85 percent of all teenage pregnancies are unplanned. This can be a stressful experience. So, it is important that a teen birth mother know her rights.
“Being pregnant as a teen is scary and hard,” says Annaleece Merrill, birth mother and open adoption advocate. “It forces you to grow up too fast, to make decisions no kid should have to make.”
Can I Finish High School?
You absolutely have the right to finish high school. “The school cannot discriminate against you because you are pregnant or have a child,” according to Education for Justice. However, the sad reality is that more than 50 percent of teen mothers never graduate from high school.
Many schools have programs for teen birth mothers and young parents – some even have daycare centers. “Call your school district to see what programs can help you,” advises Education for Justice.
Who Decides My Baby’s Last Name?
If the child’s parents are not married when the baby is born, the birth mother gets to decide the name on the birth certificate.
If I Am Under 18 and Live at Home, Do My Parents Have the Right to Make Decisions About My Baby?
Even if you are under 18 and still live at home, YOU have the right to make the decisions about your baby. You have legal and physical custody of your child. This can only change if a court gives custody to someone else.
I Am a Birth Mother Under 18, Do I Need My Parents’ Consent to Choose Adoption?
“The decision to place or parent your child is yours alone,” writes birth mother Annaleece Merrill. “You are the only one who can truly know what is best for you and your baby.”
If you decide adoption is the best course of action, you can make that decision on your own. “States overwhelmingly consider minors who are parents to be capable of making critical decisions affecting the health and welfare of their children without their own parents’ knowledge or consent,” explains the Guttmacher Institute. However, there are a few exceptions. So, it is best to reach out to an adoption counselor or adoption lawyer to learn your parental rights. Rhode Island, Michigan, Minnesota, and Louisiana require parental consent for adoption.
Do I Need the Birth Father’s Consent to Create an Adoption Plan?
“Your child’s father, regardless of his age, also has rights in an adoption and this may include the right to give or withhold his consent,” adds Megan Cohen, adoption attorney and birth mother. Click Here to read more about dealing with the birth father.
Can My Parents Force Me to Place My Baby for Adoption?
The short answer is absolutely not. “You are the legal parent of your baby, and you have all the rights to make decisions for your child,” says Cohen. “Your parents don’t have the legal right to force you to put your baby up for adoption, but they can certainly assert their influence.”
If you are a minor, you are legally not allowed to live on your own. So, your parents will undoubtedly play a large role in your life and your pregnancy.
Do I Need to Tell My Parents If I Choose to Terminate the Pregnancy?
Well, that is entirely up to you. “Giving your parents the big news is bound to be a daunting moment,” says Andrew G. Marshall, relationships therapist. While you may want to keep your pregnancy a secret from your parents and terminate the pregnancy before your parents find out, “many states require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to terminate a pregnancy,” according to the Guttmacher Institute. If this is a route you wish to explore, you may want to reach out to an attorney to learn the specific abortion laws governing your state.
We Can Help You Learn Your Rights
Adoption Makes Family is here for you. If you would like our advice or just need to talk, please give us a call at any time. We are a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency based in Maryland founded to meet the needs of birth parents and adoptive parents in a manner that is sensitive, compassionate, and personal. Our staff is here to listen – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your convenience.
24-Hour Hotline 410-683-2100
If you have any questions, you can contact us by phone at 410-683-2100, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our online contact form.