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
- Massachusetts state law does not require sex ed to be taught in school. Local school boards decide whether to teach sex ed. If schools do decide to teach sex ed, standards for courses must be developed with the input of community stakeholders—including parents and at least one doctor.
- Massachusetts State standards say that sex ed classes should “discuss HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, family violence, sound health practices and ‘define sexual orientation using the correct terminology (such as heterosexual and gay and lesbian).”
- If you want your school to offer a comprehensive sex ed in your school, be sure to learn more at SIECUS about Massachusetts. You can make a difference!
HIV/AIDS and Other STDs Education
- Massachusetts state law does not require STDs and HIV/AIDS education, but it is to be covered in the schools that have decided to create sex ed programs.
Age of Minority
- The age when someone is no longer considered a minor in Massachusetts, 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, pregnant minor or married minor.
- Being a minor (under 18) 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.
- The age of consent in Massachusetts is 16.
- Public schools in Massachusetts has statewide laws against discrimination that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
- There are statewide anti-bullying laws to protect students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- There are statewide anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation but not gender identity.
- State hate crimes laws also include sexual orientation and 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
- You don’t need permission from your parent or guardian to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV in Massachusetts.
- 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.
- 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 Massachusetts, a minor (someone under 18) can get a prescription for birth control without a parent’s 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.
- If you go to a Title X clinic, your appointment will be confidential, including your billing and your records.
- 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.
- A teen in Massachusetts has to have a parent’s permission to get an abortion. This is called “parental consent.” If this isn’t possible or not best for you, you are able to ask a judge for permission. This is called “judicial bypass.”
- There is no mandatory waiting period in Massachusetts before someone can get an abortion.
- Massachusetts funds, through Medicaid (health care) coverage, most medically necessary abortions, going beyond federal standards (which include coverage when the pregnant person’s life is in danger or if the pregnancy is a result of 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 more 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.
- Massachusetts requires emergency rooms to provide EC and information on 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.
- There are no laws in Massachusetts specifically regarding sexting. However, sexting falls under state and federal child pornography regulations, which state that pictures of a person under 18 engaged in sexual behaviors is a crime.
- As recent as late in 2017, Massachusetts lawmakers are considering legislation that would put young people facing sexting charges through an educational program rather than using child pornography laws to send them to jail and label them as sex offenders.
- Be aware that having someone’s permission to take or share images of them is important, but even if you have permission, taking or sharing nude or sexual images of someone under 18, even yourself, could be considered illegal.
“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.
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“Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework,” Massachusetts Department of Education, October 1999, http://www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/health/1999/1099.pdf Accessed December 2017.
“Massachusetts Law About Sex,” Commonwealth of Massachusetts, December 2017, https://www.mass.gov/service-details/massachusetts-law-about-sex 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, 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.
“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, siecus.org, 2017, Accessed December 2017.
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“State Laws, Massachusetts,” Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000. https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/state-laws Accessed December 2017.
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