Pregnancy

Depending on your individual needs, there are a range of options that help to support young people that 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 in all circumstances.

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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

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 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. In Tasmania, where a child is too young to consent to a surgical operation, consent can be given by their parents or guardians.

For more information see the 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 .

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 Tasmania, a woman is not guilty of a crime if they consent to, assist or even perform a termination on themselves. However, abortions are serious procedures and should always be performed by certified medical practitioners.

In the first 16 weeks, you can attend an abortion clinic in Tasmania without any reason or referral and have a termination provided the doctor believes you can consent to the procedure. However, a doctor is not legally required to provide you with a termination if they don’t want to. In these circumstances, they have a duty to provide you with a list of health services to assist you, but it’s not against the law if they don’t.

If the pregnancy is more than 16 weeks there is a special procedure the doctor should go through before agreeing to perform a termination. It requires they:

  • Believe that continuing the pregnancy would involve a greater risk of injury than if the pregnancy was terminated, considering your physical, psychological, economic and social circumstances and
  • The doctor has consulted with another medical practitioner who also believes that the pregnancy would involve greater risk of injury than if the pregnancy was terminated, considering the same circumstances outlined above; and
  • At least one of the doctors specialises in medical obstetrics or gynaecology

An obstetrician is a doctor who specialises in childbirth. A gynaecologist is a doctor who specialises in medical problems that affect women and girls. If a doctor does not follow the above two doctor requirements there could be professional consequences for the doctor, but it is still legal for you to have the termination.

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.  If not, your parents can consent on your behalf. For more information see the Medical page.

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. All adoption agreements must be made through the Department of Health and Human Services.

To begin the adoption process, you and the father must agree to have the child adopted, although a court can overrule this requirement. For example, if the father has abandoned the child or failed to perform his functions as a parent.

In order for the consent to be valid, you need to receive counselling from an approved agency and you need to be given information in writing about the effect of the adoption order. After you have  consented to the adoption, you will have 30 days to change your mind about the adoption, but if you change your mind, you need to express it in writing. 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.

Can I go to school while I’m pregnant or after I have the baby?

If you go 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, unless your pregnancy would require the school to do something that is unreasonably difficult. If your pregnancy does not require the school to do anything unreasonably difficult, to ask you to leave 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 Tasmanian Department of Education, the Australian Human Rights Commission  or the Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner in Tasmania.  For more information see the 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 in Tasmania, 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.

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 can get a Birth Registration Statement from the Registry office. There is no cost to register your child however, if you want a birth certificate you will need to pay a fee.

http://www.justice.tas.gov.au/bdm/births/howtoregister

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 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 Tasmania, 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 Tasmanian residents.

A list of the early childhood centres near you can be found at the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services website:

http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/service_information/services_files/child_health_centres

If you have a question about pregnancy that we haven’t answered here, you can get help here.

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