Sex in the States
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Wondering what's going on in your state? See how your state stacks up on sexuality issues for teens. And don't forget to find out how to make a difference on these issues.
Sex ed Rights
- Tennessee state law requires schools to teach sex ed only in locations where the pregnancy rate among 15- and 17-year-olds has reached a certain level (19.5 pregnancies per 1000 teen girls).
- Abstinence must be stressed as the only completely effective protection against unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually.
- Teaching about contraceptives, such as condoms or the Pill, is not required.
- If you want your school to offer comprehensive sex ed classes, be sure to learn more at SIECUS about your state. You can make a difference!
HIV/AIDS and Other STDs Education
- Tennessee state law requires STDs and HIV/AIDS education.
- In Tennessee, students don’t need a parent or guardian’s permission to participate in sex ed or STD/HIV/AIDS education classes. Parents can remove their child or children from sex ed classes, though. This is called an “opt-out” policy.
Age of Minority
- In Tennessee, as with most states, you are considered a minor (someone who is not an adult) if you are under 18 years old.
- This is a legal status that lawmakers created for your protection. We want you to be informed because being a “minor” affects your right to information and services. To learn more, read on!
Age of Consent
- Legally, people can’t consent (or agree) to sex (with someone who is considered an adult) until they reach a specific age. This is called the “age of consent.”Consent laws are meant to protect minors from being manipulated or forced into sex with older people.
- Laws about consent may be different depending on the type of sex—vaginal, anal or oral—and the genders of those having sex.
- The age of consent in Tennessee is 18. This means someone who is 18 can legally consent to sex with a partner who is also 18 or older.
- Public schools in your state have no Safe Schools Law in effect, which is a statewide anti-harassment and/or nondiscrimination law that includes the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity. But some school districts have decided to adopt their own Safe Schools policies.
- There are no statewide anti-bullying laws that protect students based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
- State hate crimes laws include protections based on sexual orientation but not gender identity.
- If discrimination, harassment or a hate crime happens to you or someone you know, please call the Gay and Lesbian National Hotline at 1-888-THE-GLNH (843-4564) for help and support, or check out Lambda Legal. No one deserves discrimination or harassment!
HIV / AIDS Testing
- In Tennessee, teens don’t need permission from a parent or guardian to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV or to consent to treatment.
- If you’re a minor, it’s especially important for you to ask questions about confidentiality when you call to make your appointment. Specifically ask, “If I make an appointment and receive any kind of services at your clinic, will you tell my parents or anyone else?” This applies to all services, including testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
- Find an HIV testing site in your area or call the Centers for Disease Control’s 24-hour National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).
- People of any age, including teens, can buy condoms from a drugstore, pharmacy, grocery store or even online. A pack of twelve condoms costs about $12. Internal or female condoms are about $2 to $4 per condom.
- You can get condoms for free or at a reduced cost from health clinics (like Planned Parenthood), HIV testing centers and local health departments. Call 1-800-230-PLAN (7526) for the nearest Planned Parenthood.
- Always check the expiration date on condoms to make sure that the condoms haven’t expired yet. For information on how to use a condom correctly, check out this FAQ. Learn all about internal/female condoms on Sexetc.org.
- In Tennessee, if you are 16 or older and/or married, you can get a prescription for birth control without a parent’s permission. This is also true if your health care provider considers you a “mature minor,” which means they consider you responsible or mature enough to get a birth control prescription without a parent’s permission.
- Clinics called “Title X clinics”—pronounced “title ten”—provide confidential sexual and reproductive health care to both teens and adults. Title X clinics offer many services, including prescriptions for the Pill, pregnancy option counseling, and testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and infections, including HIV.
- These clinics charge on what’s called a sliding-scale fee basis, which means they help you pay what you can afford, and you can pay in cash. If you pay for your visit by using your family’s health insurance, then your parents are likely to see the bill when it arrives in the mail.
- Call 1-800-230-PLAN (7526) for the nearest Planned Parenthood.
- Or use this tool to find a Title X clinic near you:
- When you make an appointment for health care, ask about confidentiality rules. When you call, ask:
- Can I get services at your office without my parents’ permission?
- Can my parent/s have access to my records?
- Will my parent/s see the bill?
- It is your right to get sexual and reproductive health care where you feel safe and comfortable, so don’t worry about asking these questions.
- In Tennessee, if you’re under 18 and want an abortion, a parent or legal guardian must give permission before you can get one. That is called parental consent. If that’s not possible, you are able to ask a judge for permission. This is called judicial bypass.
- Even if you are under 18, you can get an abortion if it’s a medical emergency or if you are a victim of abuse, assault, incest or neglect.
- There is a 48-hour mandatory waiting period to get an abortion in Tennessee.
- In-person counseling is also required before someone can get an abortion. This means that you will have to make two trips to the abortion provider before getting an abortion.
- Tennessee provides Medicaid (health care) coverage for abortion only in cases of a medical emergency, life endangerment to the pregnant person or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
- If you need more information on abortion or help paying for an abortion, call the National Abortion Federation Hotline at 1-800-772-9100, Monday–Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time).
- To learn about adoption, visit the National Council for Adoption.
- You do not need a prescription from a doctor or health care provider to get a pregnancy test. You can purchase a pregnancy test from a pharmacy, grocery store or online. They cost between $10 and $18. You can also take a pregnancy test at a doctor’s office or clinic, like Planned Parenthood. Many clinics offer free or reduced-cost pregnancy tests.
- Visits to clinics known as Title X (ten) clinics are confidential for teens and adults.
- Use this tool to find a Title X clinic near you:
- Or call 1-800-230-PLAN (7526) for the nearest Planned Parenthood.
- If you pay for your visit by using your family’s health insurance, your parents are likely to see the details of your visit when the bill arrives. Almost all clinics provide free or reduced-cost services to teens to make it easier to afford services.
- Beware of so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). These centers claim to give you complete and accurate information about your pregnancy options when they actually want to discourage you from getting an abortion. They offer misleading and medically inaccurate information about abortion. Common names of these centers are “Crisis Pregnancy Center,” “Pregnancy Aid,” “Birth Right,” “Open Door” or “Pregnancy Counseling Center.” They are often set up near clinics and Planned Parenthood locations in order to confuse patients to accidentally enter the CPC instead.
- There are several types—or “brands”—of emergency contraception, sometimes called EC or the morning after pill.
- People of any age can buy the brand Plan B One Step and its generic versions at a local pharmacy over the counter, which means you can buy EC without a prescription.
- EC sells for between $35 and $60. Prices vary depending on the brand and the pharmacy.
- To find an EC provider, call the Emergency Contraception Hotline at 1-888-NOT-2-LATE (668-2528). They can help you find access to EC if you’re having any trouble at all.
- Tennessee does not require emergency rooms to provide EC or information about EC to rape survivors.
- If you have been raped and you want EC, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). Open 24 hours, the hotline will connect you to EC providers near you. For other helpful information, check out the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s Web site.
- In Tennessee, a 2017 law was passed that says it’s illegal for a minor to have, send or distribute sexually explicit images of another minor. By law, this is considered an “unruly act,” which is a legal term for a relatively minor offense by a juvenile (minor). Judges can decide punishment on a case by case basis.
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