Remember “Kelly,” the woman in the video receiving an episiotomy (12 times!) after she said, “No, don’t cut me!”?  Her real name is Kimberly and that’s her picture above, with her little son. Please consider donating to Kimberly’s legal fund here.

The doctor who cut her against her will was served yesterday with a lawsuit for assault & battery–and he was served in person by one of the women on Kimberly’s team.  (Kimberly would have taken the papers herself, but is not allowed to do so as she is the plaintiff in the case.)

Take a look…  And check out the press release below the video for more details!

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 4, 2015 

Contact: Dawn Thompson, President, Improving Birth
760-840-8723/dawn.thompson@improvingbirth.org

 

CALIFORNIA WOMAN CHARGES DOCTOR WITH ASSAULT & BATTERY FOR FORCED EPISIOTOMY

Landmark case seeks to affirm fundamental legal, constitutional rights apply to women in pregnancy and childbirth 

Los Angeles, CA—Mother Kimberly Turbin (previously known as “Kelly” to protect her privacy) has filed a complaint with the Central District of the Los Angeles County Superior Court against her former obstetrician, Dr. Alex Abbassi, for forcibly cutting her with scissors 12 times (“episiotomy,” the cutting of the perineum between the vagina and the rectum, link) despite her explicit refusal to consent during the 2013 birth of her only child. Advocates served Dr. Abbassi with the lawsuit yesterday (June 3) (link to complaint).

“Every time I hear one of these stories about women being ignored when they complained about how they were treated in the hospital, it reminds me of why I’m doing this,” said Ms. Turbin. “It took a lot of people to get this far, but this is the proof that you can do something.  This is a big step for women who have been silenced.”

Ms. Turbin is represented by prominent lawyer Mark Merin of Sacramento, who is widely known for his success in high-profile civil rights cases (link).  Mr. Merin stepped up to take the case after a year-and-a-half-long search for a lawyer, dozens of whom turned down Ms. Turbin’s case on the assumption that courts would not assign meaningful monetary value to the injuries she suffered.  “This is a historic action,” said Mr. Merin.  “Today, legal protections for American women in childbirth are uncertain—but with Ms. Turbin’s case, I intend to show that there are, indeed, real consequences when providers inflict harm on vulnerable patients.”

The alleged battery, which occurred at Providence Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California, was caught on video by a family member and has been viewed on YouTube by hundreds of thousands of people, generating support and donations from around the world (link).  The incident involved the outdated use of episiotomy—vaginal cutting that has been discredited for decades as harmful to women and not beneficial to babies when performed routinely (link).  Despite the weight of medical evidence, episiotomy is still sometimes imposed on women without medical need and often without consent (link), apparently for provider convenience. Such treatment is characterized as obstetric violence, which has now been criminalized in a handful of other countries. 

Forced and coerced procedures are a normal part of institutionalized childbirth in many places, including the United States (link), where multiple organizations endorsed the World Health Organization’s recent call for an end to “disrespect and abuse” in childbirth (link), and where the well-documented overuse of risky medical procedures in childbirth poses health risks to women and babies (link).  Although the U.S. has the costliest maternity care system in the world, it ranks with or below many third-world countries in maternal and infant health outcomes, and suffers from widespread failures to respect women as autonomous decision-makers in childbirth (See legal brief here).  Mothers’ advocacy group Improving Birth, which has been assisting Ms. Turbin along with Human Rights in Childbirth and others, continues its fundraising efforts to cover the costs of the case, estimated to be as much as $50,000 (link).

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also been notified of the claim pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, as the defendant doctor appears to have been employed by federally supported health center El Proyecto Del Barrio at the time of the incident.

 

For more information on Kimberly Turbin’s story, see Caught on Video: Improving Birth Breaks the Silence on Abuse of Women in Maternity Care and We Will Not Be Silenced: An Update on Kelly’s Story.

For more information on the issue of respectful treatment in childbirth, see Rinat Dray is Not Alone (Hayes-Klein, 2015) USAid’s Exploring Evidence for Disrespect and Abuse in Facility-Based Childbirth (Bowser and Hill, 2010) and the World Health Organization’s Prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during childbirth (2014). 

Contact Dawn Thompson, Improving Birth (760-840-8723) for interviews, including with lawyers involved in the case and childbirth rights.

Improving Birth is a national 501(c)(3) consumer organization that advocates for respectful, evidence-based maternity care.

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  1. Chris says:

    She said no, that is what matters. Dated “MD” needs to be held accountable for the assault. PERIOD.

  2. Brittney says:

    I would like to say first and foremost, especially to you Nanette, for you to imply that this was planned to sue the doctor is horrible. Why was it being recorded? Because she wanted to save the beautiful moment her son was born. I have known Kimmy for 10+ yrs and all I can tell you is she is an amazing strong HONEST woman. She busts her ass to care for her son and asks no one for anything. So please keep your hateful and down right mean comments to yourself. You have no idea what the heck your talking about. She said NO, bottom line. I love you Kimmy, and I’m so happy that your voice was heard.

  3. Nurse says:

    I am in no way condoning what this doctor did, but I’m pretty confident that there was a shoulder dystocia here and that’s what was holding the baby back. Did he realize it before he cut her? Doesn’t really seem like it. Seems like he thought it was the perineum preventing the baby from descending and that’s why he did the episiotomy. Yes he was a jerk about it, and no he probably should not have done it with her refusal. …But if the fetal heart tracing was declining I don’t know- you have to remember that this dr (yes look past the crap bedside manner and outdated training) has two patients- mom AND baby. And sometimes what is best for baby is not best for mom, unfortunately.

    1. Dawn says:

      Thank you for the comment although if you listen in, the fetal heart tones are clear in the background and show no distress. Also you would know that this baby only weighted 6lbs. Also, I can only assume you aren’t a L&D nurse because shoulder dystocia doesn’t happen until the head is out. He was impatient, that’s it. She asked him multiple times why he needed to cut her, he had plenty of opportunity to say that the baby was in distress but he didn’t. This mother wouldn’t have refused it if she was told her baby was in danger.

  4. BettyUK says:

    That’s fantastic news.
    I am glad that Kelly won her case.
    It is wrong to force a woman into having treatment or procedures she does not want.
    Now if we can get that other barbaric practice of strapping the arms down of women having C Sections in the USA banned that would be a big step forward.
    No woman should have to endure that either.

  5. Kass says:

    I was in labor several years ago and the labor nurse held me down, without any warning and shoved her hand up my privates to do a “cervical check”. There was no warning and she did not ask for my consent. If she had explained the procedure to me first, it would have been okay – but she did not do that. I later found out this type of behavior is very, very common amongst healthcare workers in labor wards. I also found out that hospitals ONLY hire women to work as labor nurses because they are far less likely to be charged with assault, battery or sexual abuse of the patients. If a man had done the same thing this female nurse did to me, he would have been locked up in prison. Before my pregnancy, I had heard rumors that women in labor were treated like animals in the hospital. My personal experience confirmed those rumors. Although I don’t believe every negative experience in the hospital would justify a lawsuit, I believe my own experience did because it was forced on me, I wasn’t given any warning or opportunity to even ask questions, and I was held down physically to prevent me from moving.

  6. Clair says:

    This is so wonderful! There are so many different ways women are marginalized and abused during labor. I had an emergency csection after four months on hospital bed rest and something went wrong with my spinal. I started feeling pain and being able to move my legs while be stitched up. I started screaming in pain and they gave me a small amount of pain killer. It did nothing to help. I was screaming and howling like the injured animal I was in the movement. I couldn’t talk and was clawing at the walls in the recovery room. I could feel everything. I had a doctor come in and tell me I wasn’t really in pain I was imaging it. Several nurses asked me if I was a pain killer addict! My very passive husband quietly asked for help repeatedly while trying to care for our newborn. I spent 8 hours in that recovery room in sheer agony when most people are only there an hour. Thankful my OB came back on duty and came to see me, confused as to why I was still in recovery, and was horrified! He called in a pharmacy consult and I was given a patient controlled pain pump and very soon felt human again and was able to hold my beautiful new son and leave recovery. I was forced to scream, howl and writh in pain for 8 hours because I was one of the 10% who do not respond to the morphine put in the spinal that should block pain for up to 18 hours after surgery. I was abused, accused of being crazy and denied painkillers. Instead they pumped me full of sedatives because the doctor thought I was imagining I was in mind blowing pain. It was so cruel. The worst part was my OB had prescribed painkillers for me after the surgery up to a pretty high amount and they never even gave me a 1/4 of what he had already approved me to have. My OB had to call in a pharmacy consult before I could be given the pain pump because they had given me so much sedatives! I will never have another baby because I’m too scared of what might be done to me when I can’t protect myself!

  7. Joy Szabo says:

    I am so happy about this case. I hope it starts opening eyes to the disrespect shown to laboring women, and things can turn around.

    1. Hi Joy! Nice to see your name again. How are you?

  8. Debra O'Conner says:

    Where do we donate to Kimberly’s legal fees?

  9. Tonita Rogers says:

    Interesting, please take it one step more and investigate cases of women who had had their children removed because of birth wishes, i e refusal of c section or home births and or child removed from hospital without cause…this would be very beneficial to all women.

    1. We are aware of cases such as you describe, unfortunately, and have tried to find counsel for the women and/ or filed amicus briefs. If you know of such cases, bring them to the attention of Improving Birth or Human Rights in Childbirth or Birth Rights Bar Association and we will try to find lawyers to help.

  10. Lisa B says:

    In 1987 my OB GYN said “You haven’t dilated.” He put in his fingers and ripped the tissue and said “We now you have.!” The swelling made his action useless so the labor continued on and on. For our next child my husband’s and my wish was for no doctor and my son was born before the doc arrived…

  11. Amanda Gentry says:

    Such a great positive start to this part of the journey!! What a wonderful team to have worked so hard to get this to come to fruition <3 thank you to everyone behind the scenes who've worked so tirelessly. You are being the change you want to see! Congratulations on the road so far!! I'm cheering you along!

  12. I thank and commend the entire team! It has been a long and difficult road to get here but this is a solid case with excellent counsel. Kimberly is going to get her day in court

  13. I am so so happy about this. Thank you so much Cristen. Thank you Kelly. Thank you women improving birth.

  14. Kristen says:

    This is fantastic news! I am so happy Kimberly will get her day in court. Thank you for all you do to support women. I am excited to learn more and get involved in supporting the cause.

    1. Nanette says:

      Women need to think before refusing an episiotomy! Would you rather have a full thickness tear into your rectum and have to have a colostomy when you are 50! Good grief women, there is a reason for an episiotomy, and that is so you do not rip and become incontinent of stool years later. I would rather have a controlled cut and controlled
      suturing rather a huge uneven tear that will be difficult to heal, and possibly require multiple rectal surgeries in the future. Have fun with your colostomy bags. I do not support this cause.

      1. Leah says:

        It’s not your choice. It’s the mothers. Period. I’m paying you to give me medical advice which I can choose to follow or not. Frankly, from all the stories I’ve read and my own personal experiences, I’m convinced that many obs give medical advice based on opinion not evidence. It’s their fault the trust is gone. Not the mothers. Big baby, low fluid, late term ultrasounds determining size, uneccessary inductions, small pelvis, uneccessary time limits during labor, once a cs always a cs. And the list goes on and on. Even when the ACOG guidelines state otherwise. No informed consent. Lies and scare tactics. Enough is enough.

      2. Patty says:

        Just to chime in with the rest of the professionals that sited recent research re the lack of evidence as to the benefits of episiotomy.
        At UCSF one of the top 10 medical schools in the country, and the top hospital for maternal/fetal medicine from Monterey CA to the Canadian border, in the west has an extremely low epis. rate, as do all of the Kaiser’s in the S.F. Bay Area-about 3-5%. There is one good reason for an episiotomy-if the baby is in distress, and it will speed the birth. Getting cut increases tearing, thus increasing incontinence. Please read the studies that were mentioned. Episiotomy has not been practiced routinely for at least 15 years, in institutions that strive for evidenced based medicine

      3. Kathy J says:

        Nanette, When I had my first two children in the 1980’s episiotomies were still fairly routine in the area where I lived. Mine, however, were done on a tightly-stretched perineum, not the soft-tissue cutting that Kimberly endured. When I was pregnant with my third child back in 1991, my doctor came to me and told me new evidence showed that episiotomies caused more harm than natural tears and they would no longer perform them (other than in extreme situations.) Your opinions expressed above are over 20 years out of date.

      4. Marlene says:

        I too, ask ed the doc not to do an episiotomy w my 1st. He did it anyway, 3 times (better than 12, granted!) he cut through full thickness of vag. tissue, severing some nerves in the process, which has caused me lifetime problems.
        I did stay home after that, had bigger babies & NEVER TORE! While I do see some homebirth clients tear occassionallly, it is not as pp said “full thickness” it stretches, & stretches, & if it tears at all, it is already way thinned out & rarely extends even half as far as an episiotomy would have. AND, may episiotomies cause more, deeper tearing, since the tissue integrity has been cut through by the epis in the 1st place. Also the routine “push, push, push, keeping pushing” coaching many (most?) hospital birthers get at crowning, (as opposed to breathing the baby out slowly & gently) causes tearing, so if you are having a typical hosp birth, you might as well get an episiotomy, since they will cause you bad tears anyway!
        I heartily agree with the advice for low risk women to avoid doctors & hospitals, unless the need arises!

      5. sarah says:

        I can tell you first hand that you have no clue what you are talking about, Nanette. My first child weighed 8lbs, 12oz and my doctor ASKED if she could cut me. I said no. She asked me a few mins later and said this was my last chance. I again said no. I tore (as I knew I would) but it wasnt bad, because I pushed slow, and my doctor support my perineum as I pushed. When I had my 2nd child I saw only midwives, and did not tear at all. An episiotomy causes weakness and can cause further tearing than is needed. Who cares about it being an easier fix? We should be more concerned with the mother’s needs than the doctor’s.

      6. Susan Jenkins says:

        @Nanette, please take a look at Cristen’s informative response to Erika. The lack of need for, and lack of efficacy of, episiotomy has been established in the medical research and literature for many years. This OB not only assaulted Kimberly despite her vocal refusal to consent, he also failed to follow accepted clinical guidelines. Studies have proven they do not prevent tears but, rather, are more likely to cause lasting harm.

        1. Nanette says:

          Susan,
          I viewed Kelly’s video on you tube.
          #1 I am appalled that someone would videotape the full view of the per area during delivery. No class at all..
          #2 This Dr. did not cut her 12 times. He was extending the primary cut.
          #3 He held off for awhile because he was trying to respect her wishes.Notice the baby did not come out with it’s cone head until he made the episiotomy.
          #4. He did the best to get the baby out- go back and listen to the heartbeat and converstion of the husband telling him to do the episiotomy.
          #5. If you don’t like to go to the hospital and have a deliver with medical help,
          then deliver yourself at home in a bathtub where you could potentialy have a brain dead baby.
          #6 Show me or refer me to the evidence based peer reviewed journals where this “movement”
          is coming from. I mean REAL peer review journals from medical organizations.
          #7 I think this campaign is a scam, for Kelly as well as those donating. Are you aware this was a
          planned video shoot to frame the doctor? The mother did this so she could sue? But the sad
          thing is, she won’t get much, the lawyer will.

          My big question is this? Why are you all even going to a doctor?

          1. @Nanette You asked for the research to which I referred? My reference is to the work of Michael C. Klein, M.D., CCFP, FCFP, FAAP (neonatal, perinatal), FCPS, a pediatarician/neonatologist and family practice physician researcher and educator based at the Children’s and Women’s Hospital and the Centre for Developmental Neuroscience & Child Health of the Child & Family Research Institute in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. At the recent North American Primary Care Research Group, Dr. Klein was honored for his significant contribution to research on episiotomies, including the following studies published in peer-reviewed journals in the U.S. and Canada.

            Resources for some of Dr. Klein’s publications on episiotomies

            Klein MC et al. Does Episiotomy Prevent Perineal Trauma and Pelvic Floor Relaxation? First North American Trial of Episiotomy.Inaugural issue: On-Line Journal of Current Clinical Trials. American Association Advancement Science. 1992;1:July 1 (Doc 10).

            Klein MC. From routine episiotomy to routine Cesarean section: how society came from rejecting one to embracing another. Bear Bones Publication of the Department of Family Practice University of British Columbia. 2010. Spring 10 (1): 12-17.

            Klein M: Studying Episiotomy: When Beliefs Conflict with Science. J Fam Practice 1995; 41(5):483-488.

            Klein MC.What do episiotomy and cesarean have to do with Copernicus, Galileo and Newton? Birth. March 2010; 37(1): 1-2.

            Klein MC, Kaczorowski J, Robbins JM, Gauthier RJ, Jorgensen SH, Joshi AK: Physician Beliefs and Behaviour within a Randomized Controlled Trial of Episiotomy: Consequences for Women under their Care. Can Med Assoc J, 1995; 153(6):769-779.

            I will not dignify the rest of your untrue and insulting speculation and insults. with any further response.

      7. Cristen says:

        Nanette, are you aware that episiotomies are responsible for more severe tears and complications, like what you described? Their routine use has been discouraged for over 25 years because of the harms they cause–things like incontinence and sexual dysfunction.

        Here are some resources on episiotomy:

        (1994) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8092203
        (2005) http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=200799
        (2011) http://www.ohri.ca/kta/docs/kta-episiotomy-evidence-summary.pdf

      8. Lindsay Switzer says:

        There was no reason for THIS episiotomy and it was over her express refusal. Women do not surrender their bodies when they go into a hospital. Just go away and I hope no one ever cuts your perineum while you tell him not to.

    2. Erika says:

      This is such bs. So she would have rather ripped ?? Which btw is much harder to sew and correct. She is so offended the md did what was necessary? I think this is exactly why md’s dont want to practice medicine anymore. A gentle episiotomy? Um she was numbed and didnt feel it- so how was this inhumane? If he had obtained ‘consent’ – which btw is not necessary for this during a delivery- she prob would have sued him anyway- saying she was under duress and medicated. You people should just have your babies at home- what so want some licensed medical professional ‘assaulting’ you for. Such bs- Just stay away feom md’s and care providers- We would be happy to NOT treat and care for people like you.

      1. Melanie says:

        I fear for our future in te medical field if they are full of un educated people like you. Tearing is actually better than being cut because it heals faster. Go back to med school and actually learn something.

      2. Shawn Welsh says:

        Erika, I have been an OB nurse for 30 years now. As I watch the video, I am appalled at this physician’s care of the pt., as should every OB nurse who cares about what is best for the pt. and baby. Years ago, the practice of episiotomy was similar to what is shown on the video. Thankfully, the hospital I work at has physicians and midwives who practice evidence based medicine and truly care about the pt. As nurses, my co-workers and I take our jobs very seriously, especially the part that requires us to be a pt. advocate. Believe me, if one of our providers mistreats a patient or intends to perform an unnecessary procedure, we as nurses are all over it! Because we care…and because working closely with our pt., we know what is necessary and what is not. Healthcare workers who do not advocate for their pt. are a disappointment to the profession. Clearly, this video is a prime example of physician impatience. No fetal distress heard, mom probably had about another half hour of pushing yet before we would even know if she would possibly tear, and her clearly stating she did not want cut makes it obvious to me that her physician is a quack, and should not be practicing in OB. I hope this movement opens the eyes of many providers and nurses out there, and improves the care of maternity patients across the country. I am not a big supporter of lawsuits, knowing that in OB, things can go horribly wrong, not always unavoidably, but in this case I stand with Kimberly and all the other mothers who have been unlucky enough to have poor care providers.

        1. Bobby Owens says:

          Shawn Welsh,
          What about unnecessary hysterectomies.Doctors and nurses don’t tell the women the truth about the side effects and consequences of removing functioning healthy female organs. Because if you did tell the truth there wouldn’t be half million uninformed women a year getting hysterectomies in United States

      3. Le Duay says:

        They are not always needed. My first son was delivered naturally , no cutting . I had to have 1 stitch. I was 16 at the time. It healed rather quickly. My second son I was cut and had to have 8 stitches. They left horrendous scar tissue. That my third ob-gyn had to deal with. My third son was delivered with no cutting either. No stitches needed at all.
        I am glad women are finally fighting to have their rights in the delivery room.

      4. Nanette says:

        Totally agree with you Erika! So it seems the doctor has been served, but no court yet?

      5. samsaunt says:

        Ripping is actually easier to repair and heals better than an episiotomy.
        Our docs rarely do episiotomies anymore unless there is something like shoulder dystocia going on and even then it’s not often.

      6. Leah says:

        It’s the mothers choice. Period. End of story.

      7. Patty says:

        Erika! please do not comment on what you know nothing about!

        MANY studies have proven that tearing is no worse than being cut, and an episiotomy usually makes a woman tear more! It also heals better than a tear.

        There is a good time to do one: If the baby is in distress and it would speed the birth. This baby’s heart rate was perfect the whole time the video was being shot.

        The leading medical center for Northern California, UCSF ( and in the top 10 medical schools in the country) has a very low episiotomy rate, as do all the Kaisers in the S.F. Bay Area; about 3-5%. The doctors excuse for an episiotomy was medically invalid. My guess, instead of being a macho bully, is that he was simply impatient.

        Patty Lipinska

      8. Kait says:

        I had an episiotomy. I can’t remember consenting or not at the time, but I remember saying before the birth that I did not want it unless it was a last resort. I had a midwife for my pregnancy. I don’t even know if i was numbed because it all happened so quick. I had no medications and was 100% aware of everything happening. I’d also like to note that the tear I had on top healed much quicker and nicer than the episiotomy on the bottom.

        You seem to be one of those “high horse” types. When someone says NO, it means NO. You have no right to decide something for someone when they have explicitly said otherwise. That IS assault.

        “You people should just have your babies at home- what so want some licensed medical professional ‘assaulting’ you for.” This sentence makes no sense. If you’re going to rant from the veiw of a “medical professional” I would expect you to be able to type your words correctly.

      9. chrissy kelly says:

        I agree 100%. The nicest thing a Doctor could do is cut you instead being ripped like I did. I begged mine to cut me, and she refused, and the stitches were horrible, and I read some may still have issues later down the road.

      10. Cristen says:

        Erika, it’s concerning that even though you seem to be a medical professional, you are unaware of the medical evidence around episiotomy (it has been discouraged for decades now as a routine practice because of the harm it causes) or of the right of competent adult patients to informed consent and refusal.

        Several physicians reviewed the video of Kimberly’s birth and stated that this was not a necessary episiotomy. Here was what one said, who is known internationally for his research on episiotomy:

        “The physician here applied a medio-lateral episiotomy unnecessarily early through thick tissue, but rather than making a single definitive cut, he makes a series of short cuts that cause unnecessary bleeding and will interfere with healing. The episiotomy was done so early that the perineal tissues did not have time to stretch, so that the tissues were thick and bloody, a situation that would not have pertained if the professionals had waited… Having decided in advance to do an episiotomy, the doctor apparently does not even know how to do one–how to time it to minimize trauma. This behavior makes it more likely that severe trauma will occur, including tearing into or through the rectum. Our research and the research of others show that it is episiotomy that is the cause of severe trauma, not the prevention of severe trauma…. [T]he doctor and the nurses were simply unwilling to allow time for the perineum to stretch, so that episiotomy would be not needed…. The mother is clear that she does not want an episiotomy. Her wishes are ignored and the clearly planned episiotomy is simply justified in advance so that the professionals can do what they planned to do anyhow…. It was all about the impatience of the professionals who were not remotely interested in the values and needs of the mother. They just wanted the birth expedited. This is a picture that was often routine in the past, but since the early 1980s this approach cannot be justified, if it ever was… [T]his video shows a woman assaulted by uncaring professionals who ought to be sanctioned.”

      11. Carey says:

        Did you not read the story? She only pushed THREE times. Hardly enough to push a baby out much less cause for an episitomy. If you actually pick up and read a book, you would know that tearing is much easier to heal from rather than a surgical cut. Please do research before you go spewing hatred or maybe even try giving birth.

        1. Jami Birchfield says:

          So not true. I was given an episiotomy with my first child. It healed nicely. I ripped with second child and it was a nightmare to get stitched back up. I still have problems down there from it. I would prefer I nice even clean cut any day of the week!!!

          1. Nanette says:

            Jami,
            I agree with you. But I must tell you if you say anything this group of “birthers” don’t like like they will remove your post! Hilarious, they can’t handle the truth and don’t want to hear the opposite viewpoint. No discussions or comments allowed, that’s why they don’t have but a handful of posts up. They take them down. Amusing.

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