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Heather Corinna replies:
Me and my boyfriend have had unprotected sex about 3 times times within the last month, but I don't know the exact dates. I didn't know before that pre-cum had sperm in it, so I thought we were safe with the whole pregnancy issue if he just "pulled out," but when I read more about it, I realized I was wrong! The last time we had unprotected sex, he told me that got a little cum inside me, which really worried us both. It's been about two weeks since the last time we had unprotected sex and I have been having stomach aches and headaches and major mood swings and I have been peeing A LOT! I took two over-the-counter pregnancy tests and they both said negative, but I am worried that I may have taken the tests too early because my period is irregular (sometimes every few months) so I never know when it is going to be so I don't know if I have missed it yet or not. I am very worried. Could I be pregnant and how can I make sure? If I am pregnant, I'm gonna get an abortion. I live in Gillette Wyoming. Since I am 13 & my bf is 18 my mom told us we are not "allowed" to have sex, so if she found out she would press charges against him (which I don't want to happen) so I was wondering if there was any close places that I could get an abortion without telling my parents.
If you took your pregnancy tests two weeks after your last risk, you can feel pretty confident in the negative results you got. If you did not wait that long, you'll want to retest when it has been two weeks since your last risk. It would be early to have pregnancy symptoms already from a risk two weeks ago, but it sounds like a pregnancy happening before then may have been possible, too. Those symptoms could be from any number of things.
I need to be very frank with you.
However we might feel about age of consent laws, your boyfriend has been choosing to break that law. I doubt you have forced or coerced him to do that. No matter what your Mom is or is not okay with, that doesn't impact the law. She could be totally fine with you two having sex, but it would still be illegal on his part, and anyone at all could report him, not just her. No matter what, his choice is his responsibility, not yours. He's responsible for choosing to protect himself: you both don't have the power to do that for him, nor does it make a lot of sense to expect a young minor to take care of an adult.
I have very mixed feelings about those laws and how they are implemented, however, I can also see the reasons many people feel they are needed. To some degree, you're in exactly one kind of situation where I can see why. Part of that law really is about trying to balance an imbalance: this guy has the power to mess up your life in a way that you don't have with his. His age allows him to take care of himself and manage problems in a way that your age doesn't allow you to do. In many ways, I think that a situations like these are exactly why people want to keep those laws around, with the idea that if possibly screwing up your life or putting you in a position where you can more easily be exploited doesn't deter an adult man from sex with you, then sex offender status and/or jail time might. Again, I think there are better ways to do this, but they include relying on guys like your boyfriend to behave more responsibly and thoughtfully and think way past their own immediate pleasure: after all, the law doesn't make him dating you or living you unlawful. He could still be with you and care for you and choose, out of care for both of you, to put off sex or some kinds of sex until it was lawful, more equitable and safer. This kind of situation happens a lot (most women who become mothers as teens have older partners, not same-age partners), so unfortunately, it appears that with plenty of guys, we can't depend on them for that yet. If we could, we might not still have these laws.
On to the issue of abortion. In Wyoming, you getting an abortion is going to be very difficult. In other words, you're not going to be able to "just get one."
For starters, minors in Wyoming need parental permission to have an abortion. I intensely disagree with parental notification laws, but that doesn't change the fact that many states have them, including yours, and there isn't a way around them. So, now or down the road from now, if you are a pregnant minor seeking an abortion in Wyoming, you'd need to not only tell a parent or guardian,but also get their consent for you to terminate your pregnancy. You could, if you could not get it, seek out what's called a "judicial bypass," by petitioning a judge to grant you permission, but that costs money and time, both of which make getting an abortion even tougher, since you only have a limited window in which you can terminate, and abortion also costs a good deal of money, a cost which increases the further along you get in a pregnancy. Wyoming also does not offer any financial help to women for abortion in most cases, though rape is one of those instances, and legally, what would get you pregnant with an 18-year-old partner is a rape and so that may not be out the window. However, you'd obviously have to also consult your own conscience on that one: if, despite the law, you feel the sex has been fully consensual, that's obviously ethically questionable. On the other hand, he did choose to break the law, and becoming a parent at 13 is a pretty dire situation, so I'd understand going with the law on this one if you felt you had to. Your adult boyfriend also just couldn't take you to a different state to terminate, and may be breaking other very serious laws (like kidnapping laws) if he does.
In Wyoming there is also VERY little access to abortion. Only 4% of Wyoming counties have abortion providers, and as of 2005, those 4% were served by only 2 abortion providers. In a quick search, the only clinic providing abortions I could find in Wyoming is the Planned Parenthood in Casper. Most women in Wyoming travel 50 miles, 100 miles or more to get an abortion.
Lastly, while abortion is as valid a reproductive choice as any, it's rarely an easy choice to make. Because, like any choice when we're pregnant, it can be stressful and emotionally difficult -- as well as costly and practically difficult -- ideally, we want to try and prevent pregnancy we don't want as best we can, and know that while abortion can be available to us, it's not something we want to take too lightly.
Next up? This guy put you at some very serious risks he didn't have to, and which likely were more about his interests than yours.
I hear you being worried about him, but again, he's a legal adult who made a choice to be sexually active with you, probably knowing the legal risks, and also made a choice to put you at unnecessary risks of things which could seriously alter your life and health in ways they could not alter his own. It's possible that some of why he did that was because of your age: women his own age will often feel more able to set limits with sexual partners and insist on something as simple as a condom to reduce the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Part of why he's choosing to be with you might be because he can get away with more with you than he can with older women. As well, knowing your age and your situation, he has to also know that your access to your own contraception is very limited: in a partnership where one person has more rights and agency than the other, if it really is healthy, fair and balanced, that person with more power is going to seek out ways to bridge those gaps, such as, for instance, by recognizing that it's very easy for him to get and use a condom and to reduce your risks.
Now, perhaps your adult boyfriend isn't educated about birth control, doesn't understand the risk he's been putting you at, and/or isn't aware that withdrawal is one of the two least effective methods of birth control. Maybe he isn't engaging in any exploitation based on your age difference. But we also have to be smart and exercise a sound amount of doubt to consider that none of those things are true, and he's been well aware of the risks he's been having you take; aware that some of his choices have been those he's made because he thinks, given your age, you don't know any better, won't feel as able to set limits as someone older than you might, or knows that since he's older, you're going to trust that he knows better and trust that he's making the choices he is with care for you in mind.
While I know that sometimes parents don't like boyfriends or girlfriends for a bunch of reasons, some of which are reasonable, others which are not, there may be a sound reason your mother seems so quick to report this guy. She may be able to see things about him you're not yet, and may also -- perhaps like me -- have seen, many, many times, very young women get pretty messed up because an adult guy exploited them or didn't care enough to consider what a big age difference really means for that younger person. She may be trying to help you stay out of the exact situation you're worried right now you have found yourself in.
As far as using withdrawal -- "pulling out" -- as a sole method of birth control, it's not the best choice. In typical use, it fails for close to 30% of the people who use it, either because, as you've experienced, a guy doesn't pull out in time, since it's often tough to time that, or because pre-ejaculate did contain sperm at a given time (it doesn't always, but it can sometimes) and a woman was fertile enough at the time for a pregnancy to occur. For young women, particularly, who are more fertile than older women, it's a particularly poor method. Too, not using condoms puts you at a risk of sexually transmitted infections. Guys who don't wear condoms with one partner probably haven't worn them with others, so it's wise to assume those risks are high. As well, the risks to your long-term health from sexually transmitted infections when you're your age are higher than they are for older women, and all the more so if you aren't getting tested and treated right away if and when you do have something. The law set aside, if you are going to be sexually active, you DO have better options.
Because you have been having unprotected sex and also have a pregnancy concern, what I'd suggest is that you try and get to a doctor or clinic soon, both for a pregnancy test as well as for a pap smear, bimanual exam and a round of tests for sexually transmitted infections. Information you share with a doctor or clinician is private, regardless of your age, but just know that if you divulge the age of your partner, they may have to -- legally -- make a mandatory report to social services. But please do not let that keep you from taking care of yourself. I don't advocate lying, but if you feel the only way you'll be able to take care of yourself is if you don't have to live with a report being made, then when they ask you how old your partner is, you do have the option of lying and saying he is your same age. When you are there, you can also talk about your birth control options if you're going to stay sexually active, and if you want to use a method which requires a prescription, you can get that prescription while you are there. I'll leave a link for you at the end of all this where you can see what your birth control choices are. You can probably also get condoms there so you have your own to bring to any partners if they don't step up, be a grownup, and take one out themselves.
So, here's where we're at, to sum up. If you didn't know before, you now know that:
• Until you reach 18, so long as you live in Wyoming, should you become pregnant you are not going to be able, no matter what choice you make, to hide it from your parents. And if you become pregnant and want to have an abortion, it is going to be very difficult to do so at your age and in your location, and you will need a parent or a judge to even allow you that right. Obviously, all that given, until you want to become a pregnant or give a child up for adoption, you're going to want to do all you can to prevent pregnancy, whether that is not having sex or only doing so with a reliable method or methods of birth control.
• It's not your responsibility to protect someone from their own choices, particularly when in aspects of making that choice, they are choosing not to have the same care for you. It's up to an adult or a person over the age of consent to cover their own butt when it comes to the law, not to the younger person. The person whose choices you are responsible for is only yourself.
• You have options when it comes to protecting yourself against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. The first best choice you can make is to only choose sexual partners who deeply care about those risks and are invested in doing all they can to reduce them. After that, you can access and use condoms, and also can use a general doctor or sexual health clinic to get both another reliable method of birth control for yourself and general sexual healthcare, including testing and/or treatment for infections.
If this information didn't inform your choices (or his) before now, they can inform those choices from here on out. I'd encourage you to think about them, as well as to rethink the relationship you're in, and make sexual and relationship choices which seem the most in line with what is best for you, your life goals, and which are choices you can manage, even if unwanted consequences occur.
I know and recognize that age makes a difference in terms of what power and agency we do and don't have in the world. I also know that the more experience we have in life, the better able we often are to make choices which are best for us, and that it's easy to assume that just because someone is older than us, they know better than we do.
But what I do NOT think is that because you're 13, you can't figure any of this out, can't stand up for yourself and identify and do what's best for you, and that you can't choose and have (again, setting the law aside for the moment) partnerships and relationships where you are an equal partner and where you have a sexual life that is appropriate for you and only creates a manageable level of risk, and where the risks are worth the possible benefits. I also don't think you're incapable of setting smart limits and boundaries, and making clear to any current or potential partners that if they don't want to make equitable choices about sex that really take your needs, risks and where you're at in your life into account that you're going to make those choices for both of you by simply showing them the door.
Here are some more links to help fill you in: