A Christian Guide to Choosing a Birth Control Method

   

Image by JackelynAnn

There are some groups of Christians, such as the Quiverfull movement , who are opposed to the use of birth control.

I’m not a member in any of those groups.

I’m in the group that advocates the use of birth control in a monogamous marriage, whereby both partners have prayerfully considered the chosen method and agree that it is God honoring, obedient to His call for their marriage, and respectful of human life.

As a mom of 3 boys, I can tell you that children are indeed a blessing.  However, they are not the only blessing in my life.  Hence, the use of birth control.  After talking with many of my friends about this subject, I can tell you that it is a common dilemma to grapple with the decision of a chosen method of birth control.

Therefore, this isn’t a post about whether Christians should or should not use birth control.  Rather, this post seeks to explain how various birth control options work and the ethical dilemmas involved in using them.

I’m hopeful that the information provided will help you to make an educated decision about what is best for your family.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me warn you that what you are about to read is intended for mature audiences only.

Types of Birth Control

Abstinence: While this is the only guaranteed method to prevent pregnancy, Paul warns against this.  We’re told in I Corinthians 7:5, “Do not deny eachother except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  So, we’ll consider this one a no-go.

Withdrawal: The man removes his penis from the vagina prior to ejaculation, reducing the chances of semen/sperm reaching the uterus.  No potential dilemmas here, other than the fact that it isn’t particularly accurate.

Natural Family Planning: Without the use of drugs or any devices, a woman is able to determine when she is ovulating based on her basal body temperature and cervical mucus.  The couple refrains from sex during ovulation, thereby preventing pregnancy.  I know many people who have used this method to get pregnant as well as to avoid pregnancy.  Thumbs up if you have a regular cycle, are able to abstain during ovulation, and are organized and responsible enough to keep track of it all.

Barrier methods: Options include the male condomfemale condomcontraception spongediaphragmcervical cap, or spermicide.  These methods either prevent sperm from entering the uterus or kill sperm before they enter the uterus.  Another win, but most couples are more concerned with the interruption and/or lack of spontaneity involved in these methods.

Permanent Measures:  When a man has a vasectomy, the vasa deferentia are severed to prevent sperm from entering the seminal stream.  When a woman has a tubal ligation, her fallopian tubes are clamped or blocked to prevent an egg from reaching the uterus for fertilization.  I don’t see any ethical dilemmas here if you have already had children, have responded to God’s call for procreation in some way, or have a medically necessary reason.

Intrauterine Device (IUD):  Both the Copper IUD and the Hormonal IUD create changes in the cervical mucus and the uterus that kill sperm.  Secondarily, it also creates changes in the lining of the uterus, preventing implantation should fertilization occur.

Hormonal Methods: These methods include The Pill, vaginal ring, birth control patch or injection.

According to the American Pregnancy Organization, hormonal methods prevent pregnancy via one of three ways:

  1. First, it prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation)
  1. Second, it thickens the cervical mucus, acting as a barrier in preventing the sperm from reaching the egg
  1. Third, it makes the lining of the uterus thinner, making it more difficult for a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus should ovulation occur and fertilization take place

Last week, Eric McClellan offered an insightful post about embryonic stem cell research.  What followed was an educational discussion about when life begins.  In the vein of full disclosure, let me share that I do indeed believe that when a sperm and an egg meet (an egg is fertilized), so begins human life at conception.  Others believe that life does not begin until the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus (which occurs about one week after conception).

If you agree with me that life begins at conception, then both the IUD and the hormonal methods are cause for concern.  There is a possibility that a fertilized egg, a very early human life, may be prevented from implanting into the uterus and therefore resulting in a miscarriage.

In his book Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?, Randy Alcorn says, “If implantation is unsuccessful, the child is flushed out of the womb in a miscarriage. When the miscarriage is the result of an environment created by a foreign device or chemical, it is in fact an abortion. This is true even if the mother does not intend it, and is not aware of it happening.”

Conversely, the Christian Medical and Dental Association has this to say, “The issue at hand, however, is whether or not hormonal birth control methods have post-fertilization effects (i.e., cause abortion). CMDA has consulted many experts in the field of reproduction who have reviewed the scientific literature. While there are data that cause concern, our current scientific knowledge does not establish a definitive causal link between the routine use of hormonal birth control and abortion. However, neither are there data to deny a post-fertilization effect.”

In this sense, you can see that there are differing views on the subject and prayerful consideration should be given to these methods of birth control.

How do we choose?

Any couple will tell you that this a difficult decision.  Take heart in the fact that God grants wisdom to those who seek it.  If you are unsure as to what form of birth control is best for your situation, I encourage you to do some research, talk it over with people you trust (friends, pastor, your doctor), and most importantly ask God! He has created sexuality for procreation as well as for pleasure.  If you are married, you should enjoy the gift of intimacy with your spouse to the fullest extent possible, and that might involve using birth control.

Were you surprised by any of this information?  Which method(s) do you consider most ethically sound?  Do you see any ethical dilemmas that weren’t mentioned?

Keri Welch is a pop culture aficionado and blogger at Pop Parables—be sure to check out her incredibly interesting articles and her fan page here!

THEOLOGY21 is a co-op of authors dedicated to renovating theology for a new generation, taking the ancient truths of scripture and theology and speaking to the post-Christian culture of the 21st century. To keep up-to-date on all things THEOLOGY21, Give our Facebook page a “like”, follow our twitter page, add yourself to our email list, or subscribe to our feed!
 
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  • Kayla K.

    I enjoyed this article because many couples don’t bother to research all the possible birth control methods. Especially the hormonal methods in which was covered in this article. I know my husband and I didn’t fully look into the specifics of the pill when we first got married and decided to make that our birth control method. However after our win research and prayer we decided to stop using the pill as our form if birth control because of the chance it can abort, in our opinion. I hope this article allows married couples make informed and Gidly decisions about birth control. Thanks for sharing!

  • Shi Thead

    There is a hole in the boat. But this isn’t a post about whether Christians should or should not help with the problem, I’m just sating the obvious.  Thanks for the post J.D.

  • Which problem are you referring to?

  • Kayla, to be honest with you, my husband and I weren’t aware of the full ramifications of using the pill either.  I don’t feel that this information is widely known or expressed, especially in Christian circles.  It has only been in the past few years that I’ve noticed people talking about it. 

    I’m happy to hear that you conducted your own research and prayed earnestly about this decision. I hope that others find this information beneficial, just as you have!  Thanks for sharing your experiences so openly.

  • My wife did so much research before we decided on the IUD. I think we have had this for about four years so if im not mistaken every five years you have to replace. It’s done its job thus far but man do i feel God telling me to have MORE KIDS!! ahah. My wife does not agree at the moment but I almost feel like everyone should be like the 18 and counting family aha. 

  • I find it humorous that it’s often the men who want more kids!  :)  Sounds like you might treading into the Quiverfull group, Joey! 

    Happy to hear that you and your wife made an informed decision about the IUD.  I think in many ways, people (myself included in the past!) simply opt for what their friends do/did or what their doctor recommends.  There are many who don’t even know how the methods work, or even what the risks are.  If you guys are happy with the IUD method and have prayerfully considered the options, I think you’re good to go. 

    Personally, I would literally go insane if I had 18 kids.  Some days I’m on the brink of insanity with just the three I have now.  Thanks for sharing, Joey.  :)

  • Pingback: A Christian Guide to Choosing a Birth Control Method | Pop Parables()

  • For my wife and me, we found out there were other biological issues. Mood swings and other irritability resulted from being on the “pill.” We got off of that thing as quick as possible. We now use no method at all—something we talk about rectifying but have not as of yet. No babies yet please. hahaha. 

  • Wow, I feel so completely ignorant right now. Thanks Keri, this was very informative for me.

    I’m going to have to pray about this, for sure. I’ve never had a problem with the pill but I’ve also never really researched it either. I have a lot to consider with this.

  • Keri,

    Your research skills are spot-on.  Very impressive!  My head is swimming with all this information.

    My birth control, and the birth control of my bride, is simply God’s will.

    If we get pregnant, so be it.  If we go the rest of our covenantal life together without any more children, so be it.  We will neither purposely seek, nor seek to prevent, any more children.  My sperm, her egg, God’s will.

    God’s will.  In all things. 

  • ??  What?

  • Wouldn’t it be awesome if the ads for birth control included images of women in mood swings and completely irritable?  LOL

    No babies yet…hmm, I’ve got some birth control for you.  I can drop my kids off for a week or so, and travel around SoCal alone. 

  • So excited that I’ve helped you to become a little more edjumacated.  :)  Def do some of your own research.  Check out Randy Alcorn’s little book in its entirety here http://www.epm.org/static/uploads/downloads/bcpill.pdf and also this great article for the opposing view http://www.prolifephysicians.org/abortifacient.htm.

  • Thanks, Donald.   So, hmmm, I didn’t even consider “God’s will” as an option, but I do know some, like you, who view it as such.  At least we can say that one is Biblically baesd, will not have adverse side effects like blood clots and extreme mood swings.

  • “At least we can say that one is Biblically based, will not have adverse
    side effects like blood clots and extreme mood swings.”

    Bingo.

    And it is without controversy, never has to deal with using a pill, condom, sperm-trampoline IUD,  or any such things.

    Besides, it’s better than thinking, “Oh my, can we afford another kid?  Are we ready?  What if it is born with a handicap?  What if I lose my job and the income?”, because since it all comes down to His will and not our earthly fears, and He makes sure to meet us more than halfway in it.

    He’s awesome like that.

  • Moe

    Wow Keri, you brought your nerd glasses for this one. Amazing post. 

    I really believe birth control is the best indication of the trust and faith we have in God. If you can trust God that he opens and closes the womb, will you not trust him to give you the children he has planned for you? The answer to that question is a big fat No! Christians do not trust God enough to let him decide how many children he should give. 

    Birth control to me is telling God “My will be done here on earth and yours be done up in heaven”.

  • I echo Moe, but a little differently:

    “I really believe (NOT USING) birth control is the best indication of the trust and faith we have in God.”

  • Maria

    I have used various forms of birth control, both before and after marrying my husbad. I did not care for the side effects that they had on my body. I gained weight and felt very very sluggish. Now after our third child we have decided to use our own version of the Natural Family Planning method. I don’t take my temp or anything, because really who has the time for that every morning before you get up from bed. We have decided to completely leave it up to God. If He chooses us to have another one then so be it. Now is not the greatest time for us to be having another child but it’s God’s will not ours that needs to be done. I have people asking me all the time if we are having more children and my reply to them is that it is up to God. We would love to have more, and will probably have more, but it is when God decided to bless us with another one that we will have one.

    Thank you so much Keri for posting this. I have been struggling with birth control and what is best and this just reaffirms that we have made the right decision for us. Great job.

  • That is certainly not the way that God works with other areas, why would we expect this with reproduction. God truly does open and close doors for us, be it financially, relationally, occupationally, whatever; but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to put effort into our finances, our relationships, or our jobs. It may well be God’s will for a couple to not have kids and birth control should be part of that. God invites us to play our part in His will for our lives.

  • Starla

    Well, I work with a lot of families who trust God to give them the number of children He intends…  most of them have 9-15 children.  So, unless you’re prepared to raise one child per year…
    I think that argument that using birth control is like not trusting God is comparable to not taking medication because God is the healer and you aren’t trusting Him to heal.  It’s full of holes. 
    Children are a blessing in large and small numbers.
    Barrier methods sit best with me, spiritually.  I, too, believe that life begins at the moment of conception.  That said, I have no problem accepting another Christian’s belief that hormonal methods are okay because they believe that the soul is formed at some later time. 

  • Moe

    I hear you Eric, I’m just trying to think of an example where God ever said that anyone “should not” have children. In OT times the womb that didn’t reproduce was considered cursed. Children in the Bible are always seen as a blessing. The only other example I can think of is for Enuchs who did only to seperate themselves for the service of God. Some were born, some were made and some made the decision, but always for the kingdom’s sake. If we are honest, today’s society doesn’t want to have kids because of many reasons and service to the Lord is not one of them. It’s usually career, freedom and any other reason. 

  • Moe

    That’s exactly what I meant dude. 

  • As you’ve already mentioned, there are lots of people who are serving God who shouldn’t have 9-15 childred. For example, missionaries who have a hard enough time supporting themselves and their ministry.

    At the same time, I think career, freedom, and other reasons (financial for example), are some reasons why God would want people to abstain from having children. God uses people in all types of careers, medicine to be an example. I can’t imagine what the field of medicine would look like if all of the good christian people never made it to medical school because they had too many kids.

    At the same time, people need some freedom to hear God’s call. A friend of mine has been spending a few months every year in Costa Rica serving along side some missionaries down there. If he had kids, that really wouldn’t be an option.

  • Moe

    Do you think God doesn’t have the power to close the womb and give someone 2 kids instead of 15?  Do you think God won’t provide to a family of 9? I guess my whole perspective on this is that we can trust God in our finances, our children, our lives. But we are often not doing just that.

  • Sure He can. He can also send me a million dollar inheritance, but that doesn’t stop me from balancing my checkbook.

  • Sure He can. He can also send me a million dollar inheritance, but that doesn’t stop me from balancing my checkbook.

  • I hear what you’re saying, Moe.  Mike and I feel that if God wants us to have more children, He will let us know.  And, at that point we will discontinue use of birth control.  We are both completely open to the Lord telling us to have more children.  But, at this point in time, we don’t feel that is something He is calling us to.  So, we are still completely open and ready to do as He says.  We have also had a very clear vision (from God) about the size of our family, long before we had children.  I even knew that we would have three boys-no joke.

  • Starla…I like what you said here >> Children are a blessing in large and small numbers.  So true!  While I agree that God can and does provide for us in all things, I agree that He asks us to do our part.  And, at the same time be open and willing to trust Him when He calls us out of our comfort zone.  EEK!  So glad you stopped by, girl.

  • Well said Moe. I think that often this mirrors why people have abortions. They want their own will to be done often times. Not alway, but often people don’t want kids because it will get in the way of their money, freedom, and bikini. 

    That being said, for my wife and I—newly married—we were on the pill. Now we use other methods—condoms namely. I don’t see this as a sin nor as a rejection of God’s will. Ancient people have been using birth control since the beginning. We see this with the most ancient of condoms made from goats’ bladders or the old “pull-out” method by Onan in Genesis 38:9. Now this guy was condemned because he just wanted to have sex with his brothers wife and not live up to his family duty and get her pregnant. 

    The point is, these practices were well known and are nothing new. Nothing in the law prohibited them. You are right that an unproductive womb was a “curse” because it was seen as such from God.  

    For my wife and I, we want kids terribly but want to wait for a little bit until we have school finished and careers solidified—and all after praying and pursuing the heart of God.  

    At the heart of this issue, I think we need to pray and ask that we ask the Holy Spirit for conviction and pray that He would convict us of what is sin in our lives. 

    This may well be an individual sin and not a universal one—wrong for some but not others. 

    Thanks so much for the comments Moe. They are thoughtful and make the discourse THAT MUCH BETTER! 

  • Like so many things, this is really a decision that is between you, your husband and God.  What matters most is that you have prayerfully considered the options and are doing what you feel is best, what God is asking of you. 

    I’m glad this post was affirming of your choice.  Thanks so much for reading!  :)

  • p.s. You may call them nerd glasses, but I assure you they are supercute and trendy.  :)

  • well I have a daughter from a previous marriage. She is seven and spends the weekends and holidays with us. We want more but want to be responsible and wait for God to provide my unemployed butt with a paying job. Praise Him for all He provides!!!! 

  • Keri,

    I must admit, I am a bit confused by this set of comments from you.  I mean, you say that having more kids is not something right now you feel the Lord calling you to do.  Yet, your husband has sperm, you have eggs, and your marriage covenant is well established.  What is stopping Him from telling you He wants you to have more kids?

    Could you say with complete and total confidence that it is not your wills that are being construed as being His “not telling you”?  I see no reason, apart from earthly concerns, to not want to have kids.  I say this in the context of using birth control.  By using birth control you are telling God you don’t want more kids.  BC is available, to be sure, and it is not 100% foolproof, but the heart posture is that you are telling our Father you don’t want more children.

    I say this not as an accusation, (you know me, Keri), but as an honest set of observations.  Thank you, in advance, for your attention and response.

  • Actually there is a running joke amongst several missionaries I know.  “The way you get more support is have more children.”  (Let me be very clear… it is a joke!!!!)

    However, it is very interesting:  those that may have forgotten you because of the distance, are instantly reminded of you when it comes to a baby.  They can’t imagine you having a baby in a third-world country.  

    This year God has sent several people to Peru, to minster to this country.  In the process, separately, God has put on their hearts to tell us that Amanda will be pregnant this year.  We have been married for 6 years, more than four of those have been without ANY FORM of birth control.

    As far as people having or not having a bunch of children in ministry… it’s all about perspective isn’t it?  

    For example, God knows very clearly, because I will tell all, that my children will be formed as a dedicated generation for Him.  I want world changers.  I want them to have more faith, more desire, more humbleness, more EVERYTHING, than I have ever had.  I want them to be able to go to places I couldn’t go.  Evangelize to people I could never reach.  I want them to be my extended arms… but at the same time to look at me as the floor for potential, not their roof.

    God’s call does not really hinge on our personal lives, it hinges on our faith.  Are we willing to have faith and say “yes” no matter the circumstances.  If God says children are a blessing, and you are called into service in another country, He will not put a blessing as an obstacle.  It just doesn’t fit. It is an opportunity to show Him your faith.

  • Duh…I finally caught this person’s screen name.  Shi.  Thead.  ….sometimes clever and classy screen name games go right over my head.

  • Nothing is stopping God from telling us to have more kids.  That’s pretty much the point I was making.  He could tell us to have more kids, and we would be obedient to that. 

    I don’t think that hearing from God and following His will exclude the use of birth control.  If He desires for us to have more kids, all that would necessitate is simple discontinuation of the use of birth control.  That is how it has happened in the past.  For quite some time, we did not think we would have a third child.  God lovingly convinced us otherwise.

    Mike and I have both prayerfully and earnestly considered this situation.  We have sought God’s heart and we don’t feel that no longer having children means we are disobedient to His calling on our lives or His will for us.  I trust that if this was true, the Holy Spirit would convict me as such.  He has done so in other areas of my life where I was simply regarding MY will as His.   

    This may be an area where we agree to disagree, and I’m ok with that!  I have some very dear friends who believe just as you do on this subject.  I love them just the same, and their children are some of the greatest and most treasured blessings in my life.

  • Keri,

    By using birth control you are telling Him you don’t want more kids.  This is why it is called “birth control”.  This is not a matter of you saying, “if it is Your will”, then popping a pill or having your husband wear a condom or whatnot.  Those actions seem to me to be going against your saying you want His will.  To want His will, in my simpleton opinion, would see you stop using BC at all, and leaving it up to His Will, indeed.

    Perhaps you are correct, my sister.  Perhaps we do agree to disagree.  It just seems to me you are saying, “I want God’s will, but…um…please wear a condom.”

    You know we are straight with one another.  I come away from most conversations with you feeling quite sharpened!  :)

  • Emilie Poor

    I will add another twist into the mix. I feel that the Lord wanted us to stop having children so that we could do foster parenting. We have four kids and I would have happily and joyfully had many more kids of my own. I strongly felt (as did my husband Randy) that we were suppose to stop having kids so that we could do foster care in the near future. The state of Oregon will not let  you have more then 8 children in your home (biological and foster). We felt that the Lord was telling us that if we had kids we wouldn’t be able to open up our home to other kids without homes and that the Lord was calling us to do foster care. 
    Honestly it has been really hard for me to know that I will not give birth to anymore kids but we feel that this was us heading in the right direction for what the Lord wants us to do. 

  • Emilie Poor

    so to finish this up my husband got a vasectomy to prevent us from having anymore kids. He did that about 4 months ago and no babies yet!

  • Great post Keri. I had heard about the IUD and decided that I would never use that. (Strange that I even think about birth control since I’ve been single for 5 years, but if I ever remarry…) I didn’t know exactly how the pill worked, but I had already decided I would never get on the pill again because it made me crazy and emotional. I don’t think I realized how the pill affected me until I stopped using them.

    Anyway, there is some great discussion going on here. I personally don’t have a problem with birth control, but I think it is very important to research what type to use. I think that Natural Family Planning might be something I would consider if I ever remarried, but I guess that would depend on my future husband as well because there is always a chance of pregnancy and my daughter was a happy accident (accident on mine and my husband’s part – not God’s) when I was trying NOT to get pregnant, but after I had given up the pill.

  • Dang…this was so informative, Keri! Your skills are impressive, indeed.

    Really good convo in the comments as well.  Lynnette and I currently use BC, after much prayer. We also take Motrin when we have headaches…..so damn us both to hell!

  • Justin,

    Motrin is gonna send me to Hell?  Dang it.  And all this time I just KNEW I shoulda been an Aleve user!  Drat the luck and curse you evil pharmaceutical overlords!!

    :)

  • Aleve???? That’s straight up east coast remedy there my friend. :)

  • Shaun, I really like what you said here >> If God says children are a blessing, and you are called into service in another country, He will not put a blessing as an obstacle.  It just doesn’t fit.  It is an opportunity to show Him your faith. 

    I really like how you summed it up there.  And, quite honestly, this is kind of thinking that convinced us that we should have a third child.  We knew we would never regret a third child, but we might regret NOT having a third. 

  • I know a lot of women who were on the pill since before they were married and they had no idea how much it affected their sex lives, since they had never had sex before.  So many things changed once they stopped using the pill. 

    I think “chance of pregnancy” goes along with marriage (and sex in general).  And, that is something you have to accept even if you are using birth control.  For me, that was a big thing I needed to swallow since I got married very young (barely 20) and had a lot of things I wanted to do before I had kids.  But, it all worked out.   

    Thanks for sharing, Jenn!

  • Emilie-that has to be the coolest reason ever I have heard for having a vasectomy!!!  I know you would be an amazing foster mom!  Can’t wait to see how God uses you in the lives of those children who have likely never known true love.

    I don’t think Mike and I will have any more children either.  But, like you, this is part of God’s calling on my life.  Being a mom of all boys, people always ask me if we’re going to try for a girl.  I know we’re not, because God has clearly told me that even though I don’t have any daughters of my own, He has many daughters for me in my {future} ministry with high risk youth, most specifically girls. 

  • Thank you for your kind words, Justin!  Research is like a puzzle for me-it’s fun.  I actually read so much more than what was included in this post.  I could talk about this for quite some time.  hehehe 

    Wait, now, I thought “headache” was a form of birth control?  😉

  • “Wait, now, I thought “headache” was a form of birth control?  ;)”

    …groan…*facepalm*  LOL!

  • Emilie Poor

    That’s awesome Keri!  I have a friend who is in her mid 40’s now and she had 4 boys. She fully believes that the reason that God didn’t give her any girls is that it has allowed her to invest in the lives a young women in a way she wouldn’t have been able to if she had girls of her own. She has “adopted” so many girls has a surrogate daughters. So many girls have been helped and blessed by her because the Lord decided that their family didn’t need any girls.

  • Jonathan B

    Being single, I hadn’t done any research into how most of these methods worked, so this was informative for  me.

    I agree with you that once sperm and egg join, it’s a person. So my first boundary line would be any method that was intended to discard a fertilized egg. So for the hormonal methods, the first two ways they work might be options but the third way (preventing implantation) would not. That raises a question your description doesn’t answer for me: do all hormonal methods work all three ways, or do various hormonal methods work in one or more of those three ways?

    I suppose one could say you left out “Morning After Pills”, but I don’t think there’s  much disagreement that those classify as abortion, so one’s opinion on them should be the same as one’s opinion on abortion. This is me being analytical and detailed, not me complaining about their exclusion.

    One other question comes to mind: Are tubal ligation and/or vasectomy reversible? I would tend to think no for vasectomy, but can tubal ligation be “unclamped” later, or does it cause damage to the fallopian tubes?

    My tendency is honestly towards just letting God choose. Within a monogamous marriage, of course. Anyone else shouldn’t be  having sex. Since I’m still single, I don’t have to finalize an opinion quite yet, but it’s still good to be thinking about it beforehand so you’re prepared to have that talk when the subject of kids comes up. I also think it’s pretty important to get a handle on what each person’s opinion is on having kids early, waiting on kids, or not having kids when you start looking at marriage as a possibility. It’s better to find out you have incompatible opinions before you marry then after you’ve got a lifetime commitment coupled with a basis for resentment.

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