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
- California state law requires that comprehensive sex ed is taught in grades 7 to 12. A school can choose to offer sex ed earlier than grade 7 as well.
- California public schools do not teach abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
- Sex ed must include information about the effectiveness and safety of all U.S. Food and Administration (FDA)-approved contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception (EC).
- California requires that instruction and materials are appropriate for students with disabilities and students of all races, genders, sexual orientations and ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
- California law also requires instruction about gender, gender expression, gender identity and gender stereotypes.
- California requires that students in grades 9 to 12 learn about sexual harassment and violence, consent and prevention and reporting of sexual harassment.
- Parents or guardians can remove their children from sex ed classes. This is known as an “opt-out” policy.
HIV/AIDS and Other STDs Education
- California state law requires comprehensive sex ed that includes STD and HIV/AIDS education.
Age of Minority
- In California as in most states, you are considered a minor (someone who is not an adult) if you are under 18 years old.
- Keep in mind that laws about whether you’re considered a minor may be different if you are pregnant or married or are a minor who has gained the right to live without a parent or guardian.
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.” These laws are meant to protect minors from being manipulated or forced into sex with older people.
- So in California, you can legally consent to sex when you become 18 years old.
- California has anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and anti-bullying—including cyberbullying—laws that include the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity. This means public school LGBTQ students are legally protected from harassment, discrimination and bullying.*
- State hate crime laws include sexual orientation and gender identity.
- If discrimination, harassment or a hate crime happens to you or someone you know, please call the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline at 1-888-THE-GLNH (843-4564), or check out Lambda Legal. No one deserves harassment or should have to put up with it.
- *There is no mention of private schools in the laws that protect LGBTQ students, so it’s unclear if students attending private schools are as protected as students attending public schools.
HIV / AIDS Testing
- In California, those 12 years old and those older than 12 do not need permission from a parent or guardian to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV.
- If you want to be tested confidentially for STDs and/or HIV, tell the clinic staff how to contact you privately about test results and future appointments.
- California offers both anonymous and confidential HIV testing. This means that if you get tested for HIV, you can choose to either have your results confidentially reported to the health department using your name or have your results anonymously reported to the health department using a number code, not your name.
- Find an HIV testing site in your area here 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. Condoms cost about $1 each. 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 California, teens can get a prescription for birth control without a parent’s permission.
- Clinics called “Title X clinics”—pronounced “title ten”—provide 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 (STDs) and infections, including HIV.
- If you go to a Title X clinic, your appointment will be completely confidential.
- 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.
- To make sure your visit is confidential, tell the clinic staff how to contact you about test results and future appointments without your parents knowing.
- 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 go to a private doctor or physician, ask them about their confidentiality rules when you are making the appointment. Ask them when you call:
- 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?
This section is currently being updated and may not have the most current information (as you know, these laws have been shifting quickly). We are working to refresh it ASAP! For now, you can see updated abortion policies here.
- California does not have the restrictions on abortion found in many other states:
- Teens are not required to ask their parent or guardian for permission for an abortion.
- There is no mandatory waiting period before someone can get an abortion.
- If you need 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). The hotline can tell you where and how to get financial help for an abortion in the U.S.
- To learn about the process of adoption and the services available, 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-fee pregnancy tests.
- Clinics called “Title X clinics”—pronounced “title ten”—provide sexual and reproductive health care to both teens and adults. All visits to Title X clinics are confidential for teens and adults. They will not share your records with your parents or your family doctor (or anyone else) without your permission.
- You can 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 bill when it arrives in the mail. To make sure your visit is confidential, tell the clinic staff how to contact you privately about test results and future appointments.
- 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 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 off the shelf.
- EC sells for between $35 and $60. Prices vary depending on the brand and the pharmacy.
- To find a provider or clinic near you, call the Emergency Contraception Hotline at 1-888-NOT-2-LATE (668-2528).
- In California, emergency rooms are required to provide information about EC and provide EC upon request.
- If you have been raped and you want EC, go to the emergency department of a hospital or 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 California, there are no laws that are specifically about sexting. However, state child pornography regulations state that sending, receiving or having pictures of a person under 18 engaged in sexual or “obscene” behaviors is a crime. Therefore, sexting could be considered a crime if you or the person or people you’re sexting with are under 18.
“About CA: Laws and Regulations,” State of California, http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/formsandpubs/laws/Pages/LawsandRegulations.aspx 2017. Accessed March 2018.
“An Overview of Abortion Laws,” State Laws and Policies,” Guttmacher Institute, March 2018, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/overview-abortion-laws Accessed March 2018.
“An Overview of Minors’ Consent Laws,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, March 2018, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/overview-minors-consent-law Accessed March 2018.
“Citizen’s Guide to United States Federal Child Exploitation and Obscenity Laws,” The U.S. Department of Justice, November 2015, https://www.justice.gov/criminal-ceos/citizens-guide-us-federal-child-exploitation-and-obscenity-laws Accessed December 2017.
“Counseling and Waiting Periods for Abortion,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, March 2018, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/counseling-and-waiting-periods-abortion Accessed March 2018.
“Emergency Contraception,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, December 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/emergency-contraception Accessed December 2017.
“Emergency Room Requirements to Offer Emergency Contraception Services to Sexual Assault Survivors,” Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, June 2017, https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/state-indicator/emergency-room-ec-requirements/ Accessed December 2017.
“Mandatory Waiting Periods For Women Seeking Abortion,” Kaiser Family Foundation, April 2017, https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/state-indicator/mandatory-waiting-periods/ Accessed December 2017.
“Minors’ Access to Contraceptive Services,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, December 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/minors-access-contraceptive-services Accessed December 2017.
“Minors’ Access to STI Services,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, December 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/minors-access-sti-services Accessed December 2017.
“Parental Consent and Notification Laws,” Planned Parenthood, 2017, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens/preventing-pregnancy-stds/parental-consent-and-notification-laws Accessed December 2017.
“Parental Involvement in Minors’ Abortions,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, March 2018, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/parental-involvement-minors-abortions Accessed March 2018.
“Refusing to Provide Health Services,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, March 2018, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/refusing-provide-health-services Accessed March 2018.
“Safe Schools Laws,” Movement Advancement Project, 2017, http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/safe_school_laws Accessed December 2017.
“Sex and HIV Education,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, December 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/sex-and-hiv-education Accessed December 2017.
“State Funding of Abortion Under Medicaid,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, December 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/state-funding-abortion-under-medicaid Accessed December 2017.
“State Laws and Policies Across the United States,” SIECUS, www.siecus.org, 2017, Accessed December 2017.
State Profiles Fiscal Year 2017, California,” SIECUS, www.siecus.org, 2017, Accessed December 2017.
“State Laws, California,” Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, September 2000. https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/state-laws Accessed December 2017.
“The Laws in Your State: California,” RAINN, December 2016, https://www.rainn.org/laws-your-state-california Accessed December 2017.