The Truth About Your Rights to Sexual + Reproductive Health Services in California

Article Media

By Remy F.

When you are a teenager, it can be hard to tell your parents that you want to make a trip to the doctor’s office, especially if the visit is related to sex.  That’s why the state of California has your back!  Contrary to popular belief, teens in California have the right to consent to sexual and reproductive health services, the right to privacy between them and their doctor, and the right to access these services during school hours without penalty.  Here are some of the most important rights that minors have in California:

Minor Consent in California means you don’t need anyone to give you permission for the following medical services: birth control, emergency contraception, testing and treatment for STDs (if you are 12 and older), pregnancy testing and prenatal care, abortion services, and mental health services.  It can be scary to make choices on your own, but for some teens that don't feel supported about their sexual health or feel embarrassed, having the right to choose for yourself makes the difference between being healthy and getting what you need or not. 

Confidentiality in California means that you can seek those same medical services without anyone else finding out.  Your doctor is required by law to ask for your consent before releasing any of your information.  However, if you use your parents’ health insurance to pay for these services, you may not be able to keep the information private UNLESS YOU FILL OUT A CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION REQUEST. If you are still worried about privacy using a shared insurance plan, you can also sign up for FamilyPACT which is confidential insurance that will cover the cost of your sexual health services. Remember, to best protect your privacy after visiting a clinic, provide the clinic with your personal cell phone number, rather than your home phone number, if you have one. Check out this video created by one of our peer educators on confidentiality!

California teens may be excused from school to access sexual or reproductive health services WITHOUT their parents’ or guardians’ permission and without them being notified. If you need to go to an appointment during the school day to access minor consent services, your school is required to excuse your absence and they CANNOT make you request permission from your parents or notify them of your absence.  If someone at school tries to stop you or deny you your right, pull out your phone, pull up the law, and show them you are protected in California. 

Emergency Contraception, or the ‘morning after pill,’ can be accessed by teenagers without a prescription, but only at some pharmacies. To find pharmacies near you call 888-NOT-2-LATE or go to www.not-2-late.com.  Remember that emergency contraception only works during the first five days after having unprotected sex and the sooner you take it, the more likely it is to work!  If you had unprotected sex and want to be safe, start searching for clinics right away! 

To find out more about your healthcare rights in California, visit our Know Your Rights page.