Privacy of Information
The laws that determine what sexual health rights minors have are state specific and vary throughout the country.
The Palo Alto Medical Foundation is in the Bay Area of California, so the rights described here only apply to individuals within the state of California. If you live in another state or country, you will need to check with a local agency for further information. Your Planned Parenthood office is often a good resource for that information.
Within California, the rights, rules and laws are the following:
- Patient Confidentiality for Teens
- Sexual Health Medical Care
- Abortion Access
- Sex Education
- Insurance Considerations
Patient Confidentiality for Teens
Confidentiality means privacy. It means that when you, as a young person from 12 to 17 years old, talk with your health care provider about certain issues like sex, drugs, and feelings, he or she will not tell your parents or guardians what you talk about unless you give your permission.
What should I talk to the doctor about?
You can talk to the doctor or nurse about anything. Fill your doctor or nurse in on the following subjects.
- If you think you may be pregnant
- If you need birth control
- If you may have a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- If you need information about alcohol, tobacco or other drug use
- If you want to talk about personal, school, family issues or feelings about sex and sexuality
- You are being abused, physically and/or sexually
- You are going to hurt yourself or someone else
- You are under 16 and having sex with someone 21 years or older
- You are under 14 and having sex with someone 14 years or older
According to the laws of the State of California, your doctor or nurse cannot tell your parents or guardians anything about your exam if you're seen for any confidential services (excluding the reasons listed above). These include care for problems or concerns in the areas of sexuality, mental health and substance abuse. You, as a young person, can consent for care on your own in these areas. You need your parent or guardian's consent for other health services such as physicals and care of colds, flues, and injuries.
Talk to Someone
Even though you don't have to ask your parents, it's a good idea to talk with them or another adult you can trust about the medical care you need.
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Sexual Health Medical Care
In California, you can get a sexual health check up at any age -- including STD screening -- without parental consent.
If an STD is discovered and you are fearful of your parents finding out, you have a right to confidential treatment by your physician. Please discuss the best means to ensure your confidentiality with your doctor.
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California law also allows women to attain an abortion at any age without parental consent. However, despite this law, it has become increasingly more difficult to find abortion providers. Based on data published by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, California lost 62 abortion providers between 1992 and 1996, resulting in an 11 percent decrease in providers.
Although California law gives you the right to have an abortion without parental consent, the procedure can be an extremely difficult experience (emotionally and physically) and PAMF recommends that any teen-ager considering an abortion talk to a parent or trusted adult before making such a big decision.
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California law does not require that schools teach sex education to their students. However, if such information is taught, California has established very strict guidelines. When educating students on sex, California schools are required to teach abstinence and contraception and must "stress that pupils should abstain from sexual intercourse until they are ready for marriage." The schools are also required to teach "honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage." Ch. 234, 1999 Cal. Legis. Serv. 1887 (West).
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Although, your physician may not tell your parents about confidential services you are receiving, your insurance may not have the same policy. When you are discussing confidentiality with your physician, ask your him or her if the services and/or tests you are receiving will show up on your parents' insurance statement.
If you use a clinic or community resource like Planned Parenthood, ask about their confidentiality practices.
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Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF, however, does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Understanding Confidentiality and Minor Consent in California. A Toolkit from the Adolescent Health Working Group. Accessed January 2009.
Planned Parenthood. Accessed
Internet Links from the California Adolescent Health Collaborative. Accessed January 2009.