Teen pregnancy rates have decreased in recent years. Still, the CDC reported 171,674 live births to mothers aged 15–19 in 2019. Teenage pregnancy remains common throughout the United States, so all parties involved should understand teenage pregnancy legal rights.
If you are facing an unplanned teenage pregnancy, you are not alone. Deciding what to do next can be overwhelming. Still, there are many resources available to support you through every step of your pregnancy. In this article, we’ll explore the legal rights of pregnant teens so you can make the best decision for yourself and your baby.
Maternal Legal Rights
Texas ranks among the states with the highest teenage pregnancy rates, with 24 births reported per 1,000 women between the ages of 15–19. Despite being too young to typically make legal and medical decisions for yourself, you’re probably wondering how much control you have over your pregnancy decisions.
Pregnant teenagers’ rights are the same as adults regarding medical care and giving up a child for adoption. According to the American Bar Association, the 1975 legal ruling of Lassiter vs. Department of Social Services indicated that parents have a right to custody and decision-making for their children. What does this mean?
Teenage pregnancy legal rights begin as soon as you suspect you are pregnant. If you think you may be pregnant, you have the right to confidential pregnancy testing. No one can tell your parents or anyone else about the results of your pregnancy test unless you say it’s okay. You also cannot be forced to take a pregnancy test without your permission.
The legal rights of teen moms vary from state to state, but the law typically sides with the teen parent. If you are pregnant, you have the following rights regardless of where you live:
- Pregnant teenagers have the right to stay in school. You cannot be forced to transfer to an alternative school, special program, or GED program.
- You have the right to take time off from school for prenatal visits, childbirth, abortion care, or other health reasons. You cannot be penalized for any time off in regards to any of these reasons.
- You have the right to receive educational support during any time you take off. Once you return to school, you also have the right to pick up where you left off.
- Pregnant teenagers have the right to make their own pregnancy decisions. That means no one can force you to decide whether you will keep your baby.
- You have the right to place your baby for adoption. While ten states require legal counsel or parental permission to put a baby up for adoption, no one can force your decision. Texas does not require parental permission to place your baby with an adoptive family.
- You have the right to have an abortion. Although 25 states require parental permission for abortion, a judge can waive these requirements if requested. Ultimately, no one can force you to have an abortion or to continue with your pregnancy.
- You have the right to consent to all health care that affects your pregnancy and childbirth. You don’t need any parental permission regarding healthcare decisions during your pregnancy.
If you decide to continue with your pregnancy, you have additional rights once your child is born. This includes:
- The right to consent on your own to all health care for you and your child.
- The right to keep your child with you and make all decisions about raising your child.
Deciding what to do next as a pregnant teen can be stressful. Still, it’s essential to choose the path that works best for you. Remember, no one can force you to have an abortion, parent your baby, or place them up for adoption. Even if you are a minor, you have the legal right to make any of these choices for yourself.
Paternal Legal Rights
Several challenges come with unplanned pregnancies, especially for teenagers. Many pregnant teenagers don’t realize they need to consider the teenage father’s rights. Paternal legal rights relate to all birth fathers. According to the law, fathers have the opportunity to legally assert their rights to take part in their child’s life.
When an unplanned pregnancy occurs with unwed parents, teen fathers’ rights vary from state to state. Under Texas Family Code, fathers are afforded both rights and duties if they are presumed to be the father, determined to be the father, or have acknowledged paternity. When a court legally documents the father of a child, they have rights and duties to that child. This includes the right to have physical possession of the child.
Relationship status should never prevent the pregnant mother from making decisions for herself or her baby. Your circumstances determine whether paternal consent is required for adoption. Whether paternal consent is necessary for adoption depends on the individual circumstances of your current situation.
In most cases, pregnant women are required to at least attempt to let the potential father know about the decision to place a child for adoption. If you are considering adoption, talk to an adoption specialist to decide whether you need to reach out to your child’s father before figuring out your adoption plan.
Parental Involvement Laws
Unwed teenage mothers are most likely living with a parent or guardian. We’ve already determined that teenage pregnancy legal rights allow you to make all medical and care decisions for your child. So, what about the rights of a parent when a teenager gets pregnant?
My Teenage Daughter is Pregnant. What Are My Rights?
In most cases, parents don’t have any rights if their child becomes pregnant as a teenager. But, parental permission may be required in some decisions, depending on your circumstances and the laws of your state. Still, most parents have no legal rights to make decisions about a teen parent’s baby.
Can a Parent Force a Minor to Give a Baby Up for Adoption?
Adoption is a reasonable choice for mothers of all ages. All women, minors or not, have the right to place their baby through an adoption center, though parental permission may be needed in some states (not Texas.) If you feel adoption is the best choice, you can place your child for adoption without little to no interference from your parents.
Just as minors have the legal right to choose adoption, they also have the right to keep their babies. A parent can never force a minor to choose adoption. It’s a good idea to be on the same page as your parents about your pregnancy. But, the path you ultimately choose is your decision.
Get Compassionate Support During Your Teenage Pregnancy with Texas Adoption Center
Unplanned pregnancy is stressful and complicated for many reasons, especially for teen moms. Even as a minor, you have several legal rights to make decisions for yourself and your baby. Our caring adoption specialists at the Texas Adoption Center are here to support you in making the right decision.
Whether you need supportive resources to help you adjust to life as a new mom or you need more information about the adoption process, we’re here to help. Our compassionate team will empower you to choose your path with confidence. For more information on your teenage pregnancy legal rights, contact Texas Adoption Center at (512) 893-7943.