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
- Washington state law does not require schools to provide sex education; the decision about whether or not to teach comprehensive sex ed is up to local school boards.
- If sex ed is taught, then abstinence must be covered and stressed as the only completely effective protection against unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually.
- Contraceptives, such as condoms or the Pill, must be covered.
- Sex education cannot be culturally biased and must be “appropriate for students regardless of race, gender, disability status, or sexual orientation.”
- If you want your school to offer a 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
- Washington state law requires education about STDS and also requires HIV/AIDS education each year, beginning in grade 5.
- Abstinence must be covered and stressed as the only completely effective protection against HIV through sexual contact.
- Parents or guardians may remove their children from HIV/AIDS education if they have attended an information session about the curriculum and how to present it.
- If a school district chooses to provide sex ed, parents may also remove their children from the class with written notification. This is called an “opt-out” policy.
Age of Minority
- In Washington, 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 Washington is 16.
- Washington has non-discrimination laws and policies in place that protect students in school from discrimination that is based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
- Anti-bullying laws prohibits bullying based on many forms of discrimination, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
- State hate crimes laws 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 discrimination or harassment!
HIV / AIDS Testing
- In Washington, if you are 14 years and older, you do not 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 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 Washington, all minors are allowed to get a prescription for birth control without a parent’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.
- 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.
- In Washington, if you are under 18 years old and want an abortion, you do not need to get permission from your parents or legal guardian.
- There is no mandatory waiting period in Washington before someone can get an abortion.
- Washington voluntarily provides Medicaid (health care) coverage for medically necessary abortions.
- 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).
- 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.
- Washington 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.
- Washington has no sexting-specific laws concerning minors. Unfortunately, this means that teens can find themselves facing serious charges such as child pornography or sexual exploitation of children.
- 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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