Special Episode: The Impact of the End of Roe v. Wade

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In this special breaking-news edition, Andy helps you understand the impact of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade. As health clinics in several states halt abortion procedures due to the decision, Andy gets reaction and action items from Caitlin Cruz, a reporter from Jezebel who covers reproductive rights; Grace Howard, an expert on reproductive law; and Renee Bracey Sherman, a reproductive justice activist protesting outside the Supreme Court. Find out what the ruling means, where to seek help if you or someone you know is worried they could be prosecuted for their actions, and how to support those in need.

Keep up with Andy on Twitter @ASlavitt.

Follow Renee Bracey Sherman, Grace Howard, and Caitlin Cruz on Twitter @RBraceySherman@ProfGraceHoward, and @caitlinrcruz.

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Andy Slavitt, Caitlin Cruz, Grace Howard, Robin Marty, Renee Bracey Sherman

Andy Slavitt  00:18

Welcome to IN THE BUBBLE. I’m Andy Slavitt. We’re doing an extra episode of the SCOTUS’ decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. And even as I say those words, I find decades of pent up disbelief here that we did see this coming thanks to a leaked draft from Politico several months back, but it is still a shock. And to many people, it is a transformational moment. To help us process the news, we’re joined by Caitlin Cruz, who’s reporter from decibel covers reproductive rights. Grace Howard, an expert on reproductive law. And Renee Bracey Sherman, reproductive justice activist who’s actually live in front of the court right now. The decision has just come down. So she’s there. And thank you all very much for making time with us today. I know you’re all extraordinarily busy. And I want to hear your reactions to the news. And maybe it would make sense since you’re right on the scene, Renee, to start with you. And give us a sense of both your reaction and what you’re seeing around you.

Renee Bracey Sherman

Hi, yeah, thank you so much for having me. I think, you know, it’s palpable, I mean, there’s just everyone who’s really upset, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried, I’m really terrified. Because the thing that we have been saying for 10 years what would happen. And yet, here we are in front of the Supreme Court. Abortion is gone potentially half of the states, if not more, and my heart just goes out to everyone who went to the clinic today, in hopes that they could provide abortion care, today and tomorrow, everyone who had appointments today and tomorrow, thinking that they would get their abortions. And because the Supreme Court, in theory believes in states’ rights for abortion, but not for gun rights, or really anything else. It’s really, really scary that we no longer are guaranteed the ability to decide if when and how to grow our families in this country. And I just, I really hope that everyone listening will take this so seriously, that it is not just about abortion, it is going to be so many other things going on. And just it is our full right to privacy and access to health care, and ability to live free, as at stake in this moment.

Andy Slavitt  02:42

I’m gonna come back to you and ask you how the crowds were responding around you. But I want to ask Caitlin, the same question.

Caitlin Cruz

Yeah, definitely. I think one thing I have really been ruminating on is that nothing is permanent. And I’ve been reporting on abortion and reproductive policy for about 10 years now. And everything that historians people have been in the movement forever tell I want to tell reporters is that these rights are not guaranteed. They’re not going to just be there without work. And for the last 10 years, it’s been really hard to get people to care about abortion as a journalist. And now, in the last like three months, it seems like everyone wants to become this expert on something that has been happening, and slowly dismantling and being hobbled for 10 years. And so it’s like, I don’t like being the friend. That’s like I told you so. But like everything I’ve say around drinks with my friends about stuff I’m worried about at work has come to bear. And it’s deeply frustrating as a result, because I’m glad everyone realizes how important this all is now, but it’s I wish people had cared even 6 months ago.

Andy Slavitt  04:00

Yeah, you can’t help but think back to the 2016 election and so many other seminal moments that led to today. In this moment, and feel a sense of that we’ve let each other down. Grace, we talked about your reaction this morning.

Grace Howard 

Sure. You know, it’s not surprising. We saw the leak. We kind of knew this was coming even before then. So I want to quote this reproductive justice leader named Monica Macklemore. Who says, we tried to tell y’all, we’ve been trying to tell y’all people have told me I’m hysterical. And I’m wrong. And I’m overreacting when I tell them what is coming down the line for so long. Right? So for me, it’s not surprising but I think for a lot of people, they are feeling disbelief about what’s happened. We know that the implications of this will be huge. Yes. For people who want to control when and how I’ll and if they reproduce, but also for people who are trying to get married people who I mean, I see this as potentially it’s not only an attack on privacy, it’s not only an attack on the 14th amendment. Anything that isn’t part of the history and tradition of this nation are that isn’t stated explicitly in the Constitution and some cherry picked way of how they interpret things is on the line. Now, this is a pivotal moment in the United States.

Andy Slavitt 

And with the age of the justices, it feels like 20 more years of rulings. But if I will look at the crowd around you. Over there, Renee, it’s quite apparent that, that there is a judgment from a court which basically said, you what happens to you is not your business, it’s ours to control. Can you just describe the scene, the signs, the police, people’s reaction, the emotions of the crowd? What you’re observing?

Renee Bracey Sherman  06:05

Yeah, I mean, I’m coming, I’m standing here with your Come, look, you can see, our friends, we’re all here. I think what’s really, really critical is that like, it’s really sad. But all of our hugs are a lot longer than they usually are. Because we know how devastating this is going to be for the next couple of decades. It’s not just going to be a thing that’s going to be fixed by an election. Police are out here in riot gear; the answers are being extremely violent and aggressive. And so they’re coming up. I’ve been called a murderer several times already. They’re taunting people. And I think what’s really frustrating is that that’s what we experienced outside of clinics all the time. And so they’re emboldened to be extra violent. And I think that’s on top of the fact that they’re now the Supreme Court gave them the open carry law, that the police are allowed to, you know, lie to us and take our confessions, without any setting any recourse right. And I, it’s just this Court has given really, it’s all this white men out here, the ability to just be jerks and rude to us, on top of the fact that they know they’ll be able to criminalize us and really control our bodies. It is, I cannot begin to tell you the feeling out here of just like, lack of safety, and support. And I think that’s really, really scary. But that’s nothing compared to what the people who went in for their abortions today are feeling right and could not get their care and had abortion scheduled for this weekend, or will need appointments next week, or all of the abortion providers who are going to lose their job, not because they crossed the law, but because the law crossed them. It is the fact that they are criminalizing our jobs and criminalizing health care. That is absolutely terrifying. And I think so many people get it out here, but I don’t know that everybody really understands the full impact that this is going to have, no matter whether or not you wanted an abortion, you might have a stillbirth, you might have a miscarriage, the criminalization of pregnancy is terrifying, and it’s only going to continue. And so we really need people to understand what’s happening in this moment.

Andy Slavitt  08:25

And I want to talk a little bit about the burden where that falls, but you’re making the point about someone who walks into clinic this morning. And what happens. We had Robin Marty from West Alabama Women’s Center on our show a few weeks ago. And this is what she said she expected to happen today.

Robin Marty 

We live in a state that not only has a total abortion ban that was passed in 2019 and has no exceptions under any circumstances other than threat of life to a person who is pregnant. We also, our state has what’s known as a zombie law. So we have a pre roe ban on all abortion under all circumstances. And according to our legal counsel, and what we have been preparing for is the fact that the literal moment that the Supreme Court announces Roe v Wade is overturned. Abortion is instantly illegal.

Andy Slavitt 

Grace, is Robin right? And this is that what it feels like right now is abortion. Right now illegal in Alabama?

Grace Howard 

Yes, it is. Robin’s exactly right. And you know, I could add I’m glad Renee brought up the criminalization of pregnancy. This is my area of research expertise. So I’m working on finishing a book this summer about it and Alabama has been one of the leaders in this. So we don’t need to speculate about what it will look like when pregnancy is criminalized. It has been criminalized in Alabama since you know approximately 2013, where essentially even if you have a healthy pregnancy and birth, if they determined that you have done anything and that could potentially have a negative impact on a pregnancy, you are literally a felony child abuser from the moment of conception. That has been the case there hundreds and hundreds of people have been arrested, have lost their children, have sat in jail holding cells wearing nothing but the backless hospital gown, no pad to soak up the blood, nothing to clean up milk leaking onto their caesarean scars. This is already what it is like throughout the United States, not just in Alabama. And so we know that it’s only going to get worse now.

Andy Slavitt  10:38

Just to bring the point home, that was very powerful. We did ask Robin; she did describe what the scene would be like today. Here’s what she said.

Robin Marty

What that means in our clinic is that if we have patients who have come in to have their counseling, or because we are a state that requires to separate appointments, 48 hours apart, if they have had their counseling, and then come in for their actual procedure, or come in for their medication, at that moment, which would be 9am, our time that the Supreme Court says Roe is overturned, that means that we can no longer provide care if that person is sitting in the waiting room having already paid, they cannot have care if that person is back with our nurses with a Dixie cup full of water but has not ingested the pill again, because she’s waiting for the doctor, it does not matter, she needs to go home. If she is on an exam table, already medicated but has not been dilated. That would be considered illegal procedure if we go forward with it.

Andy Slavitt 

So does that describe the reality, Caitlin? And I think the point Grace was just making that this is not just isolated here. We’ve got things called Zombie laws and trigger laws. And I’m wondering if you could just walk people through what’s likely to be rolling through the country at this moment?

Caitlin Cruz  12:04

Yeah, for sure. So there is sort of a patchwork of how abortion policy works at the state level in America, which is why it’s so silly to be like, let’s just send it back to the States and they all will know what’s best because they the states have been fighting about this for decades, literally since Roe. So there’s pre-Roe bans, that some states are have had on the books since before Roe that were never repealed. And those exist in what we might what like people might think of as like stereotypically anti abortion a place like Alabama, a place like Michigan even and so those exist and they’ve just never been repealed. They’re on the books, they’re in theory enforceable, which will really be at the discretion of county attorneys, Attorney General’s so there’s that then there is a trigger ban, which is a law that says that’s passed really as a political win until now to say, if roe is overturned in whole or in part, then abortion is illegal. And that varies from state to state, right like that actual language is dependent on the actual state legislature. But those are the trigger bands that like in Alabama went into effect this morning at 10:10am. Eastern when they released when they released those decisions. But I think the other thing is that these beyond these laws, like the trigger bans, like the pre roll bands is that states in the southeast, and the Southwest have been dealing with 6 week bans. And this new novel approach to enforcing the 6 week band since September. So I live in Houston, Texas. And since September 1st, Texas has had this law called SB8 in place. And it is a 6 week ban, which they did say is a when a fetal heartbeat is detected. But what it is, is there’s cardiac activity on a monitor. There’s not like an actual heart beating. That’s a really, it’s a really potent anti-abortion talking point to be like there’s a baby’s heart there but it’s fetal cardiac activity that shows up on a monitor right. And so that’s been on the books since September when the Supreme Court refused to overturn this because the novel approach to its enforcement is private lawsuits against citizens, it empowers people to spy on their neighbors to sue their neighbors for providing aiding or abetting abortions, and that is the law of the land in Texas and so it has been for God it’s been almost a year now which is so horrifying and it’s led to spill overs in other states. You Most like very specifically into Oklahoma, which Oklahoma then became a problem because they not only pass their own six week ban, but then they banned abortion entirely. And so clinics that were taking on the overspill from the one of the most populous states in the country, then had to close their doors and tell people okay, now you have to go to Kansas. Now you have to go to Colorado. Now you have to try and make it to New Mexico. And so these, there’s just layers and layers of anti-abortion lawsuits on the books in the States. So it’s like, even if even if one good law passes, there’s so much to undo in almost every state.

Andy Slavitt 

Yeah, some of the work we did show that if you’d live in the tip of Florida, you might be 1000 miles from the nearest legal abortion. By the way, Renee, thank you for joining us today. I know there’s a lot going on there and you got more to do. I really appreciate you being with us.

Renee Bracey Sherman

Thank you so much. I’m gonna go rejoin my people. If you’ve had, if you’re out there and you’re listening, you’ve had an abortion, or you need an abortion, know that I love you. There’ll be so many of us out here who are going to make sure that you […] to abortion care. Don’t fret, we’ve got your back. We love you. Thanks for having me.

Andy Slavitt  16:15

Thanks for Renee. We’ll be back in just a moment.

Andy Slavitt 

Grace, let’s hear about what we learned from the ruling. It looks like the court voted six to three to uphold Mississippi’s ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy in that 5 to 4 to overturn Roe in the constitutional right it established. Can you explain this? Which justice change their vote? And why and what do we know from just the way the ruling came down?

Grace Howard 

I don’t know the backstory, I actually I didn’t even look at that to be honest with you. I like dove right into reading the text of this case. I know that there has been a lot of speculation about like wondering who leak this. Initially, people were thinking, you know, maybe this is some pro-choice clerk who’s trying to give us advance notice, I don’t know about that. I’m wondering if it was a conservative clerk who wanted to put this draft out there to kind of pressure the justices to stay where they are.

Andy Slavitt 

Clerk or justice?

Grace Howard 

Right? They because they don’t want to be perceived as being swayed by public opinion. So I’m wondering if that’s part of the reason why they leaked it. In terms of what it does, it puts everything directly back to the States. So if states want to ban abortion completely, they can. If states want to have no exceptions for abortion, prohibition like rape, incest, quote, unquote, health of the quote unquote, mother, they can do that. And of course, we know that they’re not going to stop there. This certainly opens the door for a federal level ban, which if the Republicans take Congress, I think is something we ought to anticipate. We already have seen attempts to curtail what kinds of contraception are available, because of course, they’re also trying to redefine what pregnancy means. So currently, when pregnancy begins, is actually not until implantation. And it’s hard for us to know the exact moment that that occurs. But so they are trying to ban contraceptive methods that function after quote unquote, fertilization, another period that we don’t quite know exactly when it happens. And so this would certainly include things like IUDs, this would include emergency contraception, which is not the same thing as the abortion pill. And so that’s the start of chipping away. I think, ultimately, if they wanted to ban barrier methods, they could. I’m talking condoms, y’all. So if you’re somebody who enjoys having sex to not make a baby, I think you should probably be worried about this.

Andy Slavitt 

Well, and as you said, people like to poopoo those kinds of things. And guess what, it’s very much how this stuff happens right before your eyes. Then this has been decades in the making. Alito wrote, in his majority opinion, the Constitution makes no reference to abortion. And no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision. And then he writes, it is time to heat the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. And I know you’ve been making your way through the opinion in the dissent, and it’s still early. Is there anything that you’ve seen so far in the opinion or in the dissent that stands out. One thing that really

Caitlin Cruz  20:01

stood out to me about the dissents is not only is it triple bylined, usually, your listeners probably have realized that like one justice, rights and opinion and the other sign on this one, all three of the Liberals that are left have co byline to this and to send a real strong message as much as a Supreme Court justice is capable of sending that kind of message, right. But then also, a part of the dissent is just the very clear eyed vision that the justices have of what is to come. They are very aware of what this all means. And they say the Court has held now that quote, a woman has no rights to speak of. And while the Supreme Court uses the word woman over and over again, there’s actually a really, the more accurate term is a pregnant person, because a lot of different people can become pregnant and have to deal with the fallout of this decision. And so the justices on the liberal side are very, are very clear eyed about what their colleagues are doing. And it is taking away that very basic freedom of people to decide what to do with their bodies. What’s interesting, though, is in the actual opinion, so like you mentioned, it’s a six three, and then a five for the actual idiosyncratic questions of the court. But a bunch of justices have filed concurring opinions. And so Justice Thomas, who is a bit of a crank, has filed an opinion that says it’s time that we reconsider Lawrence v. Texas, which is the case that held that gay people can have sex in the privacy of their own homes. He said, It’s time to, I believe it’s Griswold v. Connecticut, which is the birth control decision, which is again, that you can have contraception in the privacy of your own home between the privacy of you and your doctor. And then he also holds that..

Andy Slavitt

It’s worth reiterating what you just said, because I think this is really, what a lot of people have been wondering about. But can you say it again, Thomas wrote a concurring opinion. And he is suggesting that other rights that have been granted by the court, namely same sex marriage, and sex between men be looked at?

Caitlin Cruz  22:25

Yes. And it’s wild, because the decision that follows those lines, so that follows Griswold v. Connecticut that follows Lawrence v. Texas, and Obergefell v. Hodges, there’s a fourth one that he is not mentioning. And it’s Loving v. Virginia, which is this, which is the case that struck down Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws, which allowed black and white people to marry legally. And it’s interesting that that’s the one case that applies to his life, that he doesn’t care about, but everyone else’s life, the right to have same sex, like same sex with someone of the same gender, that doesn’t matter, to have the right to have barriers, to contraception, doesn’t matter to him. He’s already had his children. And so Thomas, he was kind of famous before Covid for just never saying anything at the court, right? And he slowly started talking more because like they had to like they were each given their a lot of time, right. But he’s really been in the background, just quietly pushing his own precedent and his own decisions forward. He’s really well known in like SCOTUS legal circles for just writing his own precedent into fact, he’s always citing himself. He’s always been like, well, as the Court held three years ago. And it’s like it’s a Thomas dissent, that he is, again, just edging in there and pushing in. And so he has been working at this project to dismantle these unenumerated rights, except for marriage equality in this one very small sense. For years for decades, like it has been his project to dismantle these rights except for this one that applies to him.

Andy Slavitt  24:09

If you get the sense that there’s some creepy old men deciding your life, it’s for a reason. Let’s take a quick break and come back and talk about what we could do to support those who are in need right now. I want to just finish with two more questions. And I want to start with you, Caitlin, because I just can’t help but feel like we need to acknowledge on a day like today, the misery and horror and torture that’s going to be inflicted on people. And I don’t use those words. I don’t think I’ve ever used those words. on the on the show. But can you just give us a sense of that reality? And then I want to finish up by exactly where we left it when Renee jumped off, which is okay, what should we be doing now?

Caitlin Cruz

Yeah, I think calling what’s happening today horrific is the most succinct way to say what’s happening. You cannot be a full person in this world, if you cannot control your rights to your own body. I think something that’s been really, one of the things like really made me need to take a minute for myself was the announcement by this Texas based group that does excellent work called Jane’s due process. So there’s something called parental notification laws. And that requires in some states that a parent or guardian must be aware of and consent to your abortion, if you’re under 18. And Jane’s due process announced today that until they figure out the legal implications of what’s happening, that they’re pausing their work. Like you said, that that means teenagers who are raped, but it also means teenagers who are pregnant from consensual sex, no longer have access to their bodies, people who we are responsible for, as adults in this world, we are supposed to help kids be able to live their best lives as well as each other. And so, Jane’s process, which, when they announced that was really something that caught me off guard, because again, this is a group of people that is really, really trying to help people live, live to their fullest potential.

Andy Slavitt  26:52

Let’s finish up Grace with what, and I’ll come back to you to Caitlyn for last word as well. We were reacting to this, but as you said, for people who are surprised, people, like yourselves have been talking about this for years. So where do we go from here? What are the likely to choose to drop an abortion specifically? I know we’ve talked about other types of cases, but and what do people who want to do something, do it maybe there are people who have been doing something all along, and they want to know what’s next. And maybe they’re people that are just waking up to the issue in a new way.

Grace Howard 

So, abortion just became essentially unavailable in about half of the states. And that is a terrifying prospect. And so for people who are concerned about this, I would just please urge you don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel. Right? There are people who have been planning, anticipating this moment for literally years and years and years. And they have already, you know, started this organizing process. So if you want to get involved, start with small things and big things, small things, donate to abortion funds, everybody knows Planned Parenthood, but I want to strongly encourage you to make donations to independent clinics who provide the vast majority of abortions in the United States and who really need our help. So look for abortion funds in your area. You can also look at the National Network for abortion funds. If you want to do that. You can also get involved as a clinic escort if abortion remains legal in your state. If you’re also somebody who’s living in a state where abortion is still legal, you should get involved in providing practical support for abortion patients, people will be traveling, people will be flying across the country if they can afford to do so, they will need a safe ride to the clinic, they will need a safe place to sleep at night. And if we can have folks in, in our guest rooms, instead of putting them up for hotels that helps us get care to more people. I would also strongly urge you to talk to your friends about this. I know abortion is considered stigmatized and taboo subject but the fact of the matter is that between 25% and 33% of women in the United States have an abortion in their lifetime. It is common, it is normal, and it is safe. And it is not something that you have to feel ashamed of. So please be open talk to your friends about these experiences. Now is not the time to give up. I’ll kind of wrapping up my feelings I know it can feel like a very hopeless time. However, our humanity does not come from the law and our humanity does not stop with the law no matter what they say. We are going to continue to fight to be recognized as fully human and we will protect one another going forward.

Andy Slavitt 

And I just say that it’s people like you and Renee and Caitlin have their backs. People who feel alone knowing that that there is a well-trained force of exceptionally smart, passionate people who have been initiated to firing this issue should help people feel like they’ve got people to join in places to go and in moments like this, psychologically, you know, that can be very meaningful. Caitlin, where would you leave us? And as you think about what to advise people, and I’m sure there are people who are out there wondering, I want to help, am I committing a crime if I help my incriminating myself you know, you know there’s gonna be people that are gonna throw stay rightly or wrongly, I’m not sure you know, it is illegal to help someone do this this or this. You could be incriminated it’s Bob justice element is talked about a Texas so helped either dispel some of that the mythology or guide people on some bit of a path.

Caitlin Cruz  30:57

Definitely, I think the first thing and this is a really good general rule, do not post about crimes online, I think it gets, it’s really cathartic to say I will be a safe haven. But as multiple advocates have pointed out this morning, posting about intent is something that can be used against you later that is can that can be considered depending on your jurisdiction, evidence of a crime leader. And so don’t post about your crimes. I think that’s number one thing we should take away from this is post about how much you love abortion and things like that. But like Do not say, I am going to house people who are having abortions, if that’s something that’s illegal in your state, you know, like, just as an example. The second thing is if you need help finding an abortion, ineedana.org. That is a vetted site that keeps up to date with where clinics are how to get the what kind of abortions they are allowed legally to provide. That is an amazing group of abortion activists who keep this site running daily and help people find abortions, abortionfinder.org is also an amazing resource for patients who are looking for care. Finally, if you’re experiencing a miscarriage, some kind of pregnancy outcome that you are worried about it being criminalized that if when how lawyer project for Reproductive Justice has a hotline, you can call, it’s 844-868-2812. It is staffed, they can walk you through what kind of legal risks you’re at how you can get help effectively and safely. And then I also echo what said before, the national network of abortion funds does do great collective work. That way you can that you can donate to but I would also recommend donating to keep our clinics. And that is run by the abortion care network, which is a group of independent clinics. So non-Planned Parenthood affiliated clinics usually stand alone in states like West Virginia, in Maine, in Georgia, in Texas, and that they specifically fundraise to keep those clinics open to keep those people so I really recommend those resources, if you’re so I think I covered if you’re criminalized if you’d like to donate, and how you’d like to help.

Andy Slavitt

That’s incredibly helpful. All three of those links and phone numbers are right there in our show notes. So all you have to do is go to the show notes if you didn’t write down what Caitlin said, and you’ll find the phone numbers, the purpose and the links for you, Caitlin and Grace, thank you so much for being with us today. And it was an incredibly busy and trying day. Okay, thank you enough. Okay, our next show will be Wednesday. And following that a Friday conversation, we’re going to bring you two really important topics, one in time for the holidays, how we test and make sure we’re testing and treating for Covid, before we travel and as we see people with a great Michael Mina, Patrice Harris. We’ll also have a really outstanding episode and conversation about some of the choices we face as energy prices go up and how that clashes with our climate goals, two important conversations. Please, I urge you to have a good day and weekend. Stay healthy, stay safe, stay mentally safe as possible. There are challenging days, but please spend them with people you care about and lend a hand to others that you know are hurting. Take care. Talk to you Wednesday.


Thanks for listening to IN THE BUBBLE. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kathryn Barnes, Jackie Harris and Kyle Shiely produced our show, and they’re great. Our mix is by Noah Smith and James Barber, and they’re great, too. Steve Nelson is the vice president of the weekly content, and he’s okay, too. And of course, the ultimate bosses, Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs, they executive produced the show, we love them dearly. Our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, with additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media at @LemonadaMedia where you’ll also get the transcript of the show. And you can find me at @ASlavitt on Twitter. If you like what you heard today, why don’t you tell your friends to listen as well, and get them to write a review. Thanks so much, talk to you next time.

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