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. 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 Victoria, you can go to a doctor and get an abortion up to 24 weeks of being pregnant.
After 24 weeks, abortions are only lawful if
- The doctor believes that the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances, and
- At least one other doctor agrees that performing the abortion is appropriate.
To determine if an abortion is appropriate in the circumstances, the doctor must consider any medical conditions that you have, and your current and future physical, mental and social circumstances.
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 Consent page.
However, if you are under 14 years old, some medical centres may require you to have your parents’ permission before they perform an abortion procedure.
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 an approved adoption agency.
To begin the adoption process, you and the father must agree to have the child adopted. After both parents have consented to the adoption, both birth parents have 28 days to change their mind about the adoption. In this period you or the father can write to the Registrar of the County 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 have 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 Early Childhood Development, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights 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.
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; 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 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 no law that requires you to get your child immunised. 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. You can claim back the cost of these immunisations through Medicare.
In Victoria, Maternal and Child Health Centres provides 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 Victorian residents.
A list of the early childhood centres near you can be found at the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development 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.