Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About...
How to Get Emergency Contraception
If I am a teenager (under 17 years old), can I get emergency contraception in the United States without my parents' knowledge or consent?
*Click here for our EC page for teens*
Yes. No state or national law requires that your parents be notified or give their consent before you can get birth control, including emergency contraception (also called the "morning after pill"). When states have tried to pass this kind of law, the courts have struck it down because it violates your constitutional right to privacy (which protects your right to use contraception). In addition, federal law prevents clinics that get federal funding to provide family planning services from notifying your parents if you go there for birth control. Finally, while many states require parental notification or consent for abortion, these laws do not apply to emergency contraception (Find out more about the difference between emergency contraception and abortion here).
Still, some health care providers or insurance companies may have their own policy of notifying your parents or getting their consent before prescribing emergency contraceptive pills ("morning after pills") to someone who is under the age of 17. Be sure to ask if the medical care you receive will be confidential and, if not, you may want to contact someone else to get emergency contraception (Click here to find an emergency contraception provider near you).
There are different regulations on how to purchase the different emergency contraceptive pills available in the United States, so it can be a bit confusing. If you are 17 years old and need emergency contraception, be sure to call the pharmacy first because you may or may not be able to buy EC without a prescription. If you want to use ella, call the pharmacy first to be sure that it is in stock.
- ella is sold by prescription only, regardless of age. You can also order ella through an online prescription service for $40, including next-day shipping.
Although studies show that EC can work up to 5 days after sex, what matters for each individual woman is where you are in your menstrual cycle. ella works closer to the time of ovulation than progestin-only EC (although most likely neither will work if you have already ovulated). If you think you might be close to ovulation, or don't know where you are in your cycle, ella may be the best choice. However, the most important thing is that you take action and get EC as soon as possible.
Many leading medical associations, including the Society for Adolescent Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have criticized the FDA age limit for making it harder for teens in the U.S. to prevent pregnancy. If you already have emergency contraceptive pills in your medicine cabinet, you can start using them right away – without having to go to your health care provider to get a prescription and to the pharmacy to buy the pills. For these reasons, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – the leading professional association of doctors who specialize in women’s health – recommends getting emergency contraceptive pills before they are needed.