Get Real! Did My Stepmother Lie to Me About My Right to Birth Control?

Audrey asks:

would appreciate a little light shed on my question, it puzzles me
greatly. I asked a good while ago if I could start on Birth Control,
and my father actually wouldn’t mind, in fact, he supports it. My
stepmother, on the other hand, doesn’t seem comfortable with it.
Despite the obvious discomfort, she said she’d call her doctor and see
what she could do. Days later, she told me they won’t take anyone under
18. This confused me. I know many teenagers on Birth Control. I hope
she’s not just saying that, although it wouldn’t be the first time she
did something rather similar to that. At first I got the feeling that
she thought I would change if I was on the pill, like I was invincible
and I could never get pregnant, so I can have sex whenever I want. The
thing is, I’m not sexually active, I’m a virgin. I often get the
feeling she thinks I’m a tramp. I would NEVER think in that fashion.
So, my question to you, do you have to be a certain age to consult a
doctor about Birth Control? And although I’m only 16, would that be my
personal choice to take the pill? Or do they have a say in it until I’m
a legal adult?

Heather replies:

some doctors may choose not to see children or adolescents in their
practice, period — because they just don’t specialize in that group —
it sounds far more likely your stepmother was simply being dishonest
with you.

If her doctor was someone who chose only to see adults, he or she
most certainly would have given her a reference for you to see another

You do not have to be a certain age to talk to a doctor about
anything at all, including about contraception. You also do not have to
be a certain age to obtain methods of contraception from a doctor, and
the only place there would be age limitations would be for methods
which a doctor felt were not good choices for someone your age. For
instance, Depo-Provera isn’t always a good choice for very young women
because of bone mass concerns. IUDs often aren’t comfortable for women
who have not been pregnant before. Most doctors will not approve
permanent sterilizations for young adults. In addition, while a parent
certainly has the right and the ability not to pay for your birth
control they do not have the right to keep you from obtaining it
yourself or using it. It’s solely up to you, and in your control, as to
whether or not you acquire and use methods of contraception.

I don’t know what the overall dynamic is like in your home beyond
this situation, but it sounds to me like this is something you should
talk to your stepmother herself or your father about. If one or both of
them do not want you using birth control, you deserve a candid,
forthright discussion about why, rather than to be manipulated or lied
to. If one of them is supportive of you in this way and the other is
not, as co-parents, they need to work that out amongst themselves or
with you like grownups. It seems like it might also be helpful to
address those ideas you think she has. Ideally, she’d have been the
adult here and done that with you, but you’re becoming an adult, too,
and can go ahead and take the wheel of that discussion if she has not.

If you do want to call this out, what I’d suggest is just asking for
a family meeting, or for time to talk to whichever parent you want to
talk to.

I’d calmly explain that you’re aware that teens do not have to be 18
to obtain birth control, and that you feel you may have been deceived.
I’d ask if that was the case, then ask why if your stepmother admits
she was not truthful. I’d also state that you feel like you have a
right to be communicated with honestly, and that if one or both of them
has an objection to you using birth control, or helping you get it, you
deserve to be part of a real discussion about that. Again, be calm, and
be an active listener. The high ground here is yours, so keep it. Even
though either of them does have the right to prefer not being part of
getting you contraception, you still deserve the respect of just being
told that outright, and you still have the right to obtain it on your
own and know that’s something you’ll need to do for yourself if one or
both of them doesn’t want to help or support you in it. You might find
that this link
for parents about talking to teens in regard to contraception is
helpful for you, or may even be something you want to print out for
your family.

If that’s not a conversation you want to have, or you don’t want to
confront one or both of them on this, know that you can go see a sexual
healthcare provider on your own. I don’t know what country you’re in,
but in most areas, you can do that by either scheduling a visit with
your family doctor yourself (you don’t specifically need a gynecologist
for this: most general physicians provide pelvic exams, STI testing and
prescribe contraception), or by visiting a general or sexual healthcare
clinic, like Planned Parenthood here in the U.S. or Canada, or through
independent public clinics. If you’re not sure what’s available in your
area, you can use your local phone directory to find out, or ask a
friend who she sees for her birth control and sexual healthcare.

However you get to a healthcare provider for contraception, you may
find it handy to inform yourself about methods in advance so that you
can have some idea of which might be best for you, and know what your
questions about any method may be so you can be sure to ask them. So, have a look here for that information, and good luck in working this out.

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  • invalid-0

    Heather, if I ever have a teenage daughter, can I adopt you to come live at our house and be her sex educator? :)

    I remember how easy it was to get my mom behind my decision to go on the Pill. (All I had to do was let her know I was sexually active!) But I know that’s not the situation with everyone, so I appreciate your letting teens know of the rights they have.

  • invalid-0

    Okay i’m sorry i didn’t take the time to read the previous answer but here is mine:

    I started birth control at 16 from Planned Parenthood. I live in California, so there are many planned parenthood clinics available to me. Planned Parenthood would not turn you away if you sought birth control through them.

    I went to get the birth control from Planned Parenthood by myself – without my parents knowledge. From what I can remember, they made me fill out some paperwork, sat me down for good talking to about my options and family planning, and sent me off with a year’s worth of pills and a reminder to get a pap smear every year. All for free. (I know the free part depends on your family income etc. but since i didn’t have adequate health insurance at the time, and i didn’t leave a social security number – they probably thought i was an illegal immigrant or something. In any case, i qualified to be part of some program that made my birth control and exams free.)

    I recently told my mother I am on birth control (I am now 20 and have been living away from home for 2 years) She didn’t seem overly surprised – it wasn’t as big a deal as i thought it would be.

  • invalid-0

    …I work for an organization that provides birth control, and in some places that we work, parental consent IS required for minors to receive birth control.

  • heather-corinna

    Airina: is this in the United States?


    Here’s my understanding of the law as it stands in the U.S. on this:


    If you have found you have needed consents in the U.S. in some areas, would you mind filling me in on some of the specifics if we’re not talking about?  I’m aware there have been some new proposals out there, and there are a couple of states with an age minimum (one at 12,two at 14 if I recall rightly), but I want to make sure, for obvious reasons, I know of anything else cropping up that isn’t being mentioned in the usual repro health sources.


    Thanks so much.

  • invalid-0

    One of the things I think may be very important to note here is that birth control pills will help with pregnancy, but will not help with sexually transmitted diseases. One of the comments “if I was on the pill, like I was invincible and I could never get pregnant, so I can have sex whenever I want.” is a bit worrisome, as it seems to give a sense of invincibility. I hope Audrey understands the risk that is involved, especially if she doesn’t know very well or have a long history with her current boyfriend. Since she is a virgin, it may be best at the end of the day that she stay a virgin.

    With regard to her mother, it must be tough to deal with this kind of situation, but by lying, she is just going to create mis trust with her daughter, and possibly create a divide with in their relationship.


  • invalid-0

    Heather, great answer! I believe the stepmother might have her concerns why she chose to “conceal the truth” but depriving the teen’s rights to early birth control might have deep seated implications. I’m all for the open door family meeting to trash things out. After all, it’s better now than later.

  • invalid-0

    A sixteen year old has “rights” to birth control? I don’t think so.

  • heather-corinna

    Why not, Kevin?


    Legally, in many areas, she does.  Even in areas where it is not legal, I’d be curious to hear someone give me a sound explanation/rationale of why someone 16 does not or should not have a set of rights someone 18 does (and bear in mind that in many countries and states, a young person has the legal right to consensual sex before the age of 18), or why a woman of any age should not have the right to do what she can to choose when she does and does not want to reproduce.


    Would you also say a 16-year-old male also doesn’t or shouldn’t have those rights?  So, are we carding for condoms now?  Do you think we should be?  If so, why, and what positives do you see coming out of that kind of scenario?

  • invalid-0

    great info heather. thanks for the post. combined with all the replies this post has turned into a great information resource.

  • invalid-0

    I don’t consider myself all that liberal. But all I’m going to say is that you have to be 100% honest with our kids. If we’re not then we can’t complain when someone else lies to them.