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
- Iowa requires “research-based, age-appropriate” health education is taught in grade K through 12. Iowa requires that sex ed is taught in schools.
- Iowa law also says that information must be “free of biases based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender.”
- Parents or guardians can (if the course conflicts with their child or children’s religious beliefs), remove students from sex ed courses. This is called an “opt-out” policy.
HIV/AIDS and Other STDs Education
- Iowa law says that students must be taught about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV and including the prevention of STDs.
- Information on AIDS and human papilloma virus (HPV) and the HPV vaccine must be covered.
- If you want your school to offer a comprehensive sexuality education class in your school then be sure to learn more at SIECUS. You can make a difference!
Age of Minority
- The age when someone is no longer considered a minor in Iowa, as in most states, is 18. Therefore, you are legally considered an adult at age 18.
- Keep in mind that these laws may be different for you if you are legally considered an emancipated minor, are a pregnant or married minor or if you are in jail.
- 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.”These laws are meant to protect minors from being manipulated or forced into sex with older people.
- In Iowa, you can legally consent to sex when you become 16 years old. There are specific points to remember, too:
- Someone who is 14 to 15 years old can consent to sex with another teen as long as the other teen is less than 4 years older than them. For example, a 15-year-old can legally consent to a 19-year-old, but a 15-year-old cannot legally consent to a 20-year-old.
- People under age 13 can’t legally consent to sex in any situations.
- Public schools in Iowa have nondiscrimination and anti-bullying laws in place that are meant to protect students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- State hate crimes laws include 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 harassment!
HIV / AIDS Testing
- In Iowa, teens don’t need permission from your parent or guardian to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or HIV.
- If you test positive for HIV in Iowa, health care providers are required to let you know that they may be in touch with your parent or guardian about the result.
- If you’re a minor (under 18), it’s 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?”
- 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. 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 Iowa, minors (people under 18) are allowed to get birth control without a parent or guardian’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.
- Use this tool to find a Title X clinic near you:
- Or call 1-800-230-PLAN (7526) for the nearest Planned Parenthood.
- 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.
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 in Iowa and under 18, you need to notify one parent or a grandparent ahead of getting an abortion. If that’s not possible, you can to ask a judge for permission to go ahead with the abortion without notifying a parent or grandparent. This is called “judicial bypass.”
- You do not need to tell a parent or grandparent or get a judge’s permission if you need an abortion due to an emergency.
- Iowa very recently had one of the longest waiting periods in the country – 72 hours – for an abortion. As of late 2017, there is no waiting period, but this law could change again soon. Ask your health care provider about a waiting period if you need an abortion.
- Iowa provides Medicaid (health care) coverage for abortions only in cases of rape, incest, fetal impairment (meaning the fetus is not healthy) and when the pregnant person’s life is in danger. Unique to Iowa, the governor must approve any abortion paid for by Medicaid.
- 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.
- 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.
- All 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.
- Iowa does not require emergency rooms to provide EC or information on ED 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 Iowa, there are no specific laws regarding sexting.
- Be aware that having someone’s permission to take or share images of them is important, and taking or sharing nude or sexual images of someone under 18, even yourself, could be considered illegal.
“Iowa Minor Consent Law,” Iowa Department of Public Health, Memo, April 3, 2015, https://idph.iowa.gov/Portals/1/userfiles/110/Minor-Consent-Iowa-April-2015.pdf Accessed December 2017.
“An Overview of Abortion Laws,” State Laws and Policies,” Guttmacher Institute, December 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/overview-abortion-laws Accessed December 2017.
“An Overview of Minors’ Consent Laws,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, December 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/overview-minors-consent-law Accessed December 2017.
“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.
“Emergency Contraception,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, December 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/emergency-contraception 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 Involvement in Minors’ Abortions,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, December 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/parental-involvement-minors-abortions Accessed December 2017.
“Refusing to Provide Health Services,” State Laws and Policies, Guttmacher Institute, December 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/refusing-provide-health-services 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.
“Safe Schools Laws,” Movement Advancement Project, 2017, http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/safe_school_laws 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 2016, Iowa,” SIECUS, www.siecus.org, 2017, Accessed December 2017.
“State Sexting Laws” Cyberbullying.org, July 2015, http://cyberbullying.org/state-sexting-laws.pdf
“The Laws In Your State: Iowa,” 2017, https://www.rainn.org/laws-your-state-iowa Accessed December 2017.