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Education quashes misconceptions about sex

FILE - In this Friday Aug. 24 2012 file phoU.S. Rep. Todd AkR-Mo. addresses members mediChesterfield Mo. where he confirmed

FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 file photo, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., addresses members of the media in Chesterfield, Mo., where he confirmed his plans to remain in Missouri's U.S. Senate race despite a political uproar over remarks he made about rape and pregnancy. The Missouri Farm Bureau reaffirmed its endorsement of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, after the Republican congressman made remarks about women’s bodies being able to avoid pregnancy in cases of what he called “legitimate rape.” (AP Photo/Sid Hastings, File)

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Updated: October 27, 2012 6:04AM

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin recently made headlines when he said rape victims cannot get pregnant because the body has ways of shutting that down.

His exact quote: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

The Missouri Republican’s comments horrified people across the country — myself included. As I scratch my head wondering what the difference is between a “legitimate” and “illegitimate” rape, I also would like to point that around 32,000 pregnancies occur due to rape each year, and to suggest otherwise is both ignorant and offensive.

A pregnancy resulting from rape can be devastating, and the decision to continue or conclude the pregnancy must be the survivor’s choice and her decision alone.

Sadly, women’s reproductive rights are on the table for discussion once again.

The ruling in Roe vs. Wade might have occurred decades ago, but women are still fighting for autonomy over their own body.

It’s bad enough for the average woman to have her reproductive rights threatened, but for it to occur in the case of rape survivor is downright criminal. It can exacerbate her feelings of violation and helplessness and only further impede her healing process.

Todd Akin’s comment might seem extreme, but the reality is that they reflect a frightening trend in our country.

Just a few months ago, legislators in Virginia tried to pass a law that would have required every woman seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before it was permitted. Only because of public outcry did they back down. This incredibly invasive and unnecessary procedure would have had only one purpose:

To make women feel ashamed of their choice to terminate their pregnancy. Again, it’s wrong to do so to any woman, but to force a rape victim to do so is inhuman, as it will make her relive her rape in both an emotional and physical way.

No matter what your opinion is about the issue, we all can agree that we want there to be fewer abortions and fewer unintended pregnancies.

Yet it’s crucial to understand that violations against women and rape victims are not the way to accomplish that goal. Why not take the focus off sexual assault survivors and instead put the focus where it needs to be — in our schools.

Shaming rape victims doesn’t lower the abortion rate, but studies have clearly demonstrated that comprehensive sex education can and does help prevent unintended pregnancy.

The United States still has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the developed world, but thanks to comprehensive sex education, that number has been on the decline in recent years.

Thankfully, some politicians have a plan to ensure that the number continues to decline. President Obama has put the focus (and the funding) back on sex ed programs that have proven successful (comprehensive sex education programs) and both he and the First Lady have discussed the importance of starting age-appropriate sex education at a early age.

He also has discussed the role of sex education in helping young children to learn about molestation and to speak up when someone touches them inappropriately.

It’s important to note that comprehensive sex education does not give teens “permission” to have sex. Instead, it gives them the tools and resources that they need to protect themselves when and if they finally do have sex.

Sex education empowers teens to say “no,” to negotiate for condoms use, to take things slow, to ask questions and to protect their bodies.

Along with comprehensive sex education, I also think that, at the bare minimum, knowledge of basic reproductive anatomy should be a prerequisite for lawmakers in this country. After all, it seems as if Rep. Akin himself could use a refresher course in Sex Ed 101!

Dr. Berman is the star of “In The Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman” on OWN and director of

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