For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.
There are a range of options for young people who are pregnant. This includes raising a child, having an abortion or putting up your child for adoption. At all times, your health care comes first and should be your priority.
Pregnancy can be confusing and scary, particularly for a young person. If you’re pregnant, it is a good idea to tell someone. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know, such your parents or a friend you trust, you can always talk to a school counsellor.
You can also contact Family Planning NSW for free help and advice from a nurse on 1300 658 886 (Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 5pm).
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 healthcare 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 this Medicare page.
If you are under 18, the doctor will need to decide whether you can consent (agree) to medical treatment (including seeing a General Practitioner) without your parents. Doctors will think about things like your age, maturity, the seriousness of the treatment you need or are wanting and whether you fully understand what is involved.
If the doctor thinks that you have the capacity to consent, then the doctor can give you medical care without telling your parents. This means whatever treatment the doctor suggests for you or whatever you discuss with the doctor is private, so 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 our page on your rights at the doctor.
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, but it can be good to get their help and support.
If you need some help telling your parents you’re pregnant you can call the Kids Helpline and talk to someone about your situation. You can call them on 1800 55 1800 for free and confidential counselling and support if you are under 25. If you’re not sure what to say, this ReachOut webpage provides some tips, and is a good place to start.
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.
If you are less than 22 weeks pregnant
In NSW, a woman who is less than 22 weeks pregnant can get an abortion if she gives informed consent. Before terminating a pregnancy, a doctor will usually talk to you about getting counselling.
In NSW there are also clinics that you can visit to get an abortion by a medical practitioner. You do not need a referral from a doctor to go to a clinic – you can call directly for an appointment. You can find out more about abortions on the Family Planning NSW website.
You can also call the NSW Pregnancy Options Helpline on 1800 131 231 for information about your options and nearby clinics you can visit.
If you are more than 22 weeks pregnant
A woman can only have an abortion in special circumstances where she has been pregnant for more than 22 weeks. For example in an emergency where the termination is required to save her life.
An abortion after 22 weeks can only be performed by a specialist medical practioner at a hospital or other authorised medical facility. The specialist medical practitioner also have:
The specialist medical practitioner will consider things like a person’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances, and medical history, when deciding whether there are good reasons for the termination.
If you are under 18, to consent to an abortion, the doctor must think you are mature enough to understand the procedure and what is involved. You must also give consent freely and voluntarily, which means you have not been pressured into it.
A person under the age of 14 generally cannot consent to medical treatment, even if the doctor thinks they are mature enough to understand what’s involved. In this circumstance, the consent of a parent or guardian will most likely be required.
Because an abortion is a serious medical procedure, the level of consent required is higher then what is required for medical treatment. Understanding the procedure means you should be given information about possible risks and complications, as well as told about the psychological and emotional feelings that may be experienced after an abortion.
If you are over 14 and the doctor thinks you can provide informed consent, there is no requirement for the father of the baby to consent or even be aware of the procedure, as parenting rights only come into existence once the child is born.
For more information about informed consent, see our page on your rights at the doctor.
You might decide to have the baby, but may not feel that you are able to (or want to) raise the child yourself. You do have the option of putting the child up for adoption. This means the child will legally and permanently become part of a new family. It also means that the birth parents will no longer have legal rights over the child and they 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 Family and Community Services.
To begin the adoption process, you and the father must generally 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 Family and Community Services to say that you no longer agree to have the child adopted.
After this period, if no objection has been made, an adoption order can be made.
If you are under 18 years of age, you must have independent legal advice before you give consent to the adoption.
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 we recommend you get in touch with us and we can give you advice about your options. For more information see our Discrimination page.
Once you have the baby, you may like to return to school or do 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:
In order to improve the health outcomes for your baby, it is important you avoid the following:
If a doctor suspects that you are not taking care of your baby whilst you are pregnant, they can make a ‘pre-natal report’, which is a report to child services for an unborn baby. There is an obligation on the doctor to report if they have grounds to believe the child is at risk of serious harm to their birth, for example, as a result of the mother binge drinking during pregnancy.
If you are having any issues during your pregnancy, or have any questions about how to best take care of your baby, you can call the Australian government Pregnancy, Birth and Baby hotline on 1800 882 436.
Registering the birth
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.
Healthcare for you
After giving birth, some women experience postnatal depression. Postnatal depression develops between one month and up to one year after the birth of a baby and is surprisingly common, affecting one in seven women who give birth each year. Many women feel teary, moody or anxious for a few days after having a baby. Postnatal depression, however, lasts longer and is more serious. Make sure you see a healthcare professional if you think you are experiencing postnatal depression. For more information, you can visit this website: https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/postnatal-depression.
Healthcare for your child
If you have the baby, your baby will be entitled to free healthcare through Medicare. It is important to take your child for regular check-ups with your GP, whether or not they have any particular health issues.
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 may be excluded from school if there is an outbreak of a contagious disease at the school and he or she has not been immunised. You can claim back the cost of the immunisations through Medicare. Click here for more information about immunisations.
In New South Wales, the Children’s Healthcare 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.
For more general information, the Australian government has created this website. It includes fact sheets on a range of issues related to pregnancy.
If you’re under 25 and you have a question about pregnancy that we haven’t answered here, please ask us a question here and we can give you some free information and advice.
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