Twelve States Attempt Ultrasound-Related Abortion Restrictions

It looks like as many as 12 states are considering putting laws on the books that would add additional restrictions to abortion procedures and access, by way of ultrasound technology.

As far as I can deduce from the descriptions provided, it looks like at least 7 of the state proposals would require doctors to specifically perform ultrasounds and at least offer to let the woman view them — or more commonly, to display them in a way that makes them clearly visible to the woman.  At least one (Indiana) would actually force the woman to view the images, and another (Connecticut) would force the doctor to supply the woman with an image copy, seemingly even if she didn’t want it.  Two others would mandate the mere offering of an ultrasound.  And the last is the proposed South Carolina law I’ve already written about, which would update a law already requiring that a woman be offered the chance to view ultrasound images, to enforce a 24 hour waiting period afterward.

According to Mother Jones, 16 states already have laws on the books that require a doctor to at least offer a woman an ultrasound prior to an abortion.  More specifically, according to the Guttmacher Institute (pdf), 12 states have laws mandating in one way or another that a woman be explicitly offered the right to view ultrasound images, with some actually requiring that an ultrasound be performed.

And though such an argument could indeed be made, not a single one of these laws or proposed laws seems to have a single thing to do with concern for the woman’s health, or how requiring an ultrasound might improve her safety throughout the abortion procedure.  (Indeed, many abortion providers already do ultrasounds on their own for such reasons.)

It all seems to be about the poor little woman who doesn’t understand what it means to be pregnant, or who will surely have a change of heart once she sees a blurry, cloudy image that I’ve never been able to personally make out.  It’s about forcing government into the decisions of doctors, trumping science with ideology, and attempting to take away the privacy of women.  Indeed, it’s about taking the focus off of women and their rights and yet again putting the fetus, this time literally, right in the front and center of the picture.

And I’m just exhausted, and wondering when it’s all going to end.  Which is, of course, exactly what the anti-choicers want.  So how do we fight the fatigue in the face of such a constant onslaught?

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46 comments for “Twelve States Attempt Ultrasound-Related Abortion Restrictions

  1. February 11, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Going w/ that Cara, don’t forget how invasive ultrasounds can be at that stage of pregnancy. They are usually the probe using, intra-vaginal (sorry if I don’t know the proper jargon) ultrasound, which can be quite painful, and sometimes require a catheter and the bladder to be filled in order for it to be performed properly. If a woman doesn’t really want these procedures done, and all she wants in an abortion, then that raises a whole slew of ethical questions, IMNSHO. When you are already freaked out about being pregnant there are few things worse than having a phallic object shoved into your body against your will (I am not trying to be graphic, but it is one of the most horrible experiences I have been through, medically).

    These laws are awful and make me sick sick sick.

  2. February 11, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    I also have to wonder who will be paying for these ultrasounds. Generally the anti-choce folk are also against any form of socialized medicine. What happens if a woman can only barely afford the abortion, and they’re making her fork out for an ultrasound, too? Not only is this invaasive, it stinks of classism.

  3. corwin
    February 11, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    1)Dan;at what stage of pregnancy are you referencing?I can’t tell from the article.
    EVERY-as in EVERY ultrasound I’ve performed on a pregnant patient was done after we had her,you know,drink water-which could be’quite painful’.A transvaginal probe is sometimes done,but it isn’t terribly painful(I’ve had a prostate u/s).If it is truly ‘one of the worst medical proceedures you’ve had,then you’ve never had a blood gas,nail removal,hemorrhoid banded,carpal tunnel injected,migraine block-and I could certainly continue.
    Now,every patient I saw when I moon lit in the AB clinic had an u/s.It’s how we dated,dumb ass.It was part of the fee dumb ass.If you’re going to suck/curette out something you (or at least I and every other fucking doc I know) wants to know accurately 1) How far along and 2) where the placenta is.
    Could one of the two dumbasses above tell me where in this land of ours,some one does an AB without an u/s?

  4. Lauren Anne
    February 11, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Kentucky is one of those states, and is the/a state that is increasing the waiting period to 24 hours which is infuriating since there are only two clinics in the state. The legislation also seeks to outlaw D&E abortions AND would give husband’s the right to sue a physician who performs such an abortion. That to me is the most demeaning part, that it completely undermines a woman’s right to make an independent medical decision and would give her husband an actionable claim based on medical treatment she sought.

  5. February 11, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Corwin, there’s no need to be abusive. Consider this a warning — calling other commenters “dumbasses” repeatedly is really unnecessary and violates our comment policy.

  6. February 11, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Um yeah, so does invalidating their medical experiences. Seriously corwin, you’re acting like a shitty person and certainly someone who I would never want to perform an ultrasound on me.

  7. February 11, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Ouyang Dang, some minor corrections. You actually don’t need a full bladder or anything else like that for a transvaginal ultrasound; for most women the actual procedure isn’t painful, and is in fact far more comfortable than a pap smear. I’ve had 4 myself.

    However, it is, in my opinion, legalizing rape. Prior to 12 weeks of pregnancy any ultrasound MUST be a transvaginal one, which involves taking a probe, covering it with a condom and some gel, and inserting it into the vagina. Forcing a woman to go through this extraneous, not medically necessary procedure is rape by legislature.

  8. February 11, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Ashley, while my experience with vaginal ultrasounds were also not painful (then again, if it makes any difference, I’ve never been pregnant and so certainly was not at the time), Ouyang Dan is far from the first woman I’ve seen who has expressed a very negative experience with the procedure. And the instrument used is fairly large.

  9. February 11, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Cara, the probe used at my clinic is rather long, but only an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. Maybe it varies by clinic.

    I’ve heard many people who’ve had negative experiences with them as well, and these are often the same women who have problems with a speculum. This is why I said it’s not painful for most women, tacitly stating that for some women it is. Plus there’s the psychological/potentially triggering issue; the thing isn’t called a ‘dildo-cam’ for nothing.

    Regardless, a doctor should not require a full bladder for a vaginal ultrasound, as that makes no sense anatomically and is by no means standard for the TV ultrasound. If O.D.’s doctor required that, it was an oversight on their part (perhaps they routinely tell women that to have an ultrasound you need your bladder full, which is true for abdominal ultrasounds).

    2 of my vaginal ultrasounds were pre-pregnancy, and 2 during pregnancy. I felt no difference, physically, between the two states.

  10. February 11, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    FWIW, I’ve had two vaginal ultrasounds that I remember. One, I do specifically remember being asked to empty my bladder first. The other, I’m almost positive I did have a full bladder for. Really, really sure, actually. So, while I believe you when you say that it shouldn’t be the case . . . sometimes it clearly is. Just saying.

  11. February 11, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Cara, hence the ‘oversight.’ I had one where they told me that I needed a full bladder beforehand, but it was vaginal ultrasound #3 and I knew better. The vast majority of ultrasounds are abdominal for 2nd and 3rd trimester pregnancies and thus some clinics may go on autopilot about the full bladder thing.

  12. Steampunked
    February 11, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Hmm, I’ve had one (in order to check for endometriosis) and it was incredibly painful and led to bleeding for a while afterwards. They did require a full bladder, which was very difficult for me as I had to walk to the hospital some distance (heck, I was poor). In the end, nothing was found because I hadn’t ‘drank enough water’, and it was all a bit distressing. The instrument seemed huge to me…it was about an inch and a half in diameter, long, and very icy, and the nurse was irate with me because I’d wasted her time.

    Certainly, it was more painful than various piercings and other body mods I’ve had. I could imagine a woman who was not at all wanting this to occur finding it very physically invasive and distressing. The ‘you must drink – a lot’ was awkward, there were other women there who’d been left waiting due to things running late at the hospital, and you can’t hold onto it for three hours…so if women have had to travel a distance, they could very easily be told ‘I’m sorry, come back tomorrow’.

  13. February 11, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Actually, I said sometimes. The two I had required a full bladder, so I had to have a catheter for both. It was no oversight, so thank-you, but I don’t need to be corrected on my own medical experiences. The first time they thought I was having a spontaneous abortion, so there was certainly no time to drink water (plus, w/ morning sickness, I couldn’t keep it down anyway). They couldn’t see w/ my bladder empty, so it could very well happen to other women too (some of my friends, actually). I was also instructed to drink lots of water b/f all of my external ultrasounds. It might be my specific anatomy, but it was not an oversight, nor do I believe that I am that unique. I have also never had painful paps, but the vaginal ultrasound was extremely painful!

    W/ my fibro, I have had countless medical tests and procedures conducted, and that transvaginal ultrasound was by far the most painful, worse than the spinals I have had. But once again, me, personally. I did not say every ultrasound, specifically b/c I am not every woman to ever get pregnant, but early stage pregnancy usually uses them, only judging from the people I know and have talked to, and my own experiences. I don’t presume to speak for every woman, but the ones I have spoken to describe it fairly similar, as a little embarrassing, painful, and invasive feeling. I would call it legalized rape, but I have also never been raped, so I am uncomfortable saying that in a public forum (Just me personally), b/c I can’t compare it.

    My point is that since it is invasive, can be painful, sometimes requires other procedures to be done, and (as Jenna pointed out), might not be affordable by the woman, these are terrible ideas. There is no reason to subject a woman to this when she is already dealing w/ so much!

    And I am sorry, but someone who would berate me like that is not someone that I would want to the countless procedures I have done on me constantly. I prefer compassionate medical professionals who would treat me like a human.

  14. Ellen
    February 11, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Corwin that’s absolute bullshit. I had a legitimate, legal abortion at 8 weeks with no ultrasound. It is not always done, or always necessary, or always part of the cost. In fact, this is incredibly unconstitutional. Even more than illegalizing abortion. Requiring a woman to undergo any medical procedure, necessary or not is a clear violation of the right to privacy (which includes the right to make your own medical decisions).

  15. Ellen
    February 11, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    I am so irritated this turned into a debate about how painful an ultrasound might be. NOT THE ISSUE! Painful or not, it is a decision a woman should be making with the consult of her doctor! Not the state! Period!

  16. February 11, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Corwin, I’m deeply sorry any woman ever came into contact with you in a medical context. Frankly, it’s shitty experiences with people with attitudes like yours that have kept me out of the GYN’s office for several years. For some women, ANY exam involving any touching or penetration of their womanly bits is deeply psychologically disturbing. And those women deserve to be respected, because the reasons for that kind of fear are usually way more horrible than you would want to know about firsthand.

    So, you know, maybe judging others by your own limited experiences is bullshit. Just sayin’.

  17. February 11, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Ellen, you are absolutely right, and my apologies for my part in that.

    I was trying to express it as an argument against these procedures, as both unnecessary and potentially harmful to the woman. Forced medical procedures are removing a woman’s agency, and the more invasive and painful the worse I feel it is, when she is already making hard choices. So many times it feels like the law and medical professionals just want to exert authority over the wimmin, who don’t know any better. Ya know?

  18. February 11, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    I think mentioning how painful an ultrasound can be is a very valid point in this discussion. For what it’s worth (seeing a I’ve never had one, before), I had no idea that it could potentially hurt. The fact that women may be forced to undergo a potentially expensive, invasive and unnecessary procedure is bad enough; the fact that it could also be quite painful is another very good reason why these laws are shit. No one should be forced to endure pain by the state, especially if it’s medically unnecessary.

    I wonder if any woman who was forced to have an ultrasound before an abortion has trued a civil suit against the state because of the experience- physically and/or psychologically damaging. If not, a question to you lawyer types: how successful do you think such a suit might be?

  19. Ellen
    February 11, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Jenna, I agree, but the conversation was really digressing. I would like to know the same thing from any lawyers. I imagine there will be test cases. From what I understand about the right to privacy is that it includes the right to make our own medical decisions. Where that comes into question with abortion, and why pro lifers are able to debate it at all, is that they question whether or abortion is a medical procedure. I am not a lawyer, I just took one class in a law school. So I could be very wrong. But I do know that an ultrasound is a medical procedure, and we should have the right to refuse one.

  20. February 11, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    These state measures clearing intended to reduce a woman’s ability to access abortion, while claiming to be about her “health” or “informed consent” Piss Me Off.

    Kansas (my home state) is working on similar stuff right now. Allowing the parents or husband of a woman to sue abortion practitioners, forcing doctors to read religious-right dictated anti-abortion propaganda before the procedure, mandating ultrasounds, and mandating that women be offered to listen to the fetal heartbeat are ALL on the table right now in Kansas. God help us that Sebelius vetoes ALL this bullshit, because believe it or not, this stuff has bipartisan support.

  21. Kristin
    February 11, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    How is this happening in two solidly blue states like Connecticut and Maryland?

  22. mobius
    February 12, 2009 at 2:04 am

    Corwin, am I to understand from your post that you are categorically dismissing a woman’s experience with transvaginal sonogram…and you don’t even OWN a vagina?

    Nice going.

    Ouyang, am sorry that you’ve had such horrible experiences with them. I wonder if this carries across providers/techs, or if it is specific to one tech with terrible skills, as I’ve had…probably close to 100 (sadly, am not kidding) and never had to drink anything nor did I have any pain unless there was already something going on (once I was miscarrying – horrid pain) and I almost cannot stand speculums… Although, admittedly most were done twice a week throughout my pregnancies and I was always so happy to know that my cervix was holding up that a car full of clowns could have shoved a herd of elephants up there and I would have gladly submitted.

    Certainly a very different situation than what these women are being MADE to go through.

    Sorry about your fibro :(

    As for this mandated sonogram crap… in a country where women who NEED sonograms cannot afford them sans insurance, it seems frankly moronic to make this procedure mandatory in a case where it is unnecessary.

    Mostly though, I’m simply flabbergasted that these states can get away with such a line of crap…and incredibly pissed off.

  23. Nia
    February 12, 2009 at 2:11 am

    I’d like to go back to Jenna’s question. Where this ultrasound is compulsory, who pays for it?

  24. eli bishop
    February 12, 2009 at 4:05 am

    i imagine the patient pays for it, just like the patient pays for travel, babysitting and arranging time off to go to the clinic even if she can’t afford that, either. if more restrictions make the procedure more expensive, anti-choicers will celebrate that as a deterrent.

  25. Jamie
    February 12, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Ugh, this is rather disappointing, and hopefully, if things work out, these new rules will be wiped off the map. They’re incredibly insulting and, after reading the previous comments, painful and invasive. I can’t imagine nor understand what it must be like for a woman to go through the procedure of having an abortion in the first place, but neither can I understand why things have to be made all the more difficult for them.

    Sometimes I swear it’s as though the ones that were shooting abortion doctors and fire-bombing clinics realized that that wasn’t going to work so they decided legislation was the way to go.

  26. Lisa
    February 12, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Corwin, aside from the fact that you’re a jerk, you’re also way off base about ultrasounds being required in early abortions. My mom used to run a clinic, and 99% of the time the doctors dated the pregnancy with a manual exam – the only time they needed a more precise measurement than that was if the woman was getting close to the cutoff (12 weeks IIRC) that meant that the clinic wasn’t licensed to handle it.

  27. Bekka
    February 12, 2009 at 11:17 am

    When I had my abortion done, they told me they had to do an ultrasound to measure the size of the fetus to accurately tell how far into gestation I was. They didn’t make me look at it though and had the monitor facing completely away from me so I didn’t have to look.

    I live in Florida by the way, I don’t know if they were telling the truth or that they were required by law to perform an ultra sound.

    The problem I have with ultrasound is that it adds about $100-$250 to the cost, in effect, making abortion less accessible to women who don’t make very much money. $100-$250 is almost (sometimes more than) an entire week’s worth of wages for many.

  28. Bekka
    February 12, 2009 at 11:27 am

    To answer the question about who pays for it, the patient does. The clinic will not absorb the cost and there will no state fund it. I’m not even sure NAF will cover the cost because I used NAF funding and all but $125 of the $650 was covered.

  29. Kathryn
    February 12, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    The thing I find interesting is the significance our culture places on ultrasound in the first place.

    I went to a debate a few years ago about reality television. Germaine Greer was on the panel and pointed out how odd and rather sad it is that pregnant women feel closer to their baby/pregnancy after seeing it on screen. “It made it seem real”. It’s television!

    But then I have never been pregnant or had an abortion so realise I am not in a position to speak/judge and that’s not what I’m doing.

    It’s television! It’s not “real” more than having something growing in your womb! In the UK we don’t have such an importance on the ultrasound, I don’t think.

  30. February 12, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    I can almost envision the anti-choice shmucks who support this bullshit seeing their alleged loved ones cooing over the ultrasound images for their (totally wanted and sought) pregnancies, and going “I have an idea [sic]!”

  31. Gabbi
    February 12, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    It’s not “oh poor little woman doesn’t know what she’s doing” it’s more like “look at what you’re murdering, you selfish bitch.”

    What an arbitrary and needless law. I’m also sure that it’s not a free add on, doesn’t it cost money to run those things?

  32. evil_fizz
    February 12, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    It’s not “oh poor little woman doesn’t know what she’s doing” it’s more like “look at what you’re murdering, you selfish bitch.”

    Which is curious, because when I had an ultrasound around week 6 of my current pregnancy (now 5 and a half months along), there really wasn’t anything to see. There was a blob. I agree with you that this is the point of the ultrasound, Gabi, but it doesn’t make all that much logical sense. (Not that putting barriers in the way of women seeking abortions ever needed to be logical.)

  33. William
    February 13, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Way to represent medical ethics and do your best to dismiss the stereotype that doctors are arrogant schmucks with God complexes, Corwin. Seriously, if your bedside manner was half as shitty in an office with me as it is here you’d be looking at formal complaints with the licensure board, the local ethics board, and a pissed off patient in the Director of Service’s office at a minimum. You’ve got a disturbing disrespect for patient autonomy and if you were my supervisee you’d be either looking for a new job or looking at a load of remediation. You’re a service provider, not an authority figure. Know your place.

  34. February 13, 2009 at 10:50 am

    I live in South Carolina, and here is a letter to the editor I just sent to the Spartanburg Herald Journal:

    The South Carolina State House of Representatives is currently considering House Bill 3245, to be heard on February 17, which would make our state the first in the nation to require a 24 hour mandatory delay for woman seeking an abortion after they are forced to view an ultrasound. This would require two trips to the doctor for ALL women, no exceptions. This forced delay assumes women are not capable of making decisions in a rational manner, and places an unfair burden on those seeking a LEGAL medical procedure.

    Those who feel abortion is wrong need to attack the procedure itself, instead of trying to prevent women making a legal choice about their bodies and their lives. However, with 52% of registered voters identifying as pro-choice, a direct attack would surely backfire. For those who state that this delay will prevent some women from making regrettable decisions, I offer that delays might be helpful in other situations as well. How about a 24 hour delay required for men before they engage in sexual intercourse with a woman of childbearing age?

  35. Zelie Martin
    February 13, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    I’ve had 7 pregnancies, 6 to term and I have never had to have an intervaginal ultrasound. These would be simple abdominal ultrasounds.

    I think you should put as much effort and interest into your health care as you do in buying a major appliance. So I am all for informed consent INCLUDING ultrasounds – because women should know the information.

    Odd that a “feminist” site would be against that.

  36. bkwyrm
    February 13, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    I’ve had three pregnancies (12 weeks with #3, actually, at the moment. I have had intravaginal ultrasounds with each one, Zelie.
    With each of these much-wanted pregnancies, the doctor gave me a printout of what looked like a grey, fuzzy jellybean. Because I wanted these pregnancies, because I was already emotionally attached to them, the ultrasound meant something to me. If I didn’t want to be pregnant to begin with? The transvaginal ultrasound would have been a violation. The ultrasound would have been yet another expensive hurdle between me and my right to end an unwanted pregnancy.
    THAT is what this is about. Not “informational” ultrasounds.

  37. Kristen (The J one)
    February 13, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Okay…so quick question. I’m a Maryland resident and I’m (obviously) furious that some asshole is trying to restrict abortions in my BLUE fucking state.

    I went to PP of to see if there was any info on the bill, who I could harass…whose house I need to egg (kidding!)…when I noticed that Planned Parenthood requires an ultrasound (of some sort) to determine the pregnancy date.

    Can anyone explain why PP would require an ultrasound? Have we lost too much ground on this issue already? Maryland supposedly has its own version of the Freedom of Choice Act so I thought we were relatively safe on this issue.

    (In any event, for other Maryland residents here is more info on who to call/egg.)

  38. Cathy
    February 19, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Painful or not, forcing a woman to go through an uncomfortable procedure to make her see a fetus she’s already decided to terminate is ridiculous and having her pay for it is even more so. It doesn’t matter if the procedure is physically painful or not, I don’t think there’s any woman who looks forward to having a procedure like that done, it’s actually a very frightening prospect to many women. Which reinforces the fact that people who want to enforce rules like this don’t actually care about the woman who is carrying the fetus, only reinforcing to her that her fetus is more important. Do we really wonder why women feel completely entitled to disregard people who spout this bullshit to them? An image of a fetus isn’t going to make her change her mind. Maybe someone who respects her as a person would.

  39. dory
    February 26, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    all of these bills, put before individual state congresses have ONLY one goal….to slide in the back door…unnoticed…and gradually chip our right to choice away….it is no less than sleight of hand….while our nation… and the media are focussed on the economic collapse of the globe….pro-lifers are tip-toeing around with these state bills…to get them passed UNDER THE RADAR….the goal is to nullify roe v. wade….but not to do it in a publicity drenched head-on in the supreme court….we must be vigilant…and we must hold our legislators ACCOUNTABLE for this back-door political hijacking of our rights!….we must keep track of how EACH of our local and state representatives voted…so that… in the next elections…. we can VOTE THEM OUT….it all makes me sick…. we women are being “punked” from EVERY angle….so, fellow women in this horrible time…we must keep our eyes peeled for these behind the scenes eviscerations of our hard-won right to choose what WE DO WITH OUR OWN BODIES!!!

  40. Phenicks
    February 26, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    A full bladder makes for a bad picture on a transvaginal u/s. I have enver had an abortion but I have a son and my husband knew ASAP that I was pregnant before me or any pregnancy test could confirm it. The ultrasound didn’t pick up the lil circle that was our son until 3 days later and that lil gestational sac wasn picked up through transvaginal u/s. It was very uncomfortable for me. But on the flip side I always thought ultrasounds were done for abortions so that the doctor could SEE what he was doing. I cant imagine a doctor sticking what is essentially a human tissue vacuum in my body without some sort of scope or something to be sure the human tissue he’s taking out isn’t something I need.

  41. Phenicks
    February 26, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    PLEAASE read the bottom where it says how to prepare for a transvaginal ultrasound. I had to have several of these because I found out I was pregnant so early. If you had to have it done on a full bladder it may be time to sue someone..

  42. Phenicks
    February 26, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Jenna, question #19, not very. The state has a really good argument as to why an ultrasound should be performed, if doctors were to take anything from your body were blindly tearing away at tissue (blindly because the only way for an abortionist to se ewhat he’s doing is via ultrasound) he would be jeopardizing your health and maybe your life. I don’t think the woman needs to view it anymore than I think a patient would need to view the ultrasound for removal of any other tissue from their bodies.

  43. Phenicks
    February 26, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    you need an ultrasound because the doctor NEEDS to know exactly how far along you are if he thinks the baby is bigger than it is ehe could end up ripping out some of your uterus, if he thinks its smaller, some of the dead fetus could be left in there to give you a nasty infection. You do NOT need to see the ultrasound in most places or even hear the heartbeat (most doctors wont even turn the sound on, they can tell the heartrate without the sound). This will limit the incidence of botched abortions and infections. I think its digusting that docotrs have been simply guessing how far along a woman is or how far developed/the size of the fetus without actually looking at it. an abortion at 2 weeks requires far less than one at 10 or more.

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