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:
- Shine SA http://www.shinesa.org.au/
- Pregnancy, Birth & Baby http://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au
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 16 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 at www.kidshelpline.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 get 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 South Australia, abortions are only lawful in two circumstances.
Firstly, an abortion is lawful if:
- You have lived in South Australia for 2 months before the termination of the pregnancy
- It is performed by a doctor and,
- After examining you, the doctor and another doctor think that
- To continue the pregnancy would be of greater risk to your life, or your physical or mental health, than if the pregnancy was terminated or,
- There is a substantial risk that if the pregnancy was not terminated, the child would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities. These physical or mental abnormalities must be serious enough so that the child, if born, would be considered seriously handicapped.
Each of these requirements will be explained below.
Continuing the pregnancy will be of greater risk to your health or life than terminating the pregnancy
In order to determine whether continuing the pregnancy will be of greater risk to your health or life than if the pregnancy was terminated, the doctor may consider your mental or physical health at the time you see the doctor and also in the future.
The second circumstance where an abortion is lawful is if:
- It is performed by a doctor and
- The doctor holds the opinion that the abortion is immediately necessary to save your life, or to prevent serious injury to your physical or mental health.
An abortion cannot be performed where the child is capable of being born alive, unless it is necessary to prevent the mother from dying. This usually means that an abortion cannot be performed after 28 weeks.
If you want to get an abortion and you are under 16 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.
How 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.
To begin the adoption process, you and the father other birth parent must agree to have the child adopted. You will be given counselling before you are able to agree to the adoption. After both parents have consented to the adoption, both birth parents have 25 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 legal rights over the child and the birth parents will not be able to make decisions for the child or have any responsibilities over the child.
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 and Child Development, the Equal Opportunity Tribunal or the Australian Human Rights Commission. For more information see the LawStuff School Discrimination page
Once you have had 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 private 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
- 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 may give you the forms to fill out to register the baby’s birth or you register the birth online on the Births, Deaths and marriages webpage of the South Australian Government website. There is no cost to register your child within 60 days of its birth however, if you apply for 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 by the school when you enrol your child 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. You can claim back the cost of these immunisations through Medicare.
In South Australia, the Women’s and Children’s Health Network provide a valuable service to help new parents care for and raise their baby. The service offers a home visit after the birth of a child, information for new parents on areas like breastfeeding, the baby’s growth and development, immunisation and safety. All services are offered free of charge to South Australian residents.
A list of the early childhood centres near you can be found at the South Australia Parenting and Child Health website:
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.