Know Your Rights
Even if you’re a minor (younger than 18 years old) living in the state of Illinois, you still have a lot of rights when it comes to your health. It’s always a good idea to have a trusted adult in whom you can confide and rely on to help you make important decisions. However, not everyone has that person in their lives. Read on to know your rights when it comes to your body, your health, and your choices.
If you’re 12 and older:
If you are 12 and older in the State of Illinois, the law allows you to access the following services without parental consent, meaning you don’t need permission from a parent or guardian:
- Testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV
- Birth control
- Medical care or counseling related to alcohol or substance abuse
- Outpatient mental health counseling
- Abortion (with parental notification- not the same as parental consent/permission)
- Emergency medical services
- First aid
- Emergency dental services
- Treatment related to sexual abuse and injuries
- Emergency involuntary in-patient mental health
While to the law says you can access these services without a parent or guardian’s permission, there are limits. For example, parents or guardians must be notified if a minor wants to get an abortion. Note: parental notification is NOT the same as consent. While minors can consent to an abortion without a parent or guardian’s permission, the law says the parent or guardian must be told about it. There are exceptions to this law, including judicial bypass, where a judge grants a minor permission to get an abortion without telling their parent or guardian. If you or someone you know wants to go through the judicial bypass, there are people who can help. Check out the Judicial Bypass Coordination Project to learn more.
Be sure to check with your healthcare provider about which services they need to notify a parent or guardian about, and which ones can be kept totally confidential (meaning no one else needs to know besides you and your healthcare provider).
If you’re an unaccompanied minor 14 and older:
Unaccompanied minors are entitled to specific rights related to their healthcare. Being an unaccompanied minor does NOT mean someone is homeless or is legally emancipated or separated from parents or guardians by a judge. An unaccompanied minor is someone who:
- Is between the ages of 14 and 18
- Does NOT live with a parent or guardian
- Is NOT dependent on a parent or guardian for any material support (i.e. money, food, supplies, etc.)
- Is NOT under custody or guardianship of Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)
- A school homeless liaison or social worker, an adult relative, an Illinois attorney, a representative of a homeless service agency, a social services agency providing services to run away or homeless youth, or a representative of a religious organization says in writing is unaccompanied.
If you meet these criteria, you’re entitled to all the services as minors 12 and older, PLUS:
- Primary care services (like when you go to the doctor)
- Immunizations (vaccines/shots)
- Care for broken bones without surgery
*More serious and invasive care, such as surgery, is NOT allowed.
Learn more about healthcare services for unaccompanied minors here.
If you’re a pregnant or parenting teen:
If you’re a pregnant or parenting teen in a public school, there are certain guidelines the school must follow under a federal law called Title IX (title 9). A school is NOT allowed to discriminate against a teen because they are pregnant or parenting.
Learn more about your rights here.
If you’re LGBTQ+:
Regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, your rights are protected.
According to Illinois State laws:
- Bullying (including cyberbullying) is not allowed in public schools
- The law specifically bans bullying based on sexual orientation and gender-related identity or expression – among other protected classes
- The law applies to private schools as well as public schools
- There is a state anti-discrimination law that applies to all IL schools
- If you’re a student in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), there are policies in place to keep you safe. Some of these policies include protecting students’ privacy, allowing them to dress in a way and use restrooms/locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity, and to be called the name they choose. All students have the right to learn in a safe and supportive environment. Learn more here.
Everyone deserves to have their rights respected. If you feel like yours have been violated, you can take action.