Disclaimer: The material in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not legal advice. For legal advice about your own particular situation we encourage you to call the Free Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424. The legal information was correct at the time of publishing (April 2016), however may change without notice.
The Legal Services Commission gratefully acknowledges the assistance of SHine SA and the National Children’s and Youth Legal Centre in allowing the Legal Services Commission of South Australia to use and adapt existing content.
In this section you will find information on:
- Pregnancy and young people
- Options (including abortion, adoption, and keeping the baby)
- School and babies
- Child Support payments
Pregnancy and young people
What are my options if I’m pregnant?
If you are pregnant you have three choices:
- Continue the pregnancy and become a parent;
- Continue the pregnancy and consider adoption or alternative care; or
- Have an abortion to end the pregnancy.
It is important to understand the issues involved in each option before you make your final decision. You may want to talk it over with people you are close to, or someone experienced in this area, before you decide. A social worker, nurse, doctor or counsellor can help provide this information and support.
See below for more information about these options.
How can I get support?
It is important to get support as early as possible. Think about who you will tell. It might be helpful to talk it over with someone you trust. Think about who might be there for you, to listen to you and provide support so you can make the right decision for you. This may be a friend, partner or family member, or it may be useful to speak to someone from a health service.
There are a number of organisations you can call for advice and support, here are a few:
Be aware that some organisations which advertise help for pregnant women can be biased, either by not providing you with all your options or actively discouraging consideration of abortion. If you’re not getting the advice and support you want, you can go elsewhere for help. To find out about an organisation before you approach them you can call:
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 information on the Medicare website: Your Health.
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. This is still your choice.
Do I have to tell my parents that I am pregnant?
There is no law that requires you to tell your parents about 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.
Option: Abortion to end the pregnancy
Can I get an abortion?
Abortion can be legally accessed in South Australia in certain circumstances.
A medical assessment is needed to meet legal requirements. Partner or parental consent is not necessary for an abortion if you are 16 or over. If you are under 16 and feel you cannot talk to your parents or guardians about the pregnancy, then discuss this with a doctor, social worker or counsellor at one of the agencies listed above.
It is important to not only rely on the information below to make your decision, it is important to get support and further information. Please see above for contacts of organisations that can help you understand the law and your options.
In South Australia an abortion is legal if:
- You have lived in South Australia for 2 months before the termination of the pregnancy (abortion); and
- 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.
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, but also may be earlier.
Where can I have an abortion?
Abortions performed before 12 weeks of pregnancy are available at the Pregnancy Advisory Centre and most public hospitals, including some country hospitals. A doctor’s referral is not needed for the Pregnancy Advisory Centre or public hospital service. Abortions later than 12 weeks of pregnancy are mostly provided at the Pregnancy Advisory Centre.
How much does it cost?
If you have a Medicare card, surgical abortions are free at the Pregnancy Advisory Centre and public hospitals. There is a small cost for a medication abortion. You will need a Medicare card and a health care card (if you have one).
Surgical abortions may be available through the private system at varying costs. If you have private health insurance check to see whether part or all of the costs will be refunded.
If you are an overseas student with Overseas Student Health Cover, abortions can be covered (check with your insurance).
Option: continue the pregnancy and consider adoption or alternative care
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. The Adoption & Family Information Service can provide counselling as you work through future options for yourself and your child if this is something you are considering. Other options for your child’s care, such as fostering, may also be possible and these can be discussed with Adoption & Family Information Service.
Adoption means the child will legally and permanently become part of a new family, and you and the other biological parent 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.
You will be given counselling before you are able to agree to the adoption. After the birth parents have consented to the adoption, you’ll have 25 days to change your mind about the adoption. In this period you or the other biological parent 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 biological parents will not be able to make decisions for the child or have any responsibilities over the child.
Adoption & Family Information Service: 8207 0060 Website: www.adoptions.sa.gov.au
Option: Continue the pregnancy and become a parent
Contact your GP, local SHine SA clinic or major hospital to discuss your options regarding pregnancy care. To book into a public hospital call the Pregnancy SA Info-line on 1300 368 820. You can also call the Women’s Information Service or Women’s Health-line regarding support services (such as emotional, housing, financial, legal and other support).
The Women’s and Children’s Health Network is an important resource for you in pregnancy and parenting. Call their Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100. If you are aged 12–25 ask about The Second Story, which is a youth health service they provide. Their website www.cyh.com has valuable advice in the Parenting section and young parents can go to the Teen health section.
The Pregnancy Advisory Centre also has useful information on continuing with a pregnancy available on their website: www.pregnancyadvisorycentre.com.au.
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 [S1] 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. 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
The baby will be entitled to free health care 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: www.cyh.com.au
Schools and babies
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 because you have a baby. This is discrimination. 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 Commission of SA or the Australian Human Rights Commission.
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 if they discriminate against someone who is pregnant because they think it goes against their religious principles. See our Discrimination fact sheet for more information.
Child Support is a scheme that is designed to provide a flexible way of making sure that children are financially supported by their parents. Some Centrelink payments (Family Tax Benefit Part A) require you to apply for child support for your baby.
To get a child support assessment a person is asked to prove who the parents of the child are.
At the Legal Services Commission we have lawyers who can talk to you about child support. Our lawyers can help with things like DNA parentage testing, disputes about child support, and paying or getting adult child maintenance.
Parents who think they might have to pay child support, or carers who are looking for child support are able to call up and speak to one of our lawyers for free.
Please call the Child Support Help Line 8111 5576 or 1300 366 424 and ask to speak to someone about Child Support.
See also our chapter on Child Support in the Law Handbook.