Here, learn about the healthcare rights of pregnant and parenting minors in Texas, including the exceptions to the need for parental consent, options for birth control and abortion, and protection against discrimination by schools under Title IX.
Can minors make their own health care decisions?
If you are a minor (under 18), a parent or legal guardian must consent to medical treatment for you in most cases. There are exceptions. In general, you can only consent to your own medical, dental, psychological, and surgical treatment if you are at least 16 years old and you live on your own.
If you are a pregnant minor, however, you can consent to hospital, medical, or surgical treatment for anything relating to pregnancy, except for abortion. Texas Family Code 32.003(a)(4). If you are an unmarried underage parent and you have actual custody of your child, you may consent to medical treatment and immunizations for your child. You can make healthcare decisions for your child, even though you may still not be able to make your own healthcare decisions. Texas Family Code 32.003(a)(6).
Keep in mind that just because you are a parent making decisions for your child does not mean that you are emancipated or that you have a right to consent to medical treatment for yourself.
If you are a minor, you may consent to a pregnancy or STI test without telling your parent. You also do not need parental consent to receive a diagnosis and treatment of an infectious, contagious, or communicable disease that must be reported to state agencies (such as HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea).
If you are a pregnant teen, you cannot make any decision concerning abortion without parental consent. This is the case even if you already have children. To find a lawyer in your area who can advise you, try TexasLawHelp.org's Legal Help Directory.
Can people under age 18 get birth control without parental consent?
If you are a minor in Texas, you must have parental consent for birth control unless you go to a Title X clinic. Title X clinics are available to any person of any age, but they are the only clinics in Texas where minors can get birth control without permission from their parents. These clinics can also provide care at a reduced cost or fee, depending on your income. If you are a minor currently on Medicaid, you can get birth control at any clinic in Texas that accepts Medicaid without parental consent.
Visit this page to find the health care clinic nearest you where you can receive a birth control prescription without informing a parent.
Can a school make a pregnant or parenting student take different classes, or quit activities?
Pregnant students or students who have become parents before turning 18 may wonder if their school makes them take different classes or quit extracurricular activities or sports.
The federal law known as Title IX is the primary law that protects a student who becomes pregnant or is a parent. 20 USC sections 1681 through 1688. This law prevents a school from discriminating against a student in all academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic, and other programs or activities available to students in the school district. This includes protecting against discrimination based on pregnancy or conditions related to pregnancy, such as childbirth, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from birth or termination of a pregnancy.
This means that a school district cannot exclude you from any activities (for example, honors programs and classes, student government, theater, AP classes, sports teams, and PE, or band) because you are pregnant, experiencing a condition related to pregnancy, or are a parent, regardless of your gender.
While a school district can provide students like you with special programs or classes, these classes and programs must be similar to the other courses offered to all students. Your decision to attend a special program or class must be entirely voluntary.
Can my school make me get a doctor’s note for participating in activities if I'm pregnant?
The school can make you show them a doctor’s note to continue in a program or activity only if the school usually requires medical certification from all students for other medical conditions that require medical attention. This means that the school cannot make you provide a doctor’s note for your temporary medical condition—pregnancy—if it would not require another student with a medical condition, such as asthma, to provide a doctor’s note to participate in a school program or activity.
Must schools make accommodations for pregnant or parenting students?
A school cannot discriminate, but it can provide accommodations to students who are pregnant or parenting, such as excusing absences related to the pregnancy or medical care for a child. In Texas, a school must excuse a student from school due to a health care appointment for either the student or the student’s child if the student attends school on the same day as the appointment. Texas Education Code 25.087(b). A school district, however, is not required by law to grant excused absences for a student who misses school for other parenting responsibilities.
If a student misses a class or does not submit homework or school assignments on time because of pregnancy or another parenting-related reason, the school must allow the student to make up the credit in the same way as it would permit any other student. For example, if you are forced to stay in bed because of a complication with your pregnancy, then the school must permit you to make up the credits missed in the same way that it would permit another student who was home because of illness for a long period of time.
If a school district offers homebound instruction or tutoring to students with other temporary medical conditions, then it must also offer that to pregnant students. Participation must be completely voluntary, however.
Can my school give me a pregnancy test, or make me take one?
A school may decide to make pregnancy tests available to students, but a school cannot force a student to take a pregnancy test in order to keep attending school or participating in school activities.
If I tell my school counselor or a teacher about my pregnancy, will they have to tell my parents about pregnancy?
The law does not explicitly state that a school official *must*, without a request from a parent, tell the parent about a student’s pregnancy. Some things do control what a school must do, however.
Parents are entitled to “full information” about their child’s school activities (except in certain abuse investigations). Texas Education Code 26.008(a). This means that a parent has a right to request information from the school about the student, and the school must provide the parent with records it has in its possession that concern the student. That means that if the school has a record in any form that indicates that a student is pregnant or might be pregnant, the parent has a right to request and receive that information from the school.
In some situations, if your counselor is a licensed professional counselor and their records meet specific requirements under federal law, then that counselor can refuse to provide a parent records about the student if they believe the release would be harmful to the student’s physical, mental or emotional health.
If a school official tells a parent about your pregnancy without your permission or even without your parent requesting the information, there is little protection under the law for you. Most courts have found that reporting a student’s sexual behavior to a parent does not violate that student’s right to privacy.
If the school official believes the pregnancy is a result of child abuse on the part of a parent, then that official should not tell the parent about the pregnancy but should report it to Child Protective Services (“CPS”).
If I am pregnant, and I have the child, am I considered a legal adult?
Just because a minor becomes a parent does not mean that minor automatically becomes a legal adult, or emancipated. The minor’s rights are still limited like all other minors’ rights. If a minor who is a parent wants to become emancipated, he or she will still need to ask a court to make them a legal adult. Read Emancipation of Minors.
Can my parents kick me out if I get pregnant or if I get someone else pregnant?
In Texas, parents are legally responsible for their children, including providing for their children’s basic needs, such as housing, clothing, medical care, and food. A parent cannot neglect his or her child because the child becomes pregnant, gets another person pregnant, or becomes a parent. If so, that parent would be subject to neglect of a child, which is subject to criminal laws and an investigation by Child Protective Services (“CPS”).
If you are fearful about what your parent might do if they find out you are pregnant or that you got someone else pregnant, some resources are listed by Jane’s Due Process.
I'm pregnant, afraid of my parents, and staying with an adult who's not my parent. Will they get in trouble?
Minors may be in situations where they move in with another adult because they fear what their parents will do if they find out about a pregnancy (whether the minor is pregnant or got someone else pregnant). This raises the question of whether the adult the minor stays with could be arrested. If you are not legally emancipated and reside with another adult without your parent’s permission, that person could be arrested for kidnapping or interfering with child custody or possession.
If I'm 17 and pregnant, and I run away, will the police make me go home?
In Texas, if you are under 18, your parents or guardians can report you missing as a runaway. This will give the police the right to find you and return you to your parents or guardians. For the police to get involved, someone first has to make a report that you have run away or gone missing. Some parents choose not to report anything to the police. Other parents force their teens to leave home even though the parents are still legally responsible for their children until they turn 18. If you ran away because you lived in an abusive home, you could report the abuse to any person licensed by the state (like a health worker, teacher, or police officer). These people will contact law enforcement or Child Protective Services. You can also call Child Protective Services directly at (800) 252-5400 to report the abuse and ask for help.
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