Minor's Rights and Access to Contraception

Teenage couple

A minor's rights to contraception vary depending on the method of birth control and the state that the minor resides in.


Providing birth control and sex education for teens is a hot topic. Some people think abstinence is the best approach, while others feel that teens need to learn how to make responsible choices if they do plan to have sex.

Abstinence is the only way to guarantee that a teen doesn't get pregnant. Unfortunately, teen pregnancy rates continue to rise, so one can assume that the abstinence education isn't working for all teenagers. Both parents and teens themselves may be curious about a minor's rights to contraception.

Birth Control Options

There are many options for preventing an unwanted pregnancy that teens may be interested in, but their availability depends on the chosen method.

  • Condoms: Available for purchase over-the-counter at drug stores, supermarkets, and many stores like Target and Wal-Mart, condoms can be purchased by anyone without the need for parental consent or a prescription. This makes condoms one of the most common birth control methods for teens, since they are inexpensive and easily accessible. Combined with a spermicide, condoms are more than 90 percent effective. This is also the best method for preventing sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Birth Control Pills: The pill is another common option for teenage girls, although it must be taken properly for the best protection. Birth control pills are available by a prescription, so the teen would need to see her doctor.
  • Natural Family Planning: Some adult women prefer to track their ovulation and avoid intercourse during their most fertile time of the month. This is not a reliable method of birth control for teens, however, because they often have irregular cycles or may not recognize the signs of ovulation. Even in adult women who use the rhythm method, the pregnancy rate is 10-20 percent.
  • Emergency Contraception: Also known as the morning after pill, emergency contraception (EC) is available with a prescription for women under 17. Prescriptions for EC is available through most physicians, family planning clinics, and emergency departments.

A Minor's Rights to Contraception

Laws in each state dictate a minor's rights to contraception, so teens and parents should learn about what the options are in their particular area. Twenty-two states, including California and New York, allow anyone over the age of 12 to consent to receive birth control. Other states allow birth control only for minors who are married, have graduated high school, or fall into other predetermined categories.

To check the laws in your state, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation for state health data.

When a prescription is needed for either the pill or EC, it's possible that a parent will find out about the request even if they are not required by law to be notified. This can happen by accident through general health insurance statements and billing paperwork.

Over-the-counter contraception, like condoms and spermicide, are available to anyone who wants to purchase them. Family planning clinics and women's health centers may also provide free birth control samples that can distributed to teens after an exam by a physician.

For long-term, reliable access to birth control methods, many teens will find that talking to their parents is the best way to ensure that they get the coverage they need. Either way, it's important that minors at least see a physician to discuss their health history before starting any prescription birth control. Since there are many birth control pills on the market, each with its own side effects, having a good relationship with a doctor can ensure that women are getting the best treatment available for both their birth control needs and their overall health.

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Minor's Rights and Access to Contraception