Pregnancy & Birth

Law

Pregnant women and their partners may have certain legal concerns. See the sections below for information about:

  • Maternity and parental leave from work
  • Human rights in the workplace during pregnancy
  • Being pregnant and the legal status of the fetus
  • Receiving care from a midwife
  • Naming your child
  • Registering a birth
  • Stillbirth
  • Placing a child for adoption
  • Abortion
  • Preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
  • Young people and pregnancy
  • Being a biological mother or biological father

Choose the Process tab above for contact information and forms you may need.

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: February 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page is for pregnant women, their partners, and other people who want to know about the legal issues related to pregnancy and birth in Alberta.

See the Having a Child: Legal Considerations & Government Benefits Information Page for information about the legal rights and responsibilities of parents and guardians, as well as various government benefits and programs for families.

In general, the law on this Information Page is for people who live in Alberta.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says in Alberta. For information on the steps to take when dealing with legal issues related to pregnancy and birth, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The first topic is What the words mean. Please read this section even if you think you already know what the words mean. In order to understand the resources on this page, you will need to understand the legal terms.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific legal term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

federal law

Laws that are made by the Government of Canada and apply to all Canadians, no matter which province they live in. Examples include: the Income Tax Act, the Criminal Code of Canada, and the Immigration Act.

provincial law

Laws that are made by a provincial or territorial government. In Alberta, provincial laws are made by the Government of Alberta and apply only in Alberta. Examples include: the Alberta Adult Interdependent Relationship Act, the Alberta Family Law Act, and the Alberta Wills and Succession Act.

duty to accommodate

The responsibility of employers and service providers to make changes to rules or physical environments as needed to prevent discrimination. This is an important part of human rights law. It recognizes that sometimes it is necessary to treat someone differently in order to be fair. For example, changing an office space to make room for a wheelchair, or changing a woman’s work schedule to allow breaks for breastfeeding.

fetus

A stage in the development of a baby. First, a sperm joins with an egg and develops into an “embryo.” After about 8-12 weeks of growth, an embryo turns into a fetus. This is the period of development that continues until birth.

embryo

A term used to describe an organism in its early stages of growth. An embryo is created after a sperm joins with an egg. The law usually uses the term “embryos” when discussing organisms in the early stages of growth. But there are many early stages of growth. You may see other resources refer to a “zygote” or a “blastocyst.” On this Information Page, we will use only the terms “embryo” and “fetus.”

stillbirth

The death of a fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy, either during pregnancy or during the birth.

adoption

A legal process in which the legal rights and duties of one person or couple toward a child are ended, and are permanently transferred to another person or couple who become the adoptive parents.

Adoptive parents have all the legal rights and responsibilities a parent can have toward a child. Legally they are no treated no differently than any other kind of parent. After an adoption, the child’s birth certificate is changed so that the adoptive parents are listed as the child’s parents.

consent

To give permission for something to happen, or to agree to do something. Only people with “capacity” can consent (see below).

capacity

The term “capacity” refers to the ability (or inability) to make decisions. In general, there are 2 parts to mental capacity:

  1. The ability to understand the nature of a decision. This includes understanding all of the information that is relevant to a particular decision.
  2. The ability to understand the consequences of making a decision. That is, a person with capacity would understand what could happen as a result of making a certain decision.

Legally, mental capacity is a clear concept: at any given moment, you either have capacity, or you do not. However, capacity can change from moment to moment. For example:

  • a person who is drunk or high may not have capacity, even if he or she otherwise would; and
  • a person can flip back and forth between having capacity and not having capacity, due to things such as the effect of medications (or forgetting to take them), or changing blood sugar levels.

In Alberta, the law assumes everyone 18 or older has mental capacity, unless it is shown otherwise (usually by a doctor's opinion or a judge's decision).

abortion

The early ending of a pregnancy before the embryo or fetus can survive outside of the mother’s body. The term generally refers to the ending of a pregnancy that is done on purpose. For example, when a doctor ends the pregnancy using medication or surgery.

An abortion which is done by a doctor may be called a “therapeutic abortion” or an “induced abortion.” Sometimes a pregnancy will end early on its own. This can happen for many reasons including when an embryo or fetus does not develop properly, or when the mother has health problems during pregnancy. This is commonly called a “miscarriage,” but may also be called a “spontaneous abortion.”

minor

A person who is not yet an adult (has not reached the “age of majority”).

Be Aware

The age of majority is different across Canada. In Alberta, the age at which a person is considered an adult is 18.

The laws that may apply to you

As you learn about the legal issues that affect you during pregnancy and birth, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:

Web Criminal Code
Government of Canada
English


Web Health Disciplines Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English

Web Vital Statistics Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English


Web Canada Labour Code
Government of Canada
English


Web Canadian Human Rights Act
Government of Canada
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, including what they are and how they work, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

Employment rights and benefits: Maternity and parental leave

If you have a baby or adopt a child, you have the right to:

  • take a leave (time off) from work; and
  • return to the same or similar position at work.

This section has information about:

  • Who makes the rules about maternity and parental leave?
  • What are the rules for maternity and parental leave?
  • How is a person paid when they are on maternity or parental leave?

Who makes the rules about maternity and parental leave?

The right to maternity and parental leave comes from several places, including:

  • employment standards set by the government;
  • the terms of your employment contract. This contract may be with you as an individual, or with a group of employees (such as through a union); and
  • some workplace benefit plans.

Employment standards

Employment standards are laws that set the minimum requirements for employment contracts. The standards deal with working conditions such as:

  • payment of earnings, and the minimum wage;
  • hours of work and overtime;
  • general holidays and vacation time;
  • termination of employment; and
  • maternity and parental leave.

There are provincial and federal employment standards:

  • Alberta’s Employment Standards Code applies to almost all employees working in Alberta.
  • The Canada Labour Code applies to employees in federally regulated industries.

Industries covered by the Canada Labour Code include:

  • Inter-provincial trucking
  • Federal Crown corporations
  • Broadcasting (radio and TV)
  • Chartered banks
  • Feed, feed mills, and grain elevators
  • Air, rail, and water transport
  • Federal government employees
  • Inter-provincial pipelines
  • Working directly for or on behalf of First Nations

Employment contracts

An employment contract can be verbal, but most are written because then there is a record of what was agreed to. All the terms may be written into the contract for each employee. Or, only some terms may be in the contract and then the contract may refer to an employment policy that applies to all employees.

Employment contracts must follow the employment standards that apply to their particular industry. The standards set the minimum terms that a contract can have. However, sometimes the terms of employment contracts will provide more benefits to employees than are required by the standards. A contract may also deal with areas of employment that are not covered by the standards. For example: the standards say nothing about how employee expenses (such as travel expenses) will be paid, so the contract may set out those rules.

If the workplace has a union, the union will negotiate a contract that applies to all of the employees. This is called “collective bargaining.” Often union contracts have much better terms than the minimum requirements set by the employment standards.

Workplace benefit plans

Some employers arrange benefit plans for their employees. For example: medical, dental, or disability insurance. The cost of these plans may be paid entirely by the employer, or may be shared between the employer and the employees. Sometimes all employees must take part in the benefit plan. Sometimes you have a choice about whether or not you want to join the plan. Or, sometimes you can choose to just join part of the plan.

Some plans will have special terms for pregnant and parenting employees, such as extra sick time if needed, or payments that add to your maternity or parental Employment Insurance benefits. This is often called “topping up” EI benefits.

If you have a benefit plan at work, be sure to check your coverage for information about:

  • extra benefits during maternity and parental leave;
  • whether you can continue to claim other benefits (such as dental coverage) during your leave;
  • whether your employer will continue to pay your premiums during your leave; and
  • whether you will have to continue to contribute to the plan during your leave.

If there is a benefit plan, employers must ensure that it does not discriminate against pregnant employees. For example, if medical benefits would usually be open to employees who are on a leave (for example, a sabbatical), they must also be available to employees on leave for pregnancy. For more information, see the resources in the “Human rights in the workplace for pregnant women and parents” section below.

What are the rules for maternity and parental leave?

Maternity leave is time off work for mothers. You can choose to begin your maternity leave in the late stages of your pregnancy before your delivery date, or after the birth.

Parental leave is time off work for mothers or fathers, and for adoptive parents. Parental leave may be taken by either parent or may be shared between the 2 parents.

Be Aware

In many cases, surrogate mothers are entitled to leave and benefits. However, it may depend on the law and the benefits plan. To find out if you qualify, contact your human resources representative at work, and the appropriate employment standards department.

 
Web Employment Standards Inquiries
Government of Alberta
English

If a mother is taking some or all of the parental leave, she must take it immediately after her maternity leave. In other words, the mother cannot take time off work for maternity leave, then return to work for a period of time, and later take parental leave.

Be Aware

Maternity and parental “leave” refers to the time away from work. Your employer is not required to pay you during this time. However, parents who qualify can be paid by Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. And, in some cases, the employer or a workplace benefit plan might add to your EI benefits. This is often called “topping up” EI benefits. For more information, see “How is a person paid when they are on maternity or parental leave?” further down this section.

Alberta’s Employment Standards Code and the Canada Labour Code have different rules about:

  • what you must do to qualify for a leave
  • the timing of your leave
  • how much notice you must give your employer to start and end your leave
  • how many weeks of leave you can take
  • whether you can extend your leave
  • what can happen when you return to your job, including any changes to your pay or benefits
Remember

Also check your employment contract or union agreement for any terms about maternity or parental leave.

For information about these issues, see the following resources.

Web Maternity and Parental Leave and Benefits
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Maternity & Parental Leave
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Audio/Web Maternity Leave
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

PDF Becoming a parent in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 20.

Web Maternity and Parental Leave
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Maternity and Parental Leave
Government of Alberta
English

Web Pregnancy and maternity leave
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Your Rights and Responsibilities at Work
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 23-24.


How is a person paid when they are on maternity or parental leave?

Your employer does not have to pay you while you are on leave. However, you may qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits during this time.

You may be able to receive EI maternity benefits if you are a biological mother or surrogate mother, who cannot work because you are pregnant or have recently given birth.

You may be able to receive EI parental benefits if you are a parent who is caring for a newborn or newly adopted child.

Be Aware

If you have a benefit plan at work, be sure to check your coverage. Some plans will have extra benefits for maternity and parental leaves.

There are many things to learn about Employment Insurance benefits, including:

  • whether you qualify;
  • how the amount of the benefit is calculated;
  • how long you can receive payments;
  • when you can apply;
  • how to apply;
  • the impact of any other income while you are receiving the benefit; and
  • how you can combine these benefits with other EI benefits, if necessary.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web EI Maternity and Parental Benefits - Overview
Government of Canada
English


Web Employment Insurance benefits
Government of Canada
English

Web Having a Baby
Government of Canada
English

PDF Becoming a parent in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 34-43.

Web Maternity and parental leave benefits
Government of Canada
English

Web EI special benefits for self-employed people
Government of Canada
English

French resources:

Web Prestations d'assurance-emploi
Government of Canada
French

Web Avoir un enfant
Government of Canada
French






Human rights in the workplace for pregnant women and parents

Human rights laws in Canada protect against discrimination on the basis of gender and family status. This means that parents are protected from discrimination during pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and caring for children. These same protections apply to women who are pregnant as a surrogate.

For most workers in Alberta, these protections come from the Alberta Human Rights Act. However, workers in federally regulated industries are protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act. These industries are:

  • Inter-provincial trucking
  • Federal Crown corporations
  • Broadcasting (radio and TV)
  • Chartered banks
  • Feed, feed mills, and grain elevators
  • Air, rail, and water transport
  • Federal government employees
  • Inter-provincial pipelines
  • Working directly for or on behalf of First Nations

Many of these protections involve the “duty to accommodate.” This means that employers have a responsibility to make changes to rules or physical environments as needed to prevent discrimination. This is an important part of human rights law. It recognizes that sometimes it is necessary to treat someone differently in order to be fair. For example, changing a pregnant woman’s work duties so that she doesn’t have to lift heavy packages.

The employer must make changes to the point of “undue hardship.” This means that the employer must make the changes unless the costs become so high or the disruption to business so great that it is not bearable. To claim undue hardship, the employer must provide evidence of the hardship.

Situations involving the duty to accommodate must be looked at on a case-by-case basis, according to the person’s needs. Accommodation involves communication and cooperation between you and your employer. This can be a complicated process. For more detailed information, see the following resource.

Web Duty to accommodate
Government of Alberta
English
See “Rights and responsibilities in the accommodation process.”

Some examples of the human rights protections for pregnant women and parents are:

  • You cannot be fired, laid off, or demoted because you are pregnant or have pregnancy-related health issues.
  • Your employer must make changes to your workplace or responsibilities if this is needed to keep you safe and healthy during your pregnancy. This is a “duty to accommodate” as discussed above.
  • Your employer cannot refuse to let you breastfeed in public or in the workplace, and must accommodate breastfeeding. For example, by allowing you to time your breaks so you can breastfeed your child.
  • Your employer must ensure that you do not feel unwelcome in your workplace and are not harassed because you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Your employer can only ask for certain types of medical information from you at any time, including during pregnancy.
  • Your employer has a duty to accommodate your needs related to child care. For example: changing your work schedule to allow you to get child care.
  • In a job interview, an employer cannot ask questions about your child care arrangements or your plans to have children.

For information about making a human rights complaint, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

For more detailed information about human rights related to pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and parenting, see the following resources.

PDF Becoming a parent in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English


Web Family status and marital status
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family leave
Government of Alberta
English

Web Pre-employment inquiries
Government of Alberta
English



Web Returning to Work After Maternity Leave
Calgary Career Counselling
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.


PDF Your Rights and Responsibilities at Work
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 11 and p. 23.
Being pregnant and the legal status of the fetus

In Canada, an embryo or fetus is not legally a person. Only when an infant is born alive does it have protection under the law. Section 223 of the Criminal Code of Canada describes when a child legally becomes a human being. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Criminal Code: When child becomes human being
Government of Canada
English

There is no legal authority that can force a pregnant woman to care for herself so that the fetus can develop properly. However, it is generally agreed that it is in everyone’s best interests if a pregnant woman takes care of herself and her fetus. There are many community and health system resources to help women have a healthy and successful pregnancy. As a starting point, see the following resources.

Web Birth & Babies
Alberta Health Services
English

Web Healthy Parents Healthy Children
Alberta Health Services
English

Web Youth: If You're Pregnant or Parenting
Government of Alberta
English

There is one exception in Alberta that does make it possible for a mother to be liable to her child for a pregnancy-related issue. It is the Maternal Tort Liability Act. Under this law, a mother can be sued for injuries suffered by her fetus when the mother was the driver in a car crash.

The lawsuit cannot begin until after the baby is born alive. This liability is limited to:

  • car accidents only; and
  • only the amount of the insurance coverage carried by the mother.

For more information, see the following resource.

PDF Defining the standard of prenatal care: An analysis of judicial and legislative responses
McGill University
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.
Medical care during pregnancy and birth: Doctors and midwives

You may choose to see a family doctor or obstetrician for care during your pregnancy and delivery. In this case, you would give birth in a hospital.

Or, you may choose a midwife to guide your prenatal care and delivery. A midwife is trained to care for women during pregnancy, labour, birth, and the postpartum period. Midwives are not doctors. Midwives generally provide care to women with low-risk pregnancies.

A woman does not see both a doctor and a midwife. She would choose to see one.

Midwives can order any required tests such as blood work and ultrasounds. They can also consult with, or refer to, other specialists as needed. In most regions of Alberta, midwives have hospital privileges, so the mother can choose whether to give birth in a hospital, a birth centre, or at home.

Midwifery is a legally recognized profession in Alberta. Midwives are regulated under the Health Disciplines Act and the Midwifery Regulation. The services of midwives have some funding from the Alberta government. However, funding is limited and sometimes a woman may be unable to find an available, funded midwife in their area. If this happens, you may be able to find a midwife who will accept direct payment from you.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Midwives
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Midwifery in Canada
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Midwifery services
Government of Alberta
English

Web What is a Midwife?
Alberta Association of Midwives
English

Web Funding Q & A
Alberta Association of Midwives
English

Web Aboriginal Midwifery in Canada
National Aboriginal Council of Midwives
English

Naming your child

When a child is born, they must be registered with a first and last name. You have several choices for a last name and there are also rules about what can be included in a first name. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Choosing a last name for your child
Government of Alberta
English

Web Change of Name
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Naming Your Child.”
Be Aware

The law about naming a child and changing a name will be changing soon. See the following resource for more information.

Web Vital Statistics and Life Events Modernization Act
Government of Alberta
English
Birth

Three legal issues related to birth are:

  • Registration of births
  • Issues related to stillbirth
  • Crimes related to the birth process

These issues are discussed below.

Registration of births

All births that occur in Alberta must be registered with the Alberta government. This will generally be done shortly after the child is born whether the birth happens:

  • with a doctor in the hospital;
  • with a registered midwife in the hospital or at home; or
  • at home without a registered midwife.

For information about how to register your child’s birth, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Be Aware

When the birth mother completes the birth registration document, she does not have to include information about the father or other parent. However, the other parent can apply to the Court for an order called a “Declaration of Parentage.” They will have to prove to the Court that they are a parent to the child. They can then use this order to apply to have their name added to the birth certificate. For information about getting a “Declaration of Parentage,” see the Process tab (Queen’s Bench option) of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page and see the “Filing court paperwork for the first time” section.

Stillbirth

Stillbirth refers to the death of a fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy, either during pregnancy or during the birth.

Stillbirth is usually a very difficult experience for families. Medical staff help can guide you through the physical and emotional impact of a stillbirth. You may be asked to consent to an autopsy or you may request an autopsy. This may provide some answers about what happened. Your doctor can help you make this decision.

You will also need to make decisions about dealing with your baby’s body. Whatever way you choose, you will need a burial permit. A funeral home can help to arrange this.

Alberta’s Vital Statistics Act requires that all stillbirths be registered. Medical staff can help you complete and file the required documents. After the registration, you can order copies of stillbirth documents. For more information, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

For more information about stillbirths in Alberta, see the following resources.

Web Stillbirth: Topic Overview
Government of Alberta
English

PDF After Your Loss: Stillbirth
Alberta Health Services
English

Web Burial permits
Government of Alberta
English

Crimes related to the birth process

Birth is a vulnerable time for both a pregnant woman and the emerging child. This is recognized in 2 sections of the Criminal Code of Canada.

  • Section 242 says that it is a crime for a woman to fail to arrange for reasonable assistance in childbirth if that failure results in permanent injury or death of the child.
  • Section 238 says that it is a crime to cause the death of a child during childbirth, unless the death of the child was necessary to save the life of the mother.
Adoption

If you are pregnant, you may decide that you are willing to have the baby, but you are not able or willing to raise the child. You may want to consider placing your child for adoption.

Adoption is a legal process in which the legal rights and duties of one person or couple toward a child are ended, and are permanently transferred to another person or couple who become the adoptive parents. Adoptive parents have all the legal rights and responsibilities a parent can have toward a child. Legally they are no treated no differently than any other kind of parent. After an adoption, the child’s birth certificate is changed so that the adoptive parents are listed as the child’s parents.

In Alberta, adoption of a child is governed by Part 2 of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA).

Although you cannot sign a consent for adoption until 24 hours after the baby is born, you can begin to learn about your options and start making arrangements before that.

There are many things to know about adoption law, including:

  • Who must consent to the adoption?
  • Who can help arrange an adoption?
  • Can you choose the adoptive family?
  • Does the birth father have to be involved?
  • What is an open adoption?
  • Can birth parents continue to have contact with their child after the adoption?
  • How long does it take for an adoption to be finalized?
  • What records are kept and what happens to them?

For information about adoption written for birth parents, see the following resources.

Web FAQ For Birthparents
Adoption by Choice
English

Web Frequently Asked Questions
Adoption Options
English
Also see the information linked on the left of the page.

PDF Families and the Law: Young Parents
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 6-7.


Web For Expectant Parents
Christian Adoption Services
English

Web Putting A Baby Up For Adoption in Canada: The Process
Canada Adopts
English
Also see the rest of the links in the “Unplanned pregnancy” list.


Web Open Adoption
Canada Adopts
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For more general information about adoption, see the Adopting a Child Information Page.

Abortion

Sometimes a woman may not want to carry through with her pregnancy. She may wish to consider having an abortion.

Abortion is the early ending of a pregnancy before the embryo or the fetus can survive outside of the mother’s body. The term generally refers to the ending of a pregnancy that is done on purpose. For example, when a doctor ends the pregnancy using medication or surgery. An abortion which is done by a doctor may be called a “therapeutic abortion” or an “induced abortion.”

Sometimes a pregnancy will end early on its own. This can happen for many reasons including when an embryo or fetus does not develop properly, or when the mother has health problems during pregnancy. This is commonly called a “miscarriage,” but may also be called a “spontaneous abortion.”

Abortion is legal in Canada. It has been legal since 1988. Technically, there is a section of the Criminal Code of Canada that made abortion a crime except in certain limited situations. However, in 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that this section of the Criminal Code violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As a result, they ruled that that section of the law is of no force or effect. This means that it is as if this section does not exist.

Abortion is considered part of health care. Each province makes its own rules about the delivery of health care. As a result, each province has different:

  • rules about abortion;
  • procedures for abortion; and
  • availability of abortion services.

In Alberta, abortions can be done at any time up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Alberta Health Care Insurance covers the cost of abortions done in hospitals and clinics.

Be Aware

Abortion services may not be available in all areas of the province. If you live in a rural area, you may need to travel to a larger city to get an abortion. For information about finding an abortion clinic in Alberta, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

What are the requirements of consent to an abortion?

In Alberta, you do not have to be a certain age to consent to an abortion. You just need to have “capacity.”

The term “capacity” refers to the ability (or inability) to make decisions. In general, there are 2 parts to mental capacity:

  1. The ability to understand the nature of a decision. This includes understanding all of the information that is relevant to a particular decision.
  2. The ability to understand the consequences of making a decision. That is, a person with capacity would understand what could happen as a result of making a certain decision.

In Alberta, the law assumes everyone 18 or older has mental capacity, unless it is shown otherwise (usually by a doctor’s opinion or a judge’s decision).

A person under 18 may have capacity. It depends on such things as their age, intelligence, maturity, and the type of decision. A minor who is mature enough to make their own medical decisions is called a “mature minor.”

There is no set age for mature minors. It depends on the person and the seriousness of the medical treatment. For a minor to consent to an abortion, a doctor would need to determine that they were a mature minor with the capacity to give consent.

Only the pregnant woman needs to consent to the abortion. This means:

  • her spouse or partner does not need to consent;
  • her parents or guardians do not need to consent (even if she is under 18 years old); and
  • the biological father does not need to be informed or to consent.

Information about the pregnancy or the abortion cannot be given to anyone, even parents or guardians, unless the pregnant woman consents to release this information.

However, generally women will be encouraged to tell someone in their lives so that they have some personal support at this time. A mature minor will be strongly encouraged to tell a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult.

More information

For information about how to get an abortion, see the Process tab of this Information Page. For more general information about abortion, see the following resources.

Web Abortion
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Abortion: Topic Overview
Government of Alberta
English

Web Am I Pregnant?
Calgary Sexual Health Centre
English
See “The Abortion Choice” near the end of the page.

PDF Abortion and the Mature Minor
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
English

Web Legal Abortion in Canada
National Abortion Federation
English

Web Abortion law in Canada
Duhaime.org
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Abortion (FAQ)
Canadian Women's Health Network
English

Web The Struggle for Abortion Rights: Access by Province
Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada
English
Preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term used to describe the range of brain injuries, birth defects and developmental disabilities caused when a fetus is exposed to alcohol in the womb. FASD is a lifelong condition with no cure.

FASD is costly for both individuals and in terms of government and social programs. The federal and provincial governments and community agencies are working together to help raise awareness and prevent FASD.

Because a baby does not have legal rights until it is born alive, there is no legal authority that can force a pregnant woman to care for herself in a certain way. However, it is generally agreed that it is in everyone’s best interests if a pregnant woman takes care of herself and her fetus. This includes not drinking, smoking, or doing drugs. There are many community and health system resources to help women have a healthy and successful pregnancy. As a starting point, see the following resources.

Web Birth & Babies
Alberta Health Services
English

Web Healthy Parents Healthy Children
Alberta Health Services
English

Web Youth: If You're Pregnant or Parenting
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about the prevention of FASD, see the following resources.

Video What is FASD?
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Web Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Help a pregnant friend avoid alcohol
Calgary Fetal Alcohol Network
English

PDF Join the Circle of Friends in the battle against FASD
Calgary Fetal Alcohol Network
English

PDF Pregnancy and alcohol? Don't take the chance
Government of Alberta
English

Web International Charter on Prevention of FASD
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

For more information about government services that support children who are born with FASD, see the Having a Child Information Page.

Young people and pregnancy

If you are a minor and you think you might be pregnant and are wondering what to do, see the following resources.

Web Am I Pregnant?
Calgary Sexual Health Centre
English

Web Pregnancy
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
English

Web Grossesse
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
French

Web Youth: If You're Pregnant or Parenting
Government of Alberta
English

If a minor becomes pregnant, she may have questions about:

  • what her rights are for medical matters;
  • whether her parents need to know about the pregnancy; and
  • her options, such as abortion, placing the child for adoption, or raising the child.

The father may also have questions about his rights on these matters.

For information about these topics, see the following resources.

Web Teen Pregnancy and Child Support
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English

Web Youth FAQs - Health & Medical
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Families and the Law: Young Parents
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 2-5.

PDF Abortion and the Mature Minor
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
English

PDF Frequently Asked Questions: Consent and Minors
Alberta Health Services
English
Legal issues related to being a biological mother (birth mother)

In Alberta, the laws about parentage are found in the Family Law Act. The first person the law views as a parent is the birth mother. The woman who carries the child during pregnancy and who gives birth to the child is the birth mother (also sometimes called the “biological mother”).

Under this definition, a surrogate would be considered the birth mother. However, the law goes on to clarify how parentage in situations of assisted reproduction will be handled. For more information about this, see the Assisted Reproduction: Fertility & Surrogacy Information Page.

Every parent is responsible for the financial support of their child. Also, a biological mother will usually have a legal role as a guardian of their child. A guardian automatically has certain rights and responsibilities (unless a court has taken them away). However, being a parent is not necessarily enough to be considered a guardian. For example, you may be the biological parent of a six-year-old, but you have had nothing to do with the child since before birth. Your claim to guardianship is not very strong.

For more information about the rights and responsibilities of parents and guardians, see the Having a Child: Legal Considerations & Government Benefits for Parents and Guardians Information Page.

Legal issues related to being a biological father (birth father)

As a father, you may not be certain whether you are the biological parent. You need to know if you are the parent of a child. Every parent is responsible for the financial support of their child.

If you are unsure if you are the biological parent of the child, see the following resources to learn how parentage is determined.

PDF Families and the Law: Young Parents
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Start on p. 10.

Web Child & Spousal Support
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Who is a parent?”

PDF Alberta's Family Law Act: An Overview
Government of Alberta
English
Start on p. 5.

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 11.

Audio/Web Paternity Rights
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Guardianship, Parenting, Custody, and Access
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Who Is a Parent?”

A biological father will usually have a legal role as a guardian of their child. A guardian automatically has certain rights and responsibilities (unless a court has taken them away). However, being a parent is not necessarily enough to be considered a guardian. Two examples are:

  • You may be the biological parent of a six-year-old, but you have had nothing to do with the child since before birth. Your claim to guardianship is not very strong.
  • If a child is born as a result of a sexual assault, the biological father is not a guardian.

For more information about the rights and responsibilities of parents and guardians, see the Having a Child: Legal Considerations & Government Benefits Information Page.

Sometimes people want or need a court order declaring that the biological father is a parent of a child, or not a parent of a child. For example, they may want to add or change information on a birth certificate. For information about getting a “Declaration of Parentage,” see the Process tab (Queen’s Bench option) of the Guardianship & Parenting under the Family Law Act Information Page and see the “Filing court paperwork for the first time” section.

Aboriginal matters

In general, the laws related to pregnancy and birth are the same for Aboriginal people as for everyone else.

However, there are certain concerns that Aboriginal families may have, including:

  • registering a child for “Indian Status” under the Indian Act;
  • adoption of Aboriginal children; and
  • culturally sensitive resources about pregnancy and birth.

Indian Status

Children with registered Indian Status are entitled to additional government services and recognition of certain cultural practices. For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
See p. 8-9.

Web Indian Status
University of British Columbia
English

Web Are You Eligible?: Registration of the Indian Act
Government of Canada
English



Web First Nation Agencies: Frequently Asked Questions
Government of Alberta
English

Adoption of Aboriginal children

Much of the law around adoption in Alberta is the same for Aboriginal families as for other families.

However, there are concerns that Aboriginal children should stay connected to their culture. As a result, Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act has some specific rules about the adoption of Aboriginal children. These include:

  • adoptive parents are required to include a “cultural connection plan” if they are not members of the child’s band; and
  • an assigned member of the child’s band may need to be involved with the adoption process.

For more detailed information about this, see the Adopting a Child Information Page.

Culturally sensitive resources about pregnancy and birth

Some organizations have materials and programs that are based on Aboriginal culture and traditions. For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Parenting: Legal Rights & Responsibilities
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Audio/Web 

Web First Nations and Inuit - Healthy Pregnancy
Government of Canada
English


Web Indigenous Information
Health Nexus
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Aboriginal Resources
Government of British Columbia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


Web Aboriginal Midwifery in Canada
National Aboriginal Council of Midwives
English


PDF Caregiver-Infant Attachment for Aboriginal Families
National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health
English

PDF L’attachement donneur de soins-bébé dans les familles autochtones
National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health
French

Blended family considerations

When people start relationships with new partners, they might form what is called a “blended family.” A blended family is a family that has children from previous relationships, and may even include children from the current relationship.

As you prepare to welcome a new child into your blended family, you may have questions about things such as:

  • Will your responsibilities for child support and spousal support from a previous relationship be affected?
  • Might there be an impact on parenting arrangements for the other children?
  • What possible issues related to property decisions, financial decisions, and estate planning may come up?

Each of the family law Information Pages on LegalAve has a section discussing “Blended family considerations” for that topic. To find the topic you are interested in, see the Legal Topics page.

LGBTQ considerations

In general, the laws related to pregnancy and birth are the same for a pregnant LGBTQ woman as for everyone else.

However, people who are LGBTQ will often use some form of assisted reproduction to have a baby. The laws about assisted reproduction are quite complicated. For more information, see the Assisted Reproduction: Fertility & Surrogacy Information Page.

People who are LGBTQ and use a known donor or surrogate to make a child sometimes wish to include that person as the third parent of the child. In Alberta and most other jurisdictions, only 2 parents can be listed on a child’s birth certificate. The law is beginning to change in some places.

For more information on LGBTQ parentage issues, see the following resources.


Web Families Parented by Same-Sex Couples
Government of Canada
English

Polyamorous relationships

When a woman in a polyamorous relationship becomes pregnant, she may wonder about having more than 2 people legally recognized as parents of her child. Right now, most provinces only allow 2 parents to be listed on a birth certificate. However, some provinces are changing their laws in response to changing relationship structures in Canada.

Polyamorous families may also wonder about legal issues such as “standing in the place of parent” (also called being “in loco parentis”). For example:

For more information about how polyamory is treated and recognized across Canada, see the following resources.



Web Three official parents? Legal developments
Polyamory in the News
English
Concerns for immigrants and non-citizens

One or both parents may not be citizens or permanent residents of Canada because they are:

  • in the process of immigrating;
  • conditional permanent residents;
  • on a study permit or student work visa;
  • on a work permit; or
  • hired as a temporary foreign worker.

In these situations, all of the same laws about pregnancy and birth as discussed above apply to you.

Whether or not you are entitled to maternity or parental leave or benefits will depend on the details of your situation. See the resources in the “Employment rights and benefits: Maternity and parental leave” section for contact information to ask about this.

If your child is born in Canada, that child will automatically be a Canadian citizen. However, that will not change your own legal status in Canada. You will still have to follow the immigration process if you wish to stay in Canada. For more information, see the following resource.

Process

Learn more about the steps to take when dealing with legal issues related to pregnancy and birth. See the sections below for information about:

  • Applying for maternity or parental benefits
  • Making a human rights complaint related to pregnancy
  • Registering the birth of a child
  • Getting stillbirth documents
  • Getting an abortion

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: February 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information about processes and steps to take when dealing with legal issues related to pregnancy and birth. In general, the processes on this Information Page are for families who live in Alberta.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page. For information about the law that affects pregnant women in Alberta, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

Applying for maternity or parental benefits

Employment Insurance provides:

  • maternity benefits if you are a biological mother or surrogate mother, who cannot work because you are pregnant or have recently given birth; and
  • parental benefits if you are a parent who is caring for a newborn or newly adopted child or children.

For information about how to apply for these benefits, see the following resources.

Web EI Maternity and Parental Benefits - Apply
Government of Canada
English

Making a human rights complaint

You may be protected from discrimination in the workplace by either the Alberta Human Rights Act or the Canadian Human Rights Act. For more information about which law applies to your situation, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

For information about how to make a complaint about discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act, see the following resources.

Web Information for complainants
Government of Alberta
English

For information about how to make a complaint about discrimination under the Canada Human Rights Act, see the following resource.

Web How do I file a complaint?
Government of Canada
English

Web Étapes à suivre pour déposer une plainte
Government of Canada
French
Registering the birth of a child

All births that occur in Alberta must be registered with the Alberta government. This will generally be done shortly after the child is born. If your child is born in the hospital or with a registered midwife, they will help with the registration forms. If your child is born at home without a registered midwife, you must request a “home birth package.”

Be Aware

If the registration is not done within a year, there are additional requirements and an extra fee.

For more information, see the following resource.

Web Register a Birth
Government of Alberta
English
Also see “Choose a name” on the right of the page for rules about naming your child.

After the birth is registered, you can order a birth certificate or copies of the registration of birth. If there are errors or missing information in the registration, you can apply to amend the registration.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Birth Certificates & Documents
Government of Alberta
English

Web Change birth, marriage or death records
Government of Alberta
English

Getting stillbirth documents

Alberta’s Vital Statistics Act requires that all stillbirths be registered. After the stillbirth is registered, you can order copies of stillbirth documents, including the Registration of Stillbirth or Medical Certificate of Stillbirth.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Ordering a stillbirth document
Government of Alberta
English

Web Available stillbirth documents
Government of Alberta
English

Web Eligibility for stillbirth documents
Government of Alberta
English
Getting an abortion

To arrange an abortion, talk to your doctor or contact one of the following resources.

Web Abortion Services (Edmonton)
Alberta Health Services
English

Web Abortion Services (Calgary)
Alberta Health Services
English

Web Pregnancy Options Counselling (Grande Prairie)
Alberta Health Services
English

PDF List of Abortion Clinics in Canada
Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada
English

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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