Abortion and The Right to Choose – Their Stories

This post discusses abortion and the termination of pregnancy in detail, please avoid reading if you feel this may be triggering or upsetting for you.

Abortions have been all over the media lately due to the increasingly Handmaids Tale like situation people in some states within the US are now facing, with new laws being passed to make abortions illegal. Unfortunately for people in Northern Ireland this situation is already their reality, and it is horrifying to consider how many people are now affected by these barbaric laws.

NI currently has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the Western world. Those who are found guilty of terminating a pregnancy, and those who are proven to aide anyone seeking an abortion face life imprisonment. The law currently does permit a termination if the pregnant person’s life is in danger, but there are not exceptions for rape or incest. Those seeking an abortion in Northern Ireland are forced to travel to a country where it is legal (which comes at a high cost) or they can order illegal ‘abortion pills’ from a website online.

Regardless of your stance on the debate, the fact of the matter is this – making abortions illegal will not stop abortions. What it will do is force them underground. Force those seeking them to take wild risks and enter dangerous situations, in a desperate attempt to take control over their own body – the control we all have a right to. These laws put lives in danger, completely unnecessarily, and it’s something we all need to actively fight.

Their Stories

No one should ever have to justify their choice to have an abortion, but with the current press and the increasing amount of anti-choice propaganda out there, I think sharing stories in solidarity could bring comfort to those who may need it. After discussing this on Instagram many of you reached out to me with your own stories, and kindly gave me permission to share them here for others to read. The heart wrenching stories below illustrate the diverse reasons of those who opt for an abortion, and the huge importance of ensuring everyone has that choice.

If you have been affected by the stories below and want to find out how to help visit BPAS to send a quick email to your local MP (takes 2 seconds), then check out Alliance for Choice or Amnesty International.

If you are in Northern Ireland and need advice on accessing help terminating a pregnancy you can find advice at BPASAlliance for Choice, Women on Web or Marie Stopes UK.

“I had an abortion. No. I’ve had 2 abortions. First nobody knows about. Never spoken about it. First was the easiest decision. No regrets. Still cried about it. But it was an easy decision. Second was only 2 months ago. Hardest decision of my damn life and I’m still not completely okay. It’s hard to mourn a child that you chose not to have. But that’s the thing. It was my choice. My decision. Very lucky to live in a country where that is my choice. Well kind of. Very very lucky but even here where it’s legal and easy to get one, you still need 2 medical professionals to sign off on it and agree that this is what’s best for you. If they don’t then you aren’t allowed the procedure. You have to go through an acknowledging session before you’re allowed one here. Here you’re allowed one up until 11 weeks.

Abortion is not the easy way out. I spent many nights after curled up on my bedroom floor absolutely sobbing, having panic attacks and hating myself for the decision I made. But it would have been even harder to raise 2 kids on my own. My children would not have a good upbringing if that choice was taken away from me. Because I got that choice my daughter has a better chance at living a good life, because her mother isn’t being forced to stretch herself too thin.

I was on the pill. Usually still use a condom anyway but one night I didn’t. Because I figured one night won’t hurt I’m on the pill. All it takes is a simple mistake. The pill failed. I did what I was supposed to and I still fell pregnant. Shit happens sometimes. I’ve seen the argument circling lately – why do people get pregnant accidentally? They had unprotected sex what did they think what would happen…. Ha. Not that simple. And don’t even get me started on rape etc. Either way woman deserve that choice. Wait for all the neglected babies that are gonna be around soon. But if course that will be the woman’s fault as well. The new law makes me sick.”

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“I had an abortion aged 20 whilst in a violent, coercive and sexually unhealthy relationship. He had no respect for me or my body. Had I not been able to access that service I would have forever been linked to, and at the mercy of, a monster who once shoved drugs in my handbag when the police pulled his car over. I’m lucky not to have a criminal record and to have made that sane decision way back then that enabled me to make a wholesome life for myself and now have three beautiful children, over 20 years later. I don’t regret it and am not wicked for it. I took control over the one thing I could and haven’t been punished or smote for it. My body, my rules. It has taken me 20 years not to believe I was punished in some way by having a subsequent miscarriage but then I believe we as women are conditioned to believe we are punished in some way for taking any control over our own bodies and I know that as much as I would have coped, my life would have been different and harder than it already has been and ultimately everything has led me to here, so it had to have been right.”

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“I’m from NI. Fell pregnant unexpectedly a few months ago and as a single mum already I knew I couldn’t have the baby. After a few frantic phone calls I had an abortion booked in Liverpool. Up until last year women in NI had to pay the abortion themselves (I know friends who had to do this – £500 not including flights and transfers to get to mainland) but thankfully last year they changed it so now women from NI get the abortion free and get flights subsidised. I had to get my child minded while keeping everything a secret because it is SUCH a taboo in Northern Ireland to even have an abortion, fly over at 6am on my own, get a transfer to the clinic then to find out I was too early on so had to fly home to go through the whole thing again. It’s honestly a complete joke. They also double up the transfers so you’re put in a car with 3 other girls from NI all going to the same place – it was HELL. I ended up ordering abortion pills from online (Women on Web). Because I literally couldn’t deal with the whole journey over again”

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“I don’t have any personal experience, however I’d like to say as a midwife I have experience of looking after women having terminations for medical reasons, and they are every bit as heartbroken as someone miscarrying. It is not something to be referred to as a flippant decision. Women don’t casually think “oh I’ll just not have this pregnancy, can’t be bothered”. It makes me so angry that women are being denied this choice. Whatever their reason is.”

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“I’ve had 2 abortions, I’m 31. One, I was 19. In what I now know to be a mentally abusive relationship. I will never regret that decision. The other, I was 30. My husband and I have 2 beautiful children and found ourselves pregnant with our 3rd. Financially, and mentally our home couldn’t cope with another, very loved, baby. We’d already got the ball in motion for my husband to have the snip (pardon the pun). And while I don’t regret it as such, it was the right decision for our family. I feel guilt. Lots of guilt. I slipped back into a depression. How could I do that? I know what beautiful results you can have at the end of it. My sister in law struggled to get pregnant, my good friend has had multiple miscarriages. How could I be so ungrateful? That baby would have been very, very loved. Even writing this down it’s a struggle. I don’t know for sure what would’ve happened if we’d have kept the baby. But I know now, on the other side of it our little family is thriving And I have to hold on to that. Other wise the guilt would consume me whole.”

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“I have yet to work up the courage to share this openly because there’s such a stigma around abortion but I’ve had 2. One was an easy choice but one was heartbreaking. The first abortion was to be rid of a pregnancy brought about through rape and repeated abuse. It was the best option and I got out of that relationship quickly after that. The second was nearly 3 years ago. After R was born I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety, our finances plummeted and our relationship was strained, all on top of having a 5 months old newborn with reflux. Along with my health complications during pregnancy. It needed to happen. We wouldn’t have survived a third child.”

-Sophie

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“This is something that’s hits a little too close to home. It’s by far the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, it’s one I regret deeply but I also know that I wouldn’t be here today if I couldn’t have made that choice at the time – because my mental health would’ve deteriorated beyond repair. Abortion will always happen, regardless of laws. It’s utterly shocking that a man can still take a woman’s choice away from her in 2019”

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“There was a time during the thick of my post natal depression that I thought I was pregnant (even though I was using both contraceptive pill and condoms – Yes I was that afraid that I doubled up) and I knew 100% that I would not have been able to keep that baby as it would have killed me. Luckily I did not have to make that choice but that’s what important here, that fact I had a choice. We cannot take this away from women. It will mean death for so many. Who’s pro-life for them?”

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“I had to have an abortion because our very much wanted baby had Patau syndrome. It was the hardest decision I have ever ever made. I had to go to a clinic as I was over 13 weeks and hospital wouldn’t do it. The whole experience was just horrific, but I had a choice!!!! That’s the thing, WE had a choice. I couldn’t have just carried on with the pregnancy knowing that this baby would continue to grow but could die at any point or would die if born. How can you take the choice away! How!!!”

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“I had an abortion at 19, I had just gone into my 3rd year at uni, and my boyfriend at the time made it clear it’s not what he wanted at all. I won’t lie or sugar coat it, it crushed me inside and out. It changed me forever and not a day goes by where I don’t think about what I did or what could have been. However, it was undeniably the right decision at the time for ME, and looking back I appreciate and see this more now. I now have a wonderful little boy under much happier circumstances. Would I go through it again? Absolutely not. Does that mean I don’t support another women’s choice to do so? Fuck no. Every single person’s situation is their’s and their’s alone, and you can only do what is right for you at the time. It’s scary that in 2019 assaults on a women’s freedom to make choices about her own body are allowed to happen. It’s shameful. These decisions are mostly made by men who can never ever experience or even comprehend the realities of what they are discussing. It’s a frightening time and I worry for every female in America if this ‘heartbeat law’ goes state wide.”

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“I had an abortion when I was eighteen, 15 years ago. It’s something I’ve never spoken publicly about and even now, thinking back to that time, my heart races and I get clammy hands. It was awful, it was a fight to have the procedure done on the NHS but it happened, thankfully and it was the right decision for me at that time. I know, without a doubt, I couldn’t have had a baby back then and I would have done anything to remove it – and myself – from that situation. Abortion gave me the chance to start afresh. Those poor women with no choice over that happens to them. It doesn’t bare thinking about.”

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“I’m very passionate for women having the choice so thought I would send you my experience. I am a mother, which fills you with guilt automatically for not having the same feeling of joy that I had with my first baby when I found out I was pregnant with this baby. I hated it. I had a traumatic birth with my daughter 10 months before (also before people think, use protection, how irresponsible. I rarely have a chance to have sex so this was probably the first time we had sex since I made him try and help me get my daughter out, and I’m on the IMPLANT. The one that is supposed to be the MOST EFFECTIVE). I had counselling after my birth and my mental health could not cope with another baby. We’re barely getting by. I am just back at work and getting off universal credit which is awful and is another story. I went to the clinic and everyone was lovely. I chose to be put to sleep, and due to my complications from birth the nurses agreed it was the safest option for me not to bleed as much and for it to be controlled. I was told to wait 2 years. I don’t want to resent my baby and ruin my time with my daughter. I will be a mum again one day and that baby will have all the love it deserves.”

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“I had an abortion when I had just turned 18, something I’ve never been proud of but nonetheless I was so grateful for this service. I had been in an abusive relationship and at that time I believed I was in love with this man. He wanted a baby and ‘forced’ me into conceiving one. I was scared and I was stuck with a monster of a man. Thankfully, he decided one day to knock me unconscious in public which led to his arrest and this was my get out of jail free card. It meant I could get away from him (although at the time I was young and in love and didn’t see it like this). I did however decide for me that I needed to have an abortion because in my case it would mean I was either going to be trapped with this monster or face years of custody battles and court appearances. I couldn’t bring a child into that. I have now gone onto having 2 beautiful children with my husband but I’ve been forever grateful for the NHS for allowing me to make that life changing decision.”

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“I had one when I was 20 after I slept with someone I didn’t particularly like and had used a condom. It didn’t split or fall off, I was just in that small percentage where they don’t work. The doctor didn’t believe me when I said that… they’ve heard it all before. (Later that same doctor, who worked for my university was quoted in the uni newspaper saying that students treat abortions like birth control and lie to her about circumstances, that made me hurt real bad).

It was the worst time in my life. I had always wanted to be a mother but this just wasn’t my baby. I was 9 weeks so could take the tablets. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced (and I’ve since given birth) and was messy and emotional and I’d never do it again. To top it off it all went wrong and a week later I was rushed to A&E in an ambulance with excessive blood loss. I hate to think that girls and women in the same circumstance anywhere in the world would now be arrested as well as going through all of that. I know women from NI come here and take the pills. It’s not always simple. Do they have to lie if they end up in A&E? Do they get arrested?”

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“I first discovered I was pregnant half way through my university course. For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a mum and imagined this idyllic family image of me being married, having a house and then having the baby. I wasn’t prepared to bring a new life into this world. I was young, not financially stable and I knew that this just wasn’t the right time. For me to get a termination was not an easy decision or a cop out, it was the harder decision. I went to the doctors and got my appointment, I felt ‘fine’ in myself the day I went for the abortion. I think what people don’t understand is what a woman actually goes through when having an abortion. I had the pill and what happens after a few hours can only be described as horrifying, for me anyway.

After it was done I had imagined that I’d be fine and move on with my life like it hadn’t happened, but I grieved for the child I wasn’t ready to have. I felt guilt that I had made that decision, to this day I still feel upset by it. Only 4 of my friends know and none of my family. It was a very difficult decision and I wasn’t myself for months after it, but with the help of my coolest friends I know it was the right one. For someone to take away the decision of what happens to my body is absolutely disgraceful. Abortion is a difficult subject even in this era, but the only way to break the stigma is to talk about it and make people understand what you actually go through both mentally and physically. If I had the courage I would love nothing more than to talk to young people, in fact anyone about my experience to help be the support they need to make the most difficult decision of their life so far, whatever they chose it to be.”

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“Five years ago, whilst my boyfriend had moved to a different country, I met a guy who I got on with really well. We were really good friends and we did loads together. He knew my intentions were as a friend and I thought it was mutual until the night he raped me. I fell pregnant straight away despite taking the morning after pill because I was ovulating. I was 20, what was I going to tell my boyfriend who lived on a different continent. My head spun and I don’t remember what happened that day only that I had an appointment in four weeks time. It was the only appointment I could get close enough to home. The guy didn’t care, I couldn’t tell my family and I didn’t have anyone I could talk to because all I felt was shame. I was brought up Catholic and in my naivety I thought I would be rejected from my community and from my family.

My experience at the clinic was nothing but positive, I felt supported and was offered all of the aftercare I needed but I thought I was fine. In the end I pushed away the person I loved most in the world and closed myself off from the world. With every negative pregnancy test years down the line I tortured myself with ‘what ifs’ and when I finally fell pregnant with my daughter all I felt was sadness. Why did this one get to live but I didn’t give the other one a shot of life. So I turned to my church. I was given support, reassurance and more love than I could have ever expected. I wasn’t ready to be a parent then. I began to heal and focus on my daughter. I do get pangs of pain at times when I think about what milestones it could have hit but I will never regret my decision to get an abortion. I am so thankful I was able to make my own choice.”

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“I had an abortion a couple of years ago. I’m married and have 2 wonderful children. We never had plans for a bigger family and financially we would have really struggled. I remember feeling so guilty. How dare I end a pregnancy when on paper I was in the ‘perfect’ position to have this baby. I remember the doctor and nurse raising their eyebrows when I said I was married, I got the impression they assumed I’d had an affair (not the case) but that may have been my own paranoia.

The process itself was very quick and simple at the clinic. Less than an hour (I had the pessaries) and I was able to go home. I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be to be honest. Physically and emotionally. But I was lucky I had my partner there to support me. The guilt is what I remember most. The guilt that I almost had no right to do what I did because there weren’t any bad circumstances around it. I just didn’t want a baby. I still feel shit writing that to be honest.”

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“I had an abortion last year. I’m a mum of three (two different dads) and love my children to bits. I was taking contraception and was in a new relationship . Because of the pill I had no idea I was pregnant until my boobs started hurting, I then knew! The weight on my shoulders was enormous, I work but claim Universal Credit, I barely have enough to survive every month as it is, and knew I’d get no support with another child. The other kid’s dads are useless, and I get no support from them so that adds to the pressures. I’d just started a new job working nights in a physical job to work around my family, I wouldn’t be able to do this anymore.

After a lot of crying and talking it through I decided …. yes me not my partner! That I didn’t want to continue with the pregnancy. I didn’t tell anyone other than him. Although it was 100% the right thing for me and us I felt ashamed. I was so worried what other people would say, and that they’d think I was an awful mum and didn’t deserve my children.

Getting an appointment was a nightmare and over an hour away by car, my partner came with me but wasn’t allowed in with me and I felt so alone. Nobody in that waiting room spoke to each other, all too ashamed. It was awful. I was offered support afterwards but was too ashamed to ask for it. It was a horrible and lonely experience . It is definitely not the easy option.

I never imagined myself being in this situation, the stigma around abortion is that it’s for teenagers and victims of assault, not mums of 3 with jobs etc but in reality that’s what it is. It’s about making an informed decision and making the decision that’s right for you . I stand by that now and only recently I’ve been able to talk about it more.”

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“I don’t think my small experience is relevant here but when I had my first miscarriage I went in for a D&C. They put me in a room at the end of the ward because the women waiting for their abortions were there. I understand why they did that. But when I saw the women in their beds recovering, saw their faces, it made me even more fiercely pro-choice than ever. We were in completely different places, but I will never forget that image. Women NEED and deserve access to safe, legal abortions”

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“I’m happy to share my abortion experience, mainly because it was a positive one and I hope that someone else who’s considering it might find it useful.

Had things been different I’d not just have my two gorgeous boys, 5 & 11 years old but also a much older brother or sister for them who’d now be 25.

I’m lucky, and I completely get that I am, I knew I didn’t want and couldn’t handle a child when I was 19 years old. It was, and remains to be, the best decision I ever made. After an emotional hard upbringing, divorced parents, occasionally suicidal mother, alcoholic father, I didn’t have any resilience at all and I couldn’t have taught someone else to be either. I had serious emotional issues that took the following decade to sort out. Then and only then was I ready to become a mother.

I stayed awake for my procedure, I was scared of being put under because I knew that, for me at least, knowing what was happening and understanding what I’d done would be cathartic.

I still remember that day as if it was yesterday. I remember the long conversation with the Dr beforehand. I remember my boyfriend’s hand in mine as he told me how brave I was being. I remember the sights and smells of a quietly run private hospital where everyone had the same purpose. All these women gathered together under one roof. Many sad, but also many who walked out with renewed hope, hope that the next time would be the right time and so grateful that they got to choose.

My abortion was carried out on my birthday, which happens to be on Sunday. I always think of what might have been. But I am also very thankful that I didn’t go through with it. When I finally did have children I was ready and resilient enough to be a mother.”

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“I sat, alone because Adam didn’t take time off work for the appointment – didn’t want to explain what was going on in order to ask for time off… after all, it wasn’t really his problem now was it? That is how it felt at the time – perhaps that wasn’t fair, distancing yourself is a good tool of self preservation, but at the time the toll it took on our relationship was huge. I took the tablets, first one and then after 6 hours another. I drove home alone, despite a warning on the tablets to have someone with you – there was no one, Adam went to football because he didn’t want to think about what I was doing, needed a bit of space. It’s one thing in our marriage that I don’t think I will ever forgive him for, but it’s a shining example of how men view abortion and why the laws in some countries are the way they are: it’s not my problem. Even when they love you. It’s just not their problem. You are the one who is pregnant now, despite their involvement.

The tablets, which should have stopped the pregnancy and made me bleed so heavily that I felt sluggish and ill for days, failed. They failed. At 13 weeks and 2 days I went for a scan to ensure that the tablets had worked but they hadn’t, there was a foetus – a baby that had a heart beat and a 98% chance of having some kind of life limiting birth defect, that couldn’t possibly be discovered until 20 weeks, even with all the tests in the world.”

– An extract from Harriet’s abortion experience

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“To be honest I wasn’t sure if I could share my story. This week has been tough, some of the arguments and comments aimed at pro-choice supporters have been brutal and have been upsetting for me.

I had an abortion last summer. I am a married mum of two. When I found out I was pregnant after a contraception failure I thought for a moment I could cope with a third child. I cried, I panicked, my husband panicked, we all panicked. However we made plans, we could probably cope we thought. It would be hard though, we wouldn’t have any money, or enough bedrooms and we wouldn’t be able to afford to move. Our marriage would be further tested. No sleep…Still, we would cope. We wouldn’t be able to fulfil our dreams as quickly as we would like and my career would take the back burner again. Still, we would cope.

I wasn’t coping though. I suffer Hyperemesis Gravidarum with my pregnancies, and I was diagnosed with post natal anxiety after my youngest child was born (I am still receiving treatment for this, the symptoms include chronic pain amongst other things).

I started being sick 3 days before I even took the test. We were on holiday and I thought I was hungover! When I got home I was prescribed anti sickness medication. It didn’t work. Nothing ever does. On top of this I was still worrying about how we would cope with a third child and found myself in a near constant state of panic. I couldn’t look after myself let alone my children. I was at my lowest. I couldn’t get out of bed, or eat or sleep. My heart was constantly pounding.

I went to BPAS three weeks after my positive test and had an early abortion at 6 weeks gestation. I cried through each and every appointment. I cried because I knew what that baby would grow up to look like; my beautiful children. I kept the scan photo. I mourned that baby. I still do. Many people judge me for my decision I expect. They see a married woman with a roof over her head and wonder why I couldn’t bring an unplanned child into my world. I was not physically or mentally well enough to continue with my pregnancy. I know that the decision I made was the right one for me and my family and that is all any woman can do. We do not make these decisions lightly but they are OUR decisions to make.”

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“Here is my experience of abortion. I had my abortion in 2002 and to this day I’ve never told my family. A few friends knew but that was it. I honestly don’t mind if you put my name to this. I am not ashamed of the choice I made.

I was 18 and in a relationship with a boy the same age. We went to college together. Right from the start it was an intense relationship. He was possessive and a bit controlling. He wasn’t my first boyfriend, and we got pretty serious quite quickly. We were always safe and used contraception but somehow it happened. I got pregnant at the end of my second year of college.

I didn’t actually find out until I was almost 12/13 weeks pregnant. I wasn’t tracking my periods back then. I also hadn’t experienced any morning sickness or signs of pregnancy. I had been struggling with depression and anxiety since I was 15/16. I was self harming daily and I had already survived two suicide attempts. Most of the week I was also binge drinking, some times to the point of passing out. I knew I couldn’t have a baby, I could barely look after myself, let alone a child. I did tell my boyfriend and he blamed it all on me. He made me feel guilty for getting pregnant. I was told to get rid of it, and although I had already decided the way he reacted still shocked me.

I remember going into the hospital to have it done, because I was so far along I needed to have a surgical abortion which involved general anaesthetic. He left me in the car park and came back later in the day to pick me up. I had to go to the maternity unit where I saw all these new mums with their babies, knowing what I was about to do. I knew I was doing the right thing but it still broke me.

Thankfully our relationship didn’t last long after that. He turned even more possessive and controlling. He would bring up the fact I had an abortion all the time and use it against me. I wasn’t allowed to talk to certain people, I couldn’t go anywhere without him. Under the laws that certain states in America want to bring in I would not have been able to have an abortion. I would have had to have a child with an abusive and controlling person. I don’t even know if I would be alive today if that had happened.”

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