This part of the guide explains
• how to prevent pregnancy,
• what to do if you had unprotected sex (without a condom or other birth control),
• how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections and HIV,
• how to pay for birth control/family-planning services,
• how to leave school to get health care services, and
• what the law says about sex with minors.
What should I do before I have sex?
Never have sex unless you are sure you want to. If you are thinking about having sex, take steps to stay healthy, including:
- talking to a doctor, nurse, or health counselor about how to prevent pregnancy and protect yourself from STDs or STIs (sexually transmitted diseases or infections),
- talking to a trusted adult about whether you are ready to have sex, and
- getting tested for STDs and STIs. If you do not have a regular health care provider you feel comfortable talking to, go to a clinic like Planned Parenthood or to a county or community clinic.
These websites can help you find a clinic near you that will give you free help without telling anyone else about your visit:
If someone is trying to make you have sex, or if you are not sure whether you are ready, you have the right to tell the person you are not ready. It’s OK to say NO! For more information on taking charge of your sexuality, see How to Stay Safe.
How can I prevent pregnancy?
Get birth control from a health care provider before you have sex. There are many types of birth control to choose from.
Your health care provider will
- help you decide which birth control is best for you, and
- make sure you understand how to use it before you leave the doctor’s office or clinic.
Do I need my parents’ permission to get birth control?
No. You can get birth control without involving your parents. And it’s
In California, you can get free or very low-cost birth control, abortion, and pregnancy health care. You do not have to be an adult to qualify. For information on how to pay for these services, read about Family PACT and Minor Consent Medi‑Cal below.
What if I am worried I may be pregnant?
If you have unprotected sex, such as
- sex without a condom or other birth control,
- the condom breaks, or
- you are raped or forced to have sex without a condom,
Go to a family-planning clinic or community clinic as soon as you can.
If you do this right away, you can probably get emergency contraception (EC, also called the Morning After Pill) to prevent pregnancy.
There are several kinds of EC, but the most common type is Plan B®.
Using it within 24 hours is best. But you can take it up to five days after the unprotected sex. The sooner you take it, the more likely you are to prevent pregnancy.
If you are worried that you were exposed to HIV, there are medications you can take within 72 hours that help prevent getting HIV. See How to Protect Yourself from STDs.
How can I get emergency contraception (EC)?
If you are 17 or older, you can…
- buy it over-the-counter at a pharmacy (ask the pharmacist), or
- get it from a family-planning clinic or a county health clinic.
If you are 16 or younger, you can…
- get it from a family planning clinic or a county health clinic, or
- get a prescription from a doctor or a private or county health clinic.
Sometimes you can get a prescription from a pharmacist, and he will give you EC. To see if there’s a pharmacy near you where you can get EC without a doctor’s prescription
- call 1-800-521-5211
To learn more about EC and where to get it
Is EC like an abortion?
No! EC is not an abortion pill. If you are already pregnant, taking EC will not change anything.
Important! EC does not protect you from STDs or STIs. If you had unprotected sex and you do not know whether your partner has STDs or STIs, get tested as soon as possible.
What if I do not take EC?
If you do not take EC within five days of having unprotected sex, get a pregnancy test from a drugstore or clinic.
Do I need my parents’ permission for an abortion if I am
No. You do not need your parents’ permission to get an abortion if you are under 18. You also can decide whether to tell them about it.
How can I get birth-control services?
Family PACT is a great option. It’s a free public program available to anyone, including minors with limited income including undocumented immigrants.
Family PACT offers free
- birth control,
- STD/STI testing,
- STD/STI treatment, and
- pregnancy tests.
Can Family PACT help me with prenatal care, abortion, or other services?
No, but they can give you counseling and make referrals to the services you need. If you think you are pregnant, you can apply to MCP (Medi‑Cal’s Minor Consent Program). You can use Family PACT to get birth control after your pregnancy. To learn more, see Pregnancy.
What are Family PACT’s income requirements?
Your own annual income must be less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. It does not matter how much money your parents make. You can find the current Federal Poverty Level at aspe.hhs.gov/poverty.
How do I sign up for Family PACT?
Sign up for Family PACT at your clinic or health care provider’s office. If you do not have one, to find a Family PACT provider near you
- visit www.familypact.org, or
- call 1-800-942-1054.
Once you sign up, you can use Family PACT for one year. You have to apply again every year. Family PACT providers will give you services for free.
Note: Family PACT will help you no matter what your immigration status is.
How to protect yourself from STDs, STIs and HIV
Why should I protect myself from STIs?
STIs can make you very sick. They can damage your health permanently. If you have an STI, you may give it to your sexual partner(s), and to your baby if you give birth. Having an STI while you are pregnant can cause serious problems for the baby. If you think you have been exposed to an STI, you should get tested right away, especially if you may be pregnant.
Caution! You can get STDs and STIs from vaginal, oral, and anal sex.
How do I protect myself from STIs?
Only condoms can protect you from HIV and other STIs. Use a condom or a dental dam every time you have sex, even oral sex. But remember, no type of STI protection (even condoms) works all the time!
Get tested for STIs if you are sexually active. You may have an STI and not have any symptoms.
Before you have sexual contact with a new partner, both you and your partner should get tested (and treated, if needed) for STIs. You can do this at
- a doctor’s office,
- a family-planning clinic like Planned Parenthood, or
- another clinic in your community.
If you are 12 or older, you can be tested and treated for STIs, HIV, and other communicable diseases without your parents’ knowledge or permission.
Talk to your partner
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your partner about STIs, you may want to think about whether you are ready to have sex with him/her.
One type of STI is called HPV. It has no symptoms and can cause cancer when you get older. Young women and men can get the HPV vaccine without their parents’ permission. Ask your health care provider about the HPV vaccine.
Anna, age 14, thinks she has a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Friends
tell her to get tested but she doesn’t want her mom to know. Can Anna still
Yes. Anna can be tested—and treated—for STIs without telling her mom.
Will anyone find out I have an STI?
Generally, that information must be kept confidential. But some STIs are “reportable diseases.” That means the state health system wants to keep track of them and control their spread.
Your health care provider must report certain STIs to the state. If this happens to you, a state official may contact you and ask you to tell your sexual partners about your STI.
If you want, the official will help you tell your partner(s). Sometimes, officials might try to find your sexual partners and tell them to get tested, but they will not give out your name.
Even if your STI must be reported, no one besides your health care provider and the state official has to know about it.
Is HIV different from other STIs?
HIV is an STI. Unlike most STIs, it does not have a cure. It usually causes a person to get AIDS. You can die from AIDS. Although HIV/AIDS does not currently have a cure, it can be treated.
New drugs can help prevent HIV if you have unprotected sex or are forced to have sex against your will. These drugs must be taken within 72 hours, so call your health care provider or clinic right away. You don’t need your parents’ permission to get these drugs, and your health care provider won't tell your parents unless you want her to.
Do I have to get tested for HIV?
No. In most cases, you decide whether to be tested for HIV. If you decide not to be tested, it is against the law for a health care provider to test you.
If you are pregnant, you will be tested for HIV unless you say you do not want to be tested. Before you are tested, a counselor will talk with you privately about any questions or worries you may have. You will also be able to talk to the counselor after you get the results. The counselor will never tell anyone about your conversations.
Will my school let me leave during the school day to see a health
Yes. Your school should let you leave to get health care for yourself or your child. Your school must allow you to go to certain kinds of health appointments without telling your parents, including appointments for
- birth control, and
Marti is 15 and wants to talk to a doctor about birth control but not tell her mother. Can Marti do this?
Yes. Marti can get birth control under a law that lets doctors help minors prevent pregnancy.
Can I keep the reason for this appointment confidential from the school and/or my parents?
Yes. You do not have to tell the school what your appointment is for. You can say it is for “confidential care.” Your school should not count your appointment as an absence. (Important! You will have to make up any work you miss.)
Warning! The law says your school must excuse you and not tell your parents about your appointment. But not all schools follow this law. Before making an appointment, ask a trusted adult about your school’s policies. Find out what you need to do, and make sure what you tell them will be kept private.
Laws about sex
Can my partner or I get in trouble for having sex?
Maybe. Even if you and your partner both agree to have sex, sex with a minor is illegal under California law.
Statutory rape is sex that both people agree to, but is still illegal because
- one or both partners are under 18, and
- they are not married to each other.
Statutory rape is rarely prosecuted when the minors are of similar ages.
Your health care provider must keep it private and cannot report it to the police. Other people, like teachers, can report it to the police if they want to, and you or your partner could be charged with a crime.
Exception: If the sex also qualifies as child abuse because one person is much older than the other or someone is hurting you or forcing you to have sex, your health care provider may report it to the welfare department or police.
For more information about child abuse, see How to Stay Safe.