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 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.
The doctor will consider things like:
- Your ability to understand the issue and the circumstances;
- How mature you are and your level of independence;
- The type and sensitivity of the information to be told to others;
- Your age;
- How complicated the medical treatment is and what kind of medical treatment it is.
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 Queensland, abortions are only lawful if
- The termination of the pregnancy is necessary to prevent serious danger to the life, physical or mental health of the person pregnant; and
- The procedure is reasonable in the circumstances and;
- The doctor considers all the circumstances and your state at the time.
The doctor must consider all the circumstances affecting you and your pregnancy in order to determine if the procedure is reasonable. This might include how far along you are in the pregnancy, your emotional state and how the pregnancy or having a child may affect your mental and physical health.
An abortion is a reasonable option where the doctor believes, after considering your circumstances, that the abortion is necessary to prevent serious danger to your life, or to your physical or mental health. A serious danger is one that is more serious than the dangers that are normal in a pregnancy. The doctor must also believe that the abortion procedure would be less dangerous to you than continuing with the pregnancy. 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 Queensland, you need a medical reason in order to have an abortion. Getting an abortion in any other circumstance is a criminal offence.
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 any legal rights over the child. 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 Adoption Services Queensland, a part of the Department of Communities (Child Safety Services).
To begin the adoption process, you and the father must agree to have the child adopted. You and the father will be given counselling and information about agreeing to adoption and your ability to change your mind. If you are under 18 years of age, Adoption Services Queensland will also have someone assess you to make sure that you are able to understand what is involved in the adoption process and are able to agree to the adoption.
After both parents have consented 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 the 30 days have passed, an adoption order can be made which will place the child into the care of adoptive parents for at least 12 months. During this period, Queensland Adoptive Services will supervise the child to make sure that the child is being cared for and looked after. After the child has been in the care of the adoptive parents for at least 12 months, a final adoption order may be made which will give the adoptive parents all 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 Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment, the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland or the Australian Human Rights 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.
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 may give you the forms to fill out to register the baby’s birth otherwise you can read more about registering your baby’s birth here. There is no cost to register your child within 60 days of its birth. 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 get your child immunised. However, your child’s history of immunisations may be required when you enrol your child into school for the first time. You can claim back the cost of any immunisations through Medicare.
The Queensland Community Child Health Services 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. You can read more about this service on Queensland Centre for Mothers & Babies. http://www.havingababy.org.au/
All these services are offered free of charge to Queensland residents.
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.