Teen pregnancy & teen parent FAQs
One of our most popular questions on AsktheJudge concerns the legal rights and laws for pregnant teenagers and teen moms and dads. So we’re going to take this opportunity to highlight some of our frequently asked questions about this sensitive and important topic.
Does being pregnant or having a baby as a minor make me emancipated or legally free from my parents?
The short answer – no.
You are not considered emancipated or free from your parents just because you’re pregnant or after you have the baby. As a teen parent, you will have rights and responsibilities concerning the care of your baby, but you’re still a minor which means that your parents get to continue making decisions about your well being. This means that you cannot move out of your parents’ house against their wishes just because you’re pregnant.
If you and your parents are disagreeing about your pregnancy plans and/or how you would like to raise the baby, try talking to them. Let them know how you feel and what exactly you would like to see happen, where you would like to live, etc. If they are willing to let you live with someone else, or make other changes to make you happy at home, then there shouldn’t be a problem.
Can my parents force me to have an abortion or to give my baby up for adoption?
The short answer – no.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade (and other subsequent decisions by the Court) not only stand for the right of a woman including a teenager to choose abortion, but also for the right to choose to have the baby. Your parents, or anyone else for that matter, cannot force you into having an abortion or placing your baby up for adoption. The choice is yours, and yours alone. However, one exception to this rule is if your life is in danger due to a medical emergency. If that were the case, your parents would have the right to permit an abortion against the your wishes.
Food for thought: Of course it’s going to be challenging to be such a young mother, but if you are ready to be a mom and want to take on the responsibility, you need to communicate that to your parents. Maybe they will see that you have thought it through and are being mature about the decision.
Can I get an abortion without my parents finding out?
The short answer – yes (but you may need permission from a judge if not your parents).
Generally, all women have a right to privacy which includes the decision concerning a pregnancy. This constitutional right is not without limits. For example, states can impose restrictions or prohibit abortions outside of the first trimester. As for the issue of parental consent, a state may require either a parent or a court to consent to a minor’s abortion. So, if you feel you cannot go to your parents and ask for their consent, you may go through your state’s court and ask a judge to give you permission to abort.
In other words, neither your parents nor the father of the child has absolute veto power over your decision. Nor can your parents force you to have an abortion. Your privacy rights allow you to make the final decision.
*To find the specific abortion laws in your state, just click on your state at the link provided.
Can I get prenatal care without my parents knowing?
The short answer – yes.
The majority of states allow a minor to consent to medical treatment and prenatal care without the parents being informed. However, there are approximately a dozen or so states that allow a doctor to inform the parents about the prenatal care when they feel that it would be in the best interest of the minor. Click here to find the specific law in your state.
What about the father of the baby? What are my legal rights as a teen dad?
As the birth father of the child, you do have equal rights with the mother to custody and visitation with your child as well as the responsibility to support the child. If you and the mother of the baby are not together, we suggest you speak with your parents about this and possibly get together with the baby’s mother and her parents to work out a parenting plan/schedule if that’s an option. If an agreement cannot be reached, it may be necessary to consult a family lawyer who can explain to you your legal rights and how to protect them. Many family lawyers will give you a free consultation for the first 30-60 minutes. Also, many courts around the country have a Family Law Assistance Program where you may obtain free legal advice on these issues.
Being a pregnant teenager or a teen parent can be terrifying at times, but you don’t have to feel so alone. There are tons of people out there who can listen to you and provide support. If you feel that you can’t talk to your parents, we strongly encourage you to talk to another adult you trust like a relative, teacher or school counselor.
- If you are pregnant and confused and do not know what to do or where to turn for help, you can look into options counseling, which is offered by most professional health care providers. The purpose of this counseling is to discuss your options and topics like carrying your baby to term, abortion or adoption. You can search for a clinic near you through the SexEtc site below.
- SexEtc.org – Sex in the States is a state-by-state guide to teens’ rights to sex education, birth control and more.
- You can read here to learn more about the emancipation process if that is something you are interested in. Also, you can check out this site for more information about emancipation laws in your state. Take care of yourself and your baby.
Judge Tom discusses whether teen parents can leave home without their parent’s permission in the video below.