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Mrs Mary McGee and her spermicidal jelly.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/anniversary-of-family-planning-case-brings-a-sense-of-d%C3%A9j%C3%A0-vu-1.1382006?page=1

The generation that takes Durex in the local Spar for granted may not know that 2013 is the 40th anniversary of a legal case that won them the right to use contraception. In 1973, 27-year-old Mary McGee challenged Ireland’s ban on family planning.

A mother of four children, she had complications in her previous pregnancy and was told that having another child would put her life in danger. On medical advice, she ordered spermicidal jelly from England (a criminal offence at the time) but it never arrived because of the amazing vigilance of Irish Customs who seized her package.

“I got a letter to say that because of the prohibition, my package wasn’t allowed in. I couldn’t believe it,” says McGee, sitting in her kitchen at home in Skerries recounting the story. “I just thought ‘no way, I have to do something about this’, not realising the enormity of what I was taking on. I think we were all ready for change though. People wanted children but they also wanted a life.” She took her case to the Supreme Court and won.

Mad to think if she and her husband hadn’t of been brave enough to take the case all the way, how much longer it would have taken to make contraception legal here. Still the 1973 ruling only made it legal for married couples by prescription, it wasn’t until 1983 it was extended to un married people and it was only 1994 condoms became over the counter and eventually in vending machines and shops.

So thank you Mary McGee for fighting for your spermicidal jelly and the right it eventually gave all of us.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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3somes and Blowjobs and Liveline, Oh my!

This week flew in with the kids being on Easter break so I’ve not written about this yet, but sure hear goes.

Yes I was on national radio this week for the first time, such was my ire at at the attitude on Liveline that I emailed the show. The segment was about the fuss Michelle “Fornication” Mulherin TD raised over one of the many articles on http://spunout.ie/.

For those of ye who don’t know what spunout.ie is, it is a website aimed at 16 to 25 year olds.

SpunOut.ie is a website dedicated to helping you make informed decisions about things which may be happening in your life. It is also a place to have your voice heard about things which are bothering you or to provide solutions to some of the big, or small, problems facing Irish society.

SpunOut.ie provides young people between the ages of 16 and 25 with the information and skills to deal with the difficult things life throws at us and lends a megaphone for our voices to be heard to change our own lives and the world.

An important part of SpunOut.ie is to give a voice to those who wish to tell their story in order to demonstrate to others that they are not alone, and that we all experience similar difficulties through the course of our lives.

We publish articles on sex, mental health, alcohol + drugs, education, employment and much more.

They are a registered charity and get a funding grant from the HSE which contributes to covering some of their over all costs.One of the many articles on the site was about 3somes, the pros and cons and addressing the facts. The notion that any tax payers money was being used to ‘promote’ 3somes to teenagers had Mulherin outraged.

It seems to have outraged some of the listeners and callers to Liveline also. I had been following the story about Spunout.ie from the night before and while I am not a regular live line listener I did tune in and got so cross that I emailed the show stating I am a stay at home Mam in my late 30s, with two teenage kids and I support the work Spunout.ie do.

They emailed me back asking for my phone number and then one of the production staff rang me and I was asked would I go on the show. Here is the podcast, I am on the last 10 minutes.

http://podcast.rasset.ie/podcasts/audio/2013/0325/20130325_rteradio1-liveline-controvers_c20177046_20177056_232_.mp3

Yes I did say, anal sex, oral sex, 3some and the phrase ‘promoting blowjobs’ live on national radio to Joe Duffy, who doesn’t intimidate me at all, sure he grew up in the same part of Dublin as my Dad and is about the same age and all. I did ring and tell my parents afterwards, as a polite heads up and they laughed and said they were proud of me.

You see back in the mid 80s they ran parenting courses in primary schools for other parents, including the sex educational model and they have always been advocates of sex education, so I didn’t lick it off a stone.

When I listened to the podcast when it went up I was happy to have been able to plug some more helpful sites where people can get information. I mentioned the sex ed program the HSE put together but has a difficult time distrubting to parents the first section of it is Busy Bodies
aim at parents and children before puberty and I also mentioned The Facts and the other programs which can be gotten for free, which the HSE have spent money on.

I also mentioned that the NHS in the UK spends money on Sex Education websites http://www.respectyourself.info/ and I mentioned http://www.scarleteen.com/ as good resources for young people, so much better at them learning about sex and sexuality then just by looking at porn.

Looking back I am glad I took part on the program, as Amanda Palmer has said “We are the Media” and we do have to challenge the the notion that Ireland is still a very conservative catholic country and part of that is having our voices heard, even on Liveline.

And having had Joe Duffy say “That if you are asked to be in a 3some, just say no.” still makes me laugh.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Well it only took 20 years, public advertising for condoms.

It has been 20 years from when condoms were made legal for sale which did not require a prescription. But there has been still so much taboo and stigma surrounding sex and sexuality in this country that we haven’t had the same sort of advertising which you see in other countries.

This weekend I saw my first bus shelter advertisement for condoms,
here in Dublin.

IMAG0973 IMAG0972

Couldn’t believe it, but there it was an ad for Durex, the ad it’s self it eye catching and smart.
The text reads “The closer we get, the more our hearts race.”
With a small image of the branded box in the corner.

I think it’s classy and well done, and not a poster I would have an issue standing beside late at night in the city center, while waiting for a bus home. Well done TMW and this is the film ad for the campaign.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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GP-based care must be central to abortion law

GP-based care must be central to abortion law.

‘How will I find a thousand euro in two weeks?” The mother of three looked at me with a mixture of panic and despair. “We have Communion coming up and absolutely no money as it is . . .”

This woman’s face stays with me. It is the face of many Irish women as they learn the cost of an abortion in England. It is a face injured by the silent bite of austerity, while already coping with a job loss or mortgage default and now an unwanted pregnancy.

Affluent Irish women have always had abortions. They continue to exercise their right to travel. However, for many Irish women the right to travel now counts for very little. It is the feasibility of travel that is important and this is substantially determined by the availability of money.

Desperation, always a feature of Irish abortion, is now the dominant emotion felt by many women. Ask yourself how would you access €1,000 in less than two weeks without telling anyone the reason you needed the money?

The complete absence of any of the voices of the more than 150,000 Irish women who have had abortions was a striking feature of the Oireachtas hearings last month into proposed abortion legislation as a result of the European Court of Human Rights A, B and C ruling. The lack of a public voice obscures the fact that abortion is not a rare experience for Irish women.

I often wonder how many GPs actually do referrals for abortion,
legally they can, but how many actually do, or do they push women towards positive options or the IFPA, but is it know that over 1/3 of women who travel to the UK contact BPAS themselves with out going through services here first.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Rape, Abortion and Emergency Contraceptives

Last month a poll was released via the Sunday times which showed that 74% of those who took part stated that if a person is pregant from rape they should the right to an abortion, that is an abortion here in Ireland.

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And then we had the interview of Micheál Martin leader of Fine Fáil by http://www.thejournal.ie/ in which he states;

He also said that he would not favour widening legislation or changing the Constitution to include cases where a woman has become pregnant as a result of rape.

“Rape is a particularly difficult one. We do have options today that we didn’t have before in terms of the morning after pill and so forth,” he said.

Which says to me just how disconnected he and his party are on the reality of this issue.

With X Case legislation still not even a published bill after 21 years,
and with all the scaremongering about ‘floodgates’ and women lying about being suicidal to obtain an abortion, I would fear as to what would be said if we were currently trying to legislate for the right to an abortion if a person has been raped.

Would women be told well prove you were raped and to wait for their rapist to be prosecuted, when currently from when a person is charged with rape it could be 18months before the first day in court. I worry that there is a vested interest in trying to make any abortion legislation to be a series of hoops to hard to navigate and so well will continue to have 12 women a day traveling to the U.K.

The comments also show up the ignorance about the ‘morning after pill’ which I really wish we could stop calling it that as the new ones can be taken up to 120 hours later, time to start calling it emergency contraceptive, but even then it is not 100%.

Even if a person reports the rape and sees a dr with in 72 hours or even 120 hours emergency contraceptives are not 100% effective and they can still end up pregnant from that rape.

Which assumes they can get to see a medical professional who will prescribe it, that they can take it as there are women from whom it won’t be prescribed due to medical conditions and there is a barrier due to cost or having to travel or child care, or they could be in an abusive relationship were it’s just not possible for them to get away.

And that is with out going into those who go into shock and denial after they have been raped.

So the existence of emergency contraceptives does not solve the issue of people becoming pregnant after they have been raped.

I guess after all this time I am still staggered by the lack of knowledge out there about Emergency Contraceptives & contraceptives in general. I honestly think that our TDs should know better then the lack of knowledge Micheál Martin has displayed.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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My Abortion Activism

My abortion activism goes back about two decades at this stage, I used to write the Women’s Information Network’s illegal abortion information phone number 01 6794700 on the blackboards of the 6th year classrooms early in the mornings before anyone else was in.

Needless to say this caused uproar in the convent school I attended: when teachers and the head nun had an inkling it was me I was told to present myself at the office when I arrived each morning. They were going to use the absence of the number to prove it was me and someone else started chalking it on the black boards and it started to appear on the cubicle walls in the toilets in the school.

This was back before the 1992 referendum which made information related to abortion legal. I grew up in an Ireland were magazines were censored and so were UK phone books all over the country, long before it was possible to look up information on the internet. I have been pro choice having seen what family members went through in an Ireland which didn’t talk about miscarriage and treated unmarried mothers badly.

Even after the 1992 while information wasn’t censored, only drs and counselors were to give information to women who were looking for it and that is still the case to day. Before anyone could google B.P.A.S. and get information giving information verbally or a booklet or a photocopy could get you into legal hot water.

When I went to college I got even more involved in pro choice activism, I continued to act as an information point for women*. I had gotten my hands on a bunch of booklets “Traveling to Liverpool: a guide for Irish women” which were produced in 1994 and some activist training and would use them to help women, from teenagers to women in their 40s who didn’t know were to go, were too far away from the I.F.P.A. clinics and so would try their luck with the local college.

This was often a risky adventure, there were those in the college esp the college nurse who opposed me doing this, she was involved with the local Cura Branch and I had heard of other people who were giving out information that they would try and record me. If I wasn’t sure I would arrange to meet people and then accidentally leave behind pages with info on them after saying I could not help.

I also traveled with women over the years and if I didn’t travel with them checked in with them after wards, to make sure they took it easy, so many students who lived away from home during the week would travel and come back to digs or rented house and needed someone to make them tea and listen.

I remember the name of every person I helped back then and when they traveled and some for years later I would get a card or mostly an email to the address I had back then to say thank you or just to have someone who knew to communicate with. So many women edit out that time in their life from their narrative. They box it off don’t think about it, don’t talk about it ever, to anyone and go on to have partners and start families and it’s never mentioned. Not even when dealing with medical professionals in maternity hospitals.

Even after college it didn’t stop, I left an email address with certain people and they would refer people on but soon it was possible to search for information on the internet, but I still ended up being a point of contact and information and the same when I got involved in online communities, way before even bebo. Even in those places when I would talk about the topic in general women would contact me privately to share their stories.

My abortion activism has always been part of my sex education, contraception and Choice activism. I have passed on information on adoption and supports for being a single parent as well over the years but when there were so few places to get abortion information and support most of my first contact encounters over the year have been about abortion.

So many women over the years have shared their stories with me, easily close to 100,
but they would only be `not even .1 % of the 150,000 Irish women we have stats on who have traveled to the UK.

These days there is more information and support but hopefully the day will come when we don’t have to travel.

* I use the term women in my post not to be exclusionary, but as I have not yet knowingly had a transman talk to me about their story or approach me for information.

Helpful links if you need them.

http://www.ifpa.ie
http://www.positiveoptions.ie
http://www.bpas.ie
http://www.mariestopes.org.uk
http://www.abortionsupport.org.uk

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Irish abortion providers…

I was reading this, this morning and those 3 words jumped out at me. I am pretty certain I have never seen those 3 words in that configuration before. Here is where they came from and the context.

http://m.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/20/on-abortion-we-need-spirit-of-67

When, this week, you read a headline saying, Ireland to legalise abortion; or see a statement from the Catholic church saying “Irish abortion reform is a ‘licence to kill innocent babies'”, you should treat it with great scepticism. For a start, nobody has suggested changing the law, nobody’s legalising anything, and innocent babies have more to fear, as ever, from the Catholic church, than from any Irish abortion providers.

Nobody has suggested, even out of respect for the recently killed Savita Halappanavar, the slightest modification in the law, so that an abortion might be permitted in a case where the mother would probably die without it, and the foetus would probably die regardless. There are no new ideas, and no concessions to anybody – all that’s been mooted is the codification of a supreme court ruling, so that the abortion provision they do have is no longer just precedent, it’s actually enshrined in law.

The rest of the the piece written by https://twitter.com/zoesqwilliams explains the legal and historical back drop to the legal situation on abortion. If you like the writers of Jezebel need to brush up on the facts, please do take the time to read the rest of it.

So this morning with my coffee I find myself wondering what Irish abortion providers would look like, ok so say with a wave of a magic wand we have legislation, even the most conservative legislation along the lines with which the majority of people agree. That is abortion to protect the life and health of women including cases of rape/incest and terminations for fatal fetal complication. What happens next?

Well medical policies and procedures would have to be introduced along with guidelines and best practices and insurance policies amended as well, which is a massive amount of paper work.

Currently even with all the Drs we train in this country none of them are trained to carry the procedures needed.
This point gets made time and time again by Drs for choice and Medical Students for Choice. So even when such legislation is passed there will be a long waiting time before a woman would get the timely treatment she needed and most likely will end up with the HSE paying for her to travel and have the procedure in the UK. Like they had to do in the case of Miss D.

So would we see private clinics being set up as Irish abortion providers?

This may cause a whole new get of issues. Part of the Ruling by the EU court of Human Rights in the ABC cases was that MS C right to privacy was breached and with Ireland being such a small place I would worry that such places would be heavily picketed as the anti choice lobbists have been known to picket family planning clinics here and take pictures of people going into them. It will still be that those who can afford to go privately will have more choice and privacy and may still choose to leave the country.

Irish abortion providers, I would prefer if they were just part of the general OB/GYM services in this country, but even these services suffer from the policies and practices which have them as an add on service and not part of holistic health care for women.

Even when we have less restriction on abortion in this country there will be still so much work to be done on ensuring women and transmen have the health care they need.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Snapper and Ireland’s attitudes to “unmarried mothers” and unplanned pregnancy..

Last night while radio and tv stations broadcast debates on the announcement by government to bring in legislation in relation to the X Case (which is 20 years overdue), Roddy Doyle‘s The Snapper was also broadcast.

While the film was released in 1993 the book was written in 1990. Back when condoms were for sale with prescription only, the morning after pill was not legal and the Magdalen Laundries were still up and running. Sharon Curly was lucky her parents loved her and she was not sent ‘away’ either to relatives or to a laundry to have the child and to have it put up for adoption. In 1990 a unmarried mother was becoming less and less of a scandal and The Snapper helped break down some of those taboos.

With the availability of abortion in the UK the moral standards in Ireland changed, being an un married mother was preferable to the other choice women were making. to travel. So to limit that the taboo was lessened and financial supports put in place to include these new families long with widows/widowers/deserted spouses.

Eventually we stopped called them ‘unmarried mothers’ but single parents, and then lone parents, but with the greater access to contraception and the morning after pill (which in it’s current form only became legal here in 2001) there is now a move to remove those supports. So women are damned if they have the baby or damned if we don’t.

There is still so much ignorance about contraception, we don’t have comprehensive health based sex and sexuality eduction in our schools. What is doled out is ad hock and influenced by staff and the ethos of the school and the majority of schools are patroned by education trusts which are at least christian and usually catholic.

Many people (and a fair % of them are men)  seem to think that all women can use hormonal contraception and that it is 100% effect and so women who end up pregnant must want to be or are too stupid to use contraception correctly. This lack of education is a social issue and does lead to assumptions and stigma.

We have moved on a fair bit from the early 90s but we still have far to go, at part of that has to be about the rights of children who are born from unplanned pregnancy and their rights and the father’s rights and the many presumptions made in the family courts. These days the term ‘unmarried father’ or single Dad or is at least heard.

But we will have a long way to go and comments made in the Dáil this week show it’s even harder when our TDs come out with comments stilling saying that lone parents are the reason we are in a recession and not the golden circle of Anglo Irish Bank.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/colette-browne/facts-about-lone-parents-rubbish-claims-they-abuse-welfare-system-217380.html

Facts about lone parents rubbish claims they abuse welfare system

By Colette Browne

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

SOME of you halfwits have been blaming bankers and politicians for savage cutback, but righteous truth merchant, and Fine Gael TD, Derek Keating, has finally had the courage to identify the real cause of our current woes — single mothers.

What were you fools thinking, believing that dapper fraudsters in designer suits had led us to our current sorry impasse when clearly young women pushing buggies are the real reason the country is going to hell in a handcart.

Now, there are some who would argue that single mothers in this country have historically had enough odium heaped upon them and their children by pious politicians, but Mr Keating has decided the time is right to dump another digger-load of sanctimony over their heads.

In an extraordinary rant in the Dáil on Wednesday night, before voting for the many regressive measures contained within the Social Welfare Bill, the Fine Gael TD revealed that he had done some research of late and was appalled by what he found.

Budding anthropologist Mr Keating said he has discovered a sinister subset of single mothers, those with “three and four children”, who only stop spreading their legs to stick out their hands to ask for more benefits.

“I came across a case recently and when I examined it I noted multiple such cases. I discovered young women who find themselves caring, not for one child or two, but for three and four children by multiple fathers who are uncaring and failing in their duties of care and support with the consequences picked up by the taxpayer,” he thundered.

This proliferation of promiscuous women and feckless fathers “who do not accept their responsibilities”, is creating “a new lifestyle of welfare economy” which is “morally and socially wrong”.

While Mr Keating was quick to note that there were some “deserving” cases in receipt of social welfare, he said the State simply couldn’t afford to continue to support these naïve, wastrel women and their exponentially increasing broods.

Unfortunately for Mr Keating, the only thing he seems to have failed to uncover, in all of his painstaking research, is any evidence to support his judgmental dirge.

So lone parents are still being rebuked, reviled and scapegoated, but sure shouldn’t they be grateful that they are not locked away for the good of the rest of us, to work as slave labour for nuns and to have the honour of washing the sheets from the Áras, while the babies are adopted and under Irish law still have no legal right to find out who their parents are.

We still have so much growing up as a nation and as a people to do and we need to do it with compassion.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Virgin selling condoms in Ireland.

http://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog/the-day-we-were-arrested-for-selling-condoms-in-dublin

The day we were arrested for selling condoms in Dublin

By Richard Branson -
Nov 19, 2012

When we were asked by the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) if we would let them sell condoms in our Dublin Virgin Megastore, we were happy to oblige. In May 1990 the IFPA were convicted for selling condoms in the Megastore and fined £400.

The IFPA appealed the conviction on Valentine’s Day 1991 and I testified on their behalf. On arriving late in Dublin, a policeman offered me an escort – and was shocked when I directed him straight to court! The judge increased the fine to £500 and warned future infringement could result in imprisonment. A certain rock band known as U2 stepped in to pay the fine.

It wasn’t until 1993 that laws restricting the sale of condoms in Ireland were overruled, while laws banning abortion are still in place. There are lots of groups, including the IFPA, still campaigning inside and outside of Ireland for sensible abortion laws.

I remember this, I also bought condoms in there, for myself and for friends. Chemists didn’t sell them unless you had a prescription from a dr. Condom vending machines were illegal, HIV/AIDS were a fact of life and still condoms were illegal here in except under very limited guidelines.

I remember when it became possible to by them and they had to sell them to anyone over the age of legal consent, but it was still a case of running the gauntlet and getting a very unwelcome reception in the chemist. Picking one in the city center or one which family and neighbors would not use and even then you could be left standing, for years condoms were strictly behind the counter and you had to ask for them.

And even then the assistant could say they had to check with the dispensing chemist I and certainly was a few times left standing, for anything from 20mins to a half hour, as it was clear they didn’t want to sell them to me and were hoping I would just leave.

Boots chemist changed that, condoms were on the floor of the shop, you could go and read the boxes and pick out what you wanted and mix them in with other purchases, for those reason alone they quickly became the place to go buy them where ever they opened up all over the country.

These days most pubs have condom machines in them, they are more available in a range of places all over the country. Attitudes have changed as well.
It’s seen a sensible to have them and not as immoral for women have have them.

These days I know I can go an buy a 2 for 3 offer on condoms and get 3 boxes of what I fancy with no one blinking an eye lid, compared to being treated like I had just asked for the head of the baby jesus and if I hung around long enough, I would eventually get them only when exiting the chemist to hear someone declare that I must be a Whore.

It was 19 years ago, in 1993 the laws changed, took longer for attitudes to change, but I am for ever thankful for the work the IFPA have done over the years and for people like Richard Branson and those who ran the stall in the Dublin Virgin Megastore for being so brave and bold.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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1968 Ballfermot women speak out about being on the pill.

In 1968 contraceptives were still illegal in Ireland, this didn’t change until the mid 80s. Women were often told after having anything between 8 to 12 children to not have any more by drs but would be told by priests they had to do their duty and it was not possible to press charges if your husband raped you.

The contraceptive pill could how ever be prescribed for other reasons.
But every pill taken was deemed a mortal sin and if a woman was known to be on the pill she could be refused communion and even barred from the church.

This film was recorded in Ballyfermot and two women speak about their large families and the moral and legal dilemma they faced in order to take the contraceptive pill for the sake of their health, their lives and their families.

http://www.euscreen.eu/play.jsp?id=EUS_B96B0E80CB8645E295DDE2F0C2D794FB

My Nana was one of those women rearing 10 children in a small 3 bedroom house.
When one of the neighbors in confession admitted to do doing her duties to her husband the priest ran her out of the church and told her not to darken the door until she had preformed them. My grandmother with the rest of the women’s solidarity in the parish boycotted the priest until he was moved.

Ireland has come a long way in shrugging off the shackles imposed on it but the roman catholic church which has caused such suffering, but we still have a long way to go, as most of our schools and hospitals are still controlled by it.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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