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
- Colorado state law does not require schools to sex ed or HIV/sexually transmitted disease (STD) instruction, but the law does refer to young people’s right to such information and mentions the need for expanded access to sex ed.
- If schools use money provided by the state for sex ed, they’re required to teach comprehensive sex ed, which means that the material must be science-based, age-appropriate, culturally relevant and medically accurate.
- Education about contraceptives, such as condoms or the Pill, as well as sexual orientation, are also required.
- When taught, sex ed must include instruction to help students develop skills for healthy decision making, family communication, personal power, boundary setting and resisting peer pressure.
- Parents or guardians must be notified a sex ed course is being taught. In Colorado, parents or guardians of students can remove them from the classes if they want to.
- If you live in Colorado and want your school to offer a comprehensive sexuality education class, learn more at SIECUS. You can make a difference!
Age of Minority
- In Colorado, as in most states, you are considered a “minor” (someone who is not an adult) if you are under 18. Being a minor affects your right to information and services.
- 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.
- In Colorado, you can legally consent to sex after age 17, but there are some things to know:
- Teens who are at least 15 but under 17 can only consent to sex acts if the other person is less than 10 years older than them.
- If someone is under 15 and the other person is 4 or more years older than you, the under-15-year-old can’t legally consent to sex.
- Public schools in Colorado have laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Anti-bullying (including cyberbullying) laws protect students against bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- State hate crimes laws include protections for 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) for help and support, or check out Lambda Legal. No one deserves harassment or should have to put up with it.
HIV / AIDS Testing
- You don’t need permission from your parent or guardian to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV in Colorado, but you do need to be at least 13. If you test positive for HIV or another STD and receive treatment, the health care provider may legally discuss this with a parent or guardian if you are under 16.
- If you are a minor, it is very 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 diseases, including HIV. To make sure your visit is confidential, tell the clinic staff how to contact you privately about test results and future appointments.
- Colorado 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 or call the Centers for Disease Control’s 24-hour National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).
- People of any age can buy condoms from a drugstore, pharmacy, grocery store or even online. A 12-pack of 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.
- Minors are allowed to 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 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.
- 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.
- Ask the health care provider about their confidentiality rules when you are making the appointment. 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?
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.
- If you are under 18 years old and want an abortion, one parent or guardian must be notified before you can get one, but you do not need their permission to have one. This is called “parental notification.” If that’s not possible, you are able to ask a judge for permission, or get special permission if it’s a medical emergency. This is called “judicial bypass.”
- You do not need parental notification if you are receiving an abortion because of abuse, assault, incest or neglect.
- There is no mandatory waiting period in your state before a teen can get an abortion. So, once you have a parent’s or a judge’s permission, you do not have to wait before getting an abortion, like in other states.
- Your state provides Medicaid coverage for abortions only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. 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 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.
- You can call 1-800-230-PLAN (7526) to find the nearest Planned Parenthood.
- All visits to clinics known as Title X (ten) clinics are confidential for teens and adults.
- 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.
- 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.
- EC costs 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).
- People of any age can buy the brand Plan B One Step and its generic versions at a local pharmacy over the counter.
- But in Colorado, the law makes it possible that a pharmacist or pharmacy may refuse to provide EC to a customer. In other words, if a pharmacist doesn’t think someone should use EC, they may be able refuse to give it to you. While the law doesn’t specifically say pharmacists or pharmacies can do this, it does make it possible. This is good to know if you are refused.
- 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.
- In Colorado, sexting could be considered sexual exploitation of a child if someone who is considered a minor is involved. As of January 2018, a new law in Colorado will allow more flexibility for law enforcement to determine which cases are truly sexual exploitation and which are consensual exchanges of sexual images. Remember, though, that sexting among teens could still be seen as a crime.
“An Overview of Abortion Laws,” Guttmacher Institute, March 2018. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/overview-abortion-laws Accessed March 2018.
“Colorado’s Parental Notification Law,” Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, 2017. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-rocky-mountains/patient-resources/colorados-parental-notification-law Accessed December 2017.
“Counseling and Waiting Periods for Abortion,” Guttmacher Institute, March 2018. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/counseling-and-waiting-periods-abortion Accessed March 2018.
“Emancipation of Minors – Laws,” Cornell University Law School. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_emancipation. Accessed April 2017.“Emergency Contraception,” Guttmacher Institute, March 2018. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/emergency-contraception Accessed March 2018.
“Guidance on new Legislation Regarding ‘Sexting,’” Colorado Department of Public Safety, 2017. https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/publicsafety/news/guidance-new-legislation-regarding-sexting Accessed December 2017.
“Minor’s Access to STI Services,” Guttmacher Institute, March 2018. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/minors-access-sti-services Accessed March 2018.
“Refusing to Provide Health Services,” Guttmacher Institute, December 2017. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/refusing-provide-health-services Accessed December 2017.
“Sex and STI/HIV Education,” Guttmacher Institute, March 2018. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/sex-and-hiv-education Accessed March 2018.
“State Facts About Abortion,” Guttmacher Institute, https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/state-facts-about-abortion-colorado Accessed December 2017.
“State Funding of Abortion Under Medicaid,” Guttmacher Institute, May 2017. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/state-funding-abortion-under-medicaid Accessed December 2017.
“State Laws on Age Requirements and Sex,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/state-laws. Accessed December 2017.
State Maps, GLSEN, https://www.glsen.org/article/state-maps. Accessed May 2017.
State Profiles: A Portrait of Sexuality Education and Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in the States,” Public Policy Office. Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). Accessed December 2017.
“States-Regions: Colorado,” Lambda Legal. http://www.lambdalegal.org/states-regions/colorado Accessed March 2018.