By Youth Advisory Board Member, Tia-Jolie, 16, Vallejo.
Having an unplanned pregnancy as a teenager can be scary. You may not know who to talk to or what options are available to you. If you are in this situation, remember you are not alone, and you have options! Knowing your rights and the options that are available to you is CRUCIAL so you can make a choice that is right for YOU.
You may decide you want to continue with pregnancy. If you do, you have two options: raise the child, or place the child up for adoption.
If you continue with the pregnancy, you can:
Stay in school
- It's your right to keep going to school while you're pregnant and after your baby is born. It's against the law for schools to treat you differently because you're pregnant or a parent.
- No one can force you to drop out, go to a special school for pregnant teens, or get a GED.
- Learn more about your educational rights while pregnant and parenting here!
Take time off
- This includes taking maternity leave if you work or taking time off of school for doctor appointments, childbirth, and other medical care that is required because of your pregnancy.
Get free prenatal care
- Prenatal care is when you get checkups during your pregnancy to help keep you and your future baby healthy. You can get FREE prenatal care through Medi-Cal.
Place your child up for adoption.
- Learn more about adoption here.
- No one can force you to place your child up for adoption, including your parents/guardians. In California, it is your choice, but different states have different laws. Click here if you don’t live in California to learn more about your rights.
Change your mind after the baby is born
- California law lets new parents leave their baby at a hospital or other safe places like fire stations, up to three days after birth, without getting in trouble or having to give their names. Then they have two weeks (14 days) to change their minds. You can also choose to place the baby for adoption, even if they aren’t a newborn anymore.
Receive educational support
- For the days you take off because of your pregnancy, your school must allow you to pick up where you left off.
If you decide you aren’t ready to have a baby, you have options too.
Some people might be pregnant, but no longer want to be – and don’t feel ready to become a parent. That’s why it’s important for people to have access to safe and affordable abortion care. Although it can often be helpful to involved a family member or trusted adult in your health if you feel safe and comfortable doing so, in California, teens have the right to get an abortion without parental permission or involvement. There are also programs available for teens to get abortion care for free. Learn more about abortion in California here.
If you are not located in California, click this link to find out if you need parental consent to obtain an abortion.
Talk to someone you trust.
- Even though you don’t need parental permission to make a choice about your pregnancy, it can be helpful to talk to a parent or a trusted adult to help you weigh your options.
- You can also talk to a professional pregnancy counselor, who will explain your options, answer questions, and give you information without pressuring you towards any particular option. A pregnancy counselor’s job is to give you all the information you need to make a decision -- not to tell you what to do. You can call a hotline, or find a clinic that offers pregnancy counseling. Find out more here.
- Watch out for Crisis Pregnancy Centers. These centers often advertise on highway billboards or online offering they will help you if you are pregnant, but are not real medical providers. Their goal is usually to stop people from getting abortions. Find out more about crisis pregnancy centers, what they do and don’t do, and how to avoid them here.
How prevent an unplanned pregnancy
While abstinence is the only 100% way to protect yourself from unwanted pregnancies, there are lots of ways you can keep yourself safer during sex. Learn more about birth control options here, or sign up to get FREE condoms here!