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
- Pennsylvania state law does not require schools to provide sex education.
- Schools must use materials that have been determined by the local school district to be age-appropriate and stress abstinence from sex.
- 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
- Pennsylvania requires schools provide STD and HIV/AIDS education.
- The information provided must be age appropriate.
- School districts must let parents and guardians review all curriculum materials.
- Parents and guardians may remove their children from sex ed classes if their principles or religious beliefs conflict with the classes. This is called an “opt-out” policy.
Age of Minority
- In Pennsylvania, 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 Pennsylvania is 16.
- There is an exception to this: a “close in age” law in Pennsylvania that allows teens of certain ages to consent to sex with one another. In these cases, both teens must be at least 13 and cannot be more than four years older. For example, you can be 15 and consent to sex with a 17-year-old.
- Also, even if a teen is 16 or older, they still can’t consent to certain people, such as teachers or coaches.
- Public schools in Pennsylvania have non-discrimination laws that protect students based on sexual orientation but not on gender identity.
- There are statewide anti-bullying laws to protect students based on sexual orientation but not on gender identity.
- State hate crimes laws do not include sexual orientation or 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 Pennsylvania, minors (those under 18) 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 under 18, 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.
- A minor can get a prescription for birth control without a parent’s permission in Pennsylvania.
- 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.
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 must give permission before you can get one. This is called “parental consent.” If that’s not possible, you are able to ask a judge for permission. This is called “judicial bypass.” If it’s an emergency, you can also get special permission to have an abortion.
- In Pennsylvania, there is a 24-hour mandatory waiting period for those seeking an abortion.
- Pennsylvania provides Medicaid (health care) coverage for abortion only in cases of 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).
- In Pennsylvania, you must let a parent or legal guardian know if you’re going to place a baby for adoption.
- 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.
- Pennsylvania requires emergency rooms to provide EC or 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.
- In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for a minor to electronically send, distribute, publish or possess a sexually explicit image of a minor.
- Remember 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.
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“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.
“Sexting Laws in Pennsylvania,” Cyberbullying Research Center, https://cyberbullying.org/sexting-laws/pennsylvania Accessed December 2017.
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“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.
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