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Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

Each month the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) highlights one of our activists in our “Poderosa Profiles” blog series. This month we’re highlighting Omilani, who is part of our Florida Latina Advocacy Network. Thank you for your hard work and unwavering dedication to reproductive justice. 

Biography:
Hailed by The Source magazine as a “precocious figure on the spoken word scene,” audiences often compare our July poderosa, Omilani, to Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Macy Gray, Duffy, and Lauryn Hill.

This Afro-Filipina songwriter has definitely proven she can hold center stage. Performing since the age of seven, Omilani has been featured in many programs. She is most noted for performing her original works of neo-soul music, folkloric dance, tropical fusion/salsa, and hip-hop. Her eclectic vibe has become a very popular among all age groups.

Her love of languages has blossomed into a musical explosion that bridges language and cultural boundaries. Mixing Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic, and Yoruba into her repertoire has added a unique twist to her show. Omilani feels that this diversity of her work enables her to reach a wider audience.

​She is especially proud of the reaction of young people to her positive and inspirational messages. It is her intention to showcase the art not the artist, and to let you be impressed by the message not the messenger. Omilani hopes to inspire others to pick up a pen and write.

Omilani%20fl%20july%202014%20profileIn her own words:
Most people know me through my music or poetry, but I am an undercover scholar with over eight scholarly publications before the age of 25. Among these is an entry in the Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora about Piri Thomas, an Afro-Puerto Rican man who traveled through the Southeastern United States during the segregation era to see if he would be treated differently for being Puerto Rican - and as he saw it at the time – not black (American).

I have been researching Piri Thomas, Latinegras (Afro-Latinas), and Afro-Latino identity since high school and most of my publications are centered on the message of loving the skin WE are in. 

My poetry and music also address the issues we are confronted with as women, Black women, and Latinegras. I was acclaimed as a youth for my activist work linking the Black and Latino communities, and was co-director of the Latino Youth group, Jóvenes Lideres en Acción, as well as one of the originating establishers of El Centro Hispano in North Carolina.

I am a Cornell University graduate (2010) and my thesis was on Creole identity and the politics of “authenticity” as it relates to the African traditions that have been maintained in the Caribbean.

My participation in NLIRH has expanded my knowledge in interest in women’s reproductive rights and justice immensely. As women we may take for granted what we “don’t know.” For example, one of the biggest misconceptions I had was about Planned Parenthood, and through NLIRH I learned that they do so much more than abortions and safe sex talks. Also, the trainings and events I have attended were great for expanding my horizon about the meaning of women’s reproductive justice, including elderly women, or things as simple as access to transportation being a reproductive justice fight.

Being a woman is something very sacred, special, and powerful! Humanity shares the commonality of all being birthed through a woman and ironically this same passage has been exploited, abused, negated, suppressed, and violated in every language, location, and period of history. It is for this reason we must reclaim that sacred knowledge, protect our power, and have an understanding so that we can share resources and information that can save lives, not just of women, but also of humanity. NLIRH is such an important organization because as the old cliché goes, ‘knowledge is power,’ and this organization is empowering so many who may not know that they can find the help and obtain the necessary resources to make an informed decision about their sacred temples.

The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of NLIRH.

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By Octavia

My name is Octavia, and I’m a mother.

I was 16 when I found out I was pregnant. I was terrified. I felt like there was no one on my side. Like the whole world was against me. My mother and the father were both pressuring me to get an abortion. I didn’t know what to do and felt like I needed to decide what was best for me. I then felt happiness because I thought I couldn’t have children. I was also in denial and just tried to forget about my pregnancy. If I had a little more money and a better or safer environment that would’ve helped me obtain work, maybe things would’ve been different. I didn’t have insurance to get contraceptives. In the end, I decided to become a mother because I wanted to treat somebody better than how I was treated. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

ImageI am glad that I became a mother. I don’t regret a thing about it. Tracy pushes me to go farther than I’ve ever gone. I am 19 years old now. My son is two years old. I love him so much. He saved my life and he woke me up from my downfall.

I am a single parent. No one helps me pick Tracy up or care for him. Alone, I make decisions for myself and for my son’s safety. I changed Tracy’s day care multiple times to ensure he was in an environment that was appropriate for a child, while I worked hard to get us in a better situation.

It’s been difficult as a single young mother. I had a lot of disappointing moments with my son’s family. His father and grandmother completely ignore my wishes and do whatever they want. Simple things like taking care of Tracy became a disagreement with them. The cherry on top was when they cut all of my son’s hair behind my back. I know it sounds silly, but they disregard me at all times. His father lies about helping me; in reality, we barely see him.

My mother isn’t as involved as I wish she were. Rent in New York became too expensive for us to manage so my mother decided to move to New Jersey last minute. I left with her. Commuting to New York while living in New Jersey wasn’t easy. My mother kept demanding I get a job and calling me lazy. I became fed up. Everything was too far for me to pursue the dreams I had set out for myself. I had to find another place to go stay. I knew I deserved better. Tracy and I left home.

I will not let them bring me down.

I lived a group home that made it difficult for me to attend school. I had to find an alternative place to live or get kicked out of school. I had to drop my classes in college in order to stay within the requirements of my group home.

I decided to apply for the Year Up internship. Guess what? I got in! They support low-income young adults reach their professional career goals. I’m still participating in this internship. Year Up is teaching me hard and soft skills that are going to stay with me for life. I’m getting college credits for the classes I take. I am learning about financial operations while juggling my personal problems. I’m grateful for this program, it isn’t easy to get into. I plan to go back to school in the fall. I love art and everything about it.

I hope my son grows healthy and appreciates and values life. I want to raise him in a place that offers decent food. I want to get him away from all these artificial flavors and preservatives. I dream of obtaining a decent amount of money and moving to Europe. I want to study there. I dream of becoming a fashion designer and owning my own company. No one and nothing is going to stop me.

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Each April public health and civil rights advocates work to raise awareness about the health inequities that continue to impact communities of color in the U.S. Among the health conditions that are usually highlighted are diabetes, HIV/AIDS, certain cancers, mental illness, and obesity. While it’s certainly critical to address the high rates of these conditions in our communities, another persistent minority health issue is often overlooked.

Women of color (WOC) consistently face reproductive health injustices that are rarely discussed in the context of a minority health issue. This topic is usually relegated to the WOC realm of women’s health. But this April, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) is shifting the dialogue about minority health and highlighting the lack of access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion as a very real health crisis for many of our herman@s.

In 1973, the Supreme Court passed the landmark Roe. v. Wade decision, granting women the right to safe and legal abortion. While this was a major victory for the women’s rights movement, the fight for abortion rights did not stop then. In fact, over the years, the right to abortion has been consistently attacked, restricted, and limited at both the state and federal level.

Among the most harmful of the restrictions enacted was the implementation of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion services. Rep. Henry Hyde, author of the Hyde Amendment, said of his intentions for the rider: “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill.”  This rider has been renewed each year for over three decades, and currently, federal funds can only be used in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment.

The Hyde Amendment was crafted as a deliberate attack on low-income women’s reproductive freedom. Considering that women of color are more likely to be low-income – 24 percent of Latin@s, 27 percent of black women, and 18 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders live below the poverty level – the Hyde Amendment is essentially an attack on women of color’s reproductive rights, by denying them the ability to access affordable abortion. The denial of affordable healthcare that covers abortion is yet another issue on the long list of ways and means used to undermine the bodily autonomy and reproduction of WOC in the U.S.

As a result of the Hyde Amendment, abortion has remained out of reach for many low-income or uninsured women despite it being legalized in 1973. For many of our Latina herman@s, access to affordable abortion has never been an option because they are low-income, uninsured, or don’t have private insurance that covers abortion. The reality is, one in three Latin@s is uninsured, which is higher than other race/ethnic group in the country. Of those that are insured, many rely on federally funded programs for coverage, which don’t cover abortion. Without the ability to afford it, the right to abortion is meaningless.

In fact, the first woman who died as a direct result of the Hyde Amendment was a Latina. Rosie Jiménez was a Latina college student and single mother who had Medicaid coverage. Since the Hyde Amendment had recently eliminated federal Medicaid funding for abortion, Rosie resorted to unsafe abortion because she didn’t have the means to pay for the service out of pocket. She died one week after her abortion in October 1977 due to complications from an unsafe procedure. Harrowing as it is, Rosie’s story is not unique. Each year tens of thousands of people are denied access to affordable abortion because of the Hyde Amendment. Although not every person’s story ends tragically, many people’s lives are greatly impacted by the financial burden of paying for an abortion or having to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

For Latin@ immigrants, access to affordable abortion can be even more difficult due to many factors including, high rates of uninsurance, cultural and linguistic barriers, lack of information about abortion in the U.S., immigration status, and poverty.

It’s undeniable: the Hyde Amendment hurts women. Moreover, the Hyde Amendment hurts WOC, who are disproportionately low-income, making this not only a women’s health issue, but a minority health issue as well. This National Minority Health Month let’s raise awareness of all health inequities, including the ability to access to safe and affordable abortion.

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A few days ago my sister told me she didn’t really like her curly hair. I stared at this little replica of me. It felt like I was looking into a mirror. Little me also didn’t like her curly hair. All the pretty girls have straight hair. I saw all the wrong things staring back at me in the mirror.

For days, I thought about the conversation her and I had. How can I create a space in which my sister and I feel happy and empowered with who we are? What things can I do, say and have that will make her feel secure in herself, both on the outside and inside? Where beauty isn’t the only focus? What do little ones need to feel at peace and in control of their future and their bodies when everything around them tells them they’re worthless?

I thought about the ways in which we sometimes don’t support the decisions those around us make. How inferior we make each other feel. How we judge one on another for the things we do or don’t do. As if there was a “normal” or “correct” way to be. As if there was a specific way to live our lives.

Here in New York I can’t walk down the street without seeing ads that say young mothers, and their families, will grow up and amount to nothing. Messages that tell us, “You’re worthless and deserve what is happening to you because you did things the “wrong way””. Messages that tell the little ones what horrible lives they will live and what horrible parents they have.

Pointless messages because no matter what decision we make, we seem to always lose and are belittled because of them. Sex is bad. Abortion is bad. Parenting at your age is bad. Using contraceptives is bad. Everything is bad. Our existence is bad. All decisions we make will be judged.

But, guess what, we’re not going anywhere.

On the other hand, I hope to work with warriors that will take matters into their own hands. Warriors that will be happy with who they are. Warriors that will be at peace with the decisions they make for themselves and their families. Warriors that will look into the mirror and not let these messages affect what they believe to be true about themselves. At least, that’s where I hope to be alongside my family and people in my community. I hope to live and create spaces in which decisions, including abortion and parenting, are respected and supported. Spaces in which my sister can feel confident in herself and understand that there’s more to life and herself than just beauty.



Spaces like that are being built. We are hosting a webinar training with 3 sessions aimed to serve young mothers. This training is open to all young mothers and are completely free. Session 1 already took place. Session 2 is happening on Nov 15 6pm EST which will talk about why it is important to organize young mothers and why young motherhood happens. Session 3 is happening on Dec 13 also at 6pm EST and it takes a closer look on what advocacy means and how you can use your experiences to push others into action. If you’re a young mother, register and let others know: http://tinyurl.com/MomELola

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We were on the phone talking about the immigrant rights movement and how he could get involved. He was telling me how he values immigrants so much and believes everyone deserves a happy and safe life. He then asks about my beliefs and what I stand for.

I tell him about my involvement with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
“Reproductive health? Like abortions?” He asks.
“That’s not the only aspect of reproductive health but yeah, abortions too.”

He becomes angry and states that I’m a horrible person for advocating for abortion access. How could I fight for immigrant rights and at the same time, aim to provide others with abortions? It’s a disappointing and a very sad aspect of my life, according to him. He didn’t stop at that but kept pushing and pushing, “So, you’re telling me, if you were to get pregnant tomorrow, you’d have an abortion?”

One side of me believes I should stay quiet since it really isn’t his business what I do or don’t do with my body. The other side of me however, didn’t want to be ashamed of the decisions I make. So I proudly state, “if I need one, yes I would.”

Abortion Mississippi

Silence.

He said something about me being a bad person, that he believes whole-heartily in the bible and that he had to go so it was best to hang up.

Click.

I sit there shocked at his eagerness to hang up on me but also amused and how the conversation had made a 180 degree turn because of what I believe in. It’s okay to advocate for the lives of immigrants, but not for the lives of women and men who need an abortion. But there’s a discussion that’s missing, the one about life going on beyond the 9 month gestation period.

It’s frustrating after a while, hearing folks discuss the value of lives and the importance of community, but only for a fetus. What happens to that life once it’s outside the body? What happens when the family cannot afford food or health services? They’re called a leech on the system. What happens when that life is LGBTQ? They’re excluded and dehumanized. When it becomes undocumented? That life is no longer considered valuable. We would rather detain and deport it. When that same life is walking home from the store we shoot and kill it for wearing a hoodie and “looking suspicious”. When it’s Muslim? We bomb them. Black and brown lives? Incarcerate them.

Don’t you dare sit there and talk to me about the value of life when our children cannot even access a decent education, housing, comprehensive sex education or contraceptives. This isn’t a black or white issue where some are against abortion and some are for it. Abortions should be made available to whomever needs it and it’s not up to us to judge those who have one. At the same time, we should be working together to create better living conditions for all so that maybe, in the future, that one abortion won’t be necessary.

I’m also fighting for lives.

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Post by Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Texas legislatures are attempting to disguise their anti-abortion bill as a measure of protection for teenagers and children. They are acting as if restricting abortion, limiting contraceptive care and defunding sexual education will prevent teenagers from having sex. If teenagers do not know how to have safe sex, are unable to access contraception or abortion they will stop having sex, right? Wrong. Denying youth sex ed, contraception and abortion will only ensure that there will be more unsafe sex, more unplanned pregnancies and more women turning to dangerous abortion alternatives. Saying these restrictions are to protect young people is not only preposterous, it also ignores all the adult women who are also being harmed by a lack of access to reproductive care. The anti-abortion bill and the continuous cuts to reproductive health care services hurt all Texas women. Even if you do not need an abortion, even if you do not support abortion, if you are a woman in Texas you are being told that you are not entitled to make decisions about your own body.

It is a common misconception that reproductive health care exclusively refers to abortion and contraceptive services. Reproductive health care centers provide many services, not just ones that are directly related to sexual activity. Places like Planned Parenthood provide a variety of services like breast exams and other preventative treatments for breast cancer, ovarian cancer and a number of other illnesses that are not related to being sexually active. While many supporters of the anti-choice movement say that these services are available at other health centers, they are often unaffordable and inaccessible, especially to immigrant and undocumented women who are the people that will suffer the most if the bill becomes a law.
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Texas women are hurting themselves with dangerous, illegal abortion alternatives now. It is not a scary hypothetical that will happen with new restrictions, it is happening every day and will only become more frequent if access to contraception and abortion is further limited. Women without the means to afford safe, clinical contraceptive services are risking their lives by crossing the border to buy black market drugs to induce abortion. While these drugs are known to be dangerous, women who are struggling to support a family would rather risk their own lives than have a child they cannot afford to take care of. These high-risk alternatives are often unsuccessful and many women experience uncontrollable bleeding and end up in the emergency room. With less access to contraceptive services there will be more unplanned pregnancies. More unplanned pregnancies and less access to abortion means more women will be turning to dangerous alternatives. Anti-choice Texans are hurting women in the name of “protecting youth.” They are punishing women for being sexually independant and turning a blind eye to the real needs of their citizens.

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No matter how hard Texas legislators try to disguise their anti-women, anti-choice agenda I will not be fooled into believe their restrictions do a single thing to protect teenagers and children. If we want to protect teenagers, shouldn’t we be teaching them how to have safe sex to prevent the spread of disease and decrease the amount of unplanned, unwanted pregnancies? If we want to protect our children shouldn’t we keep our mother’s healthy and able to take care of the families they have? Shouldn’t we stop punishing women for not wanting to have a child they can’t afford to provide for? If you are claiming to be protecting youth, can you explain how this anti-choice legislation does a single thing to lower the rate of unemployment and homelessness amongst young people? What does it do to for the under resourced school system and millions children living in poverty? It does not do a single thing to improve the lives of young people in Texas, or to combat the real problems they are facing. This anti-abortion legislation gives nothing to Texas citizens and it takes away the reproductive rights of Texas women.

As a teenager girl, I say thanks but no thanks, Texas, for fighting (lying) in my name. I know you have convinced yourself that restricting my options will prevent me from having sex but it won’t, so it would be great if you would teach me how to make informed decisions about my body, not take away my ability to make these decisions at all. I would so greatly appreciate it if you considered a living, breathing woman of any age to be as valuable as a six week old fetus. If you really care about my safety it would be SUPER if you would start addressing my actual needs as an autonomous, teenage girl instead of serving your own, outdated ideology. If you really want to protect us young people, change what you are fighting for. Please stop using my safety as an excuse to restrict the reproductive rights of women of all ages. If you want to fight for my safety, if you want to protect women and teenagers listen to us. Stop trying to trick us into believing you know what’s best for us because you don’t.

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Post By Valentina Forte-Hernandez

   The attention that is being put towards immigration reform marks progress in the immigrant rights movement, but the bill that is currently being discussed in the senate is not ideal. While the bill would pave the way to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country, it would take 10 years for them to receive legal residency. It would take another 5 years for these immigrants to receive health care access, which means it would be 15 years until 11 million people would be able to access their basic human right to health care. Reading articles about the bill predicting that it is likely to pass is disheartening, but scrolling down and reading the comments people have written in response is straight up disturbing. There is clear opposition to the bill, however the opposition voiced through the comments comes from racist citizens of this country who don’t want immigrants to have access to health care ever.

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   In many of the comments it is clear that the term immigrant is exclusively associated with Latino. The majority of immigrants and undocumented folks in the U.S. are Latino, but it is simply incorrect to say that they are the only people immigrating to this country. It is even more upsetting to see what people responding to these articles think of Latino immigrants. Many of the commenters describe Latino as dirty, lazy and job stealers (see the irony here? If we’re so lazy how are we stealing jobs from these poor, “deserving” white people?) The people with these beliefs also oppose immigrant health care, but unlike myself and my peers they believe 15 years is too soon, not too late. These people say they don’t want their tax dollars going towards people who are not from this country, yet they are willing to spend big on hiring 20,000 new border agents. They are fine with spending money on immigrants, just as long as the money goes to keeping them out, not taking care of them once they are here. These comments demonstrate that there is extreme reluctance to acknowledge all of the positive things immigrants are doing for this country. It also bring attention to the longstanding fear some U.S. citizens have of a Latino majority.

       In 2006 Fox News’ John Gibson made a plea for more white babies. He said that half of children under five in this country are minorities and the majority of these children are Latino. To scare his viewers used a study that projected that in 25 years the majority of the population will be hispanic. He less than subtly told white people to start having more babies, suggesting that the desire for a prosperous and comfortable life was keeping white people from having children which makes me wants to roll my eyes and bang my head against the keyboard. Apparently us Latinos have no desire for comfortable or prosperous lives, we just want to make a ton babies to help us steal more jobs and overthrow the country. If it weren’t so damaging and disturbing, it would be almost funny that the people who are scared by John Gibson’s predictions are the same people who want to deny immigrants access to health care. Denying Latino immigrants access to healthcare means that Latinos will continue to have disproportionate access to contraception and other forms of reproductive health care.

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In my opinion all people of all races and all legal statuses are entitled to all health care because it is a basic human right. If you want to have ten kids, do it. If you don’t want any children don’t have any, use birth control, have an abortion, do whatever you want when making decisions about your family as long as it is not a coerced decision or one made because of a lack of access to resources. People like John Gibson and people who oppose immigrant health care like to believe that Latinos are intentionally having lots of babies because they want to take more of “our” jobs and take over this country, but that is not at all true.

Latino and immigrant communities are disproportionately affected by a lack of access to reproductive healthcare including contraceptives and abortions. This means these communities see more unintended pregnancies and ultimately have more children than those of us who do have access birth control. For undocumented folks in particular, getting birth control can be impossible. Undocumented people and other people without health insurance often wait until it is a medical emergency to seek out health care because they cannot afford to go to a doctor and they live in fear of being deported. Birth control is important, but for somebody who has to choose between seeing a doctor and putting food on their families’ table, contraceptive care is not considered a medical emergency. These are the people who are unable to access reproductive health care. They aren’t young, irresponsible people who don’t use contraceptives because they don’t care, they are mothers, they are people supporting families who can’t afford an appointment to the doctor, and often can’t even afford a ride to the doctor. They are hard workers who have to choose between the bare necessities of living and access to medical services that many of us consider essential and they are not the only ones. Underprivileged communities all across the country are having to make these difficult choices, and more often than not these decisions result in reproductive health care being pushed under the rug until a serious problem arises.

Another way one might try to suggest that Latinos are intentionally not using birth control is by saying something along the lines of, “the majority of the Latino population is Catholic and Catholics oppose birth control, right?” Well let me just shut that thought down with some good ole’ statistics. Regardless of religion 97% of Latinas who have ever had sex have used contraception. 96%of sexually active Catholic Latinas have used a contraceptive banned by the Vatican. The majority of all voting Latinas – 89%, to be precise – support contraceptive coverage without copayments for all women. Using religion as an excuse for Latinas’ disproportionate access to contraceptive care  distracts us from the system that is keeping Latinas from having access to all kind of reproductive healthcare (not just birth control). It also blames Latinas for exercising the religious freedom this country was founded on.

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Anyone who believes Latinos and immigrants are trying to take over this country is wrong. Yes, this country is growing more Latino every day but that is not the result of some evil scheme to take America away from white people, to believe that is just delusional. Latinos and immigrants are just trying to live healthy and prosperous lives like all the other people in this world. 15 years is too long for anyone to wait to see a doctor. If people are so concerned about spending money on immigrants, why not spend the money now on preventative care which is way more affordable than treating a serious illness. You are kidding yourself if you think there will be less immigrants just because you want it that way. By 2040 we will be the majority, so it’s time for everyone to realize that there will be more immigrants and there will be more Latinos. Wouldn’t it be better to ensure that every person living in this country is healthy and successful than to continue to weaken valuable members of our society just because you personally don’t like them? To have a strong and powerful country we need strength and support across the board. Anyone who believes immigrants are stealing their jobs should take a look at the system oppressing these immigrants and you might be surprised to find out that it is the same system that is keeping the poor and jobless poor and jobless and making sure the rich stay rich. If you want to be empowered, empower yourself, empower the people who work for their money, not those whose money works for them.

 

Statistics On Latinas and Contraceptives:

http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/publications/NLIRH-Fact-Sheet-Latinas-and-Contraception-020912.pdf

 

John Gibson’s Call for more White Babies:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0af-RiRDoGk

http://mediamatters.org/mobile/research/2006/05/12/gibson-make-more-babies-because-in-twenty-five/135674

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