special facilities or services, such as child care, and it is unreasonable to require the school put in place those facilities, then it may be possible for the school to ask that you leave. Whether it is unreasonable for the school to put in place special facilities will depend on a number of factors including:
- What special facilities are required;
- The cost of providing the facilities;
- The school’s financial circumstances;
- How providing the facilities will affect the school, including any disruptions;
- The benefit that will be provided by the facilities.
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.
If you want to continue your studies after having a baby many Australian schools have introduced programs to assist young parents to continue their studies. Not all schools offer this service. To find out what schools offer this service you may want to contact the Northern Territory Department of Education. http://www.education.nt.gov.au/
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. If your baby is born in a hospital the medical staff will generally provide you with information about registering the birth. You can also read more about registering your baby’s birth and applying for a birth certificate on the Northern Territory Births, deaths and Marriages webpage. http://www.nt.gov.au/justice/bdm/index.shtml
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 no current law that requires you to immunise your child. However, your child’s history of immunisations must be given to the school when you enrol your child into school and childcare for the first time and your child may be excluded 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 any immunisations through Medicare. You can read more about immunisations for your child on the Northern Territory Department of Health website.
In the Northern Territory, Community Health or Care Centres provide a valuable free service to help new parents care for and raise their baby. Centres offer information for new parents on things like breastfeeding, the baby’s growth and development, immunisation and safety. A list of the early childhood centres near you can be found at the Northern Territory Department of Health website:
If you have a question about pregnancy that we haven’t answered here please send us a Lawmail