Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Rest of the Story

"If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world. From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak - the unborn child - must go out to the world. If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for." --  Mother Teresa of Calcutta  from speech to the National Prayer Breakfast, Washington, DC, February 3, 1994

One of the positive things that came from resting after surgery last week was the opportunity to catch up on some reading. (The pathology report was benign. Thanks be to God.) Quite unexpectedly, I came across Michael Clancy's web site: Hand of Hope - The Story Behind the Picture. Clancy's name may not ring any bells with you, but I bet his photograph of a spina bifida corrective surgical procedure performed on a twenty-one week old fetus in utero at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on August 19, 1999 will. . .
Mr. Clancy's photograph is used with his permission.
The remarkable picture of the little hand reaching outside the womb and grasping the surgeon's finger first appeared in USA Today on Sept. 7, 1999 and became popular with mass emails. When I received it, I believed the photographer who captured the hand of Samuel Armas outside of his mother's womb at twenty-one weeks gestation would win a Pulitzer.

In reality, Michael Clancy's photo was never published in a magazine, a pre-requisite to a Pulitzer Prize. What is worse, he has spent the ensuing twelve years defending his photo and story against hoax claims, and denials from the doctors involved that Samuel actually reached out of the womb and grasped the doctor's finger. 

Clancy was hired by USA Today to cover the ground-breaking surgery. He was in the operating room at the the time of the operation. He did take photos and immediately following the surgery no one disputed that it was actually Samuel Armas' arm sticking out of his mother's womb. In Michael Clancy's words,
"A doctor asked me what speed of film I was using, out of the corner of my eye I saw the uterus shake, but no one’s hands were near it. It was shaking from within. Suddenly, an entire arm thrust out of the opening, then pulled back until just a little hand was showing. The doctor reached over and lifted the hand, which reacted and squeezed the doctor’s finger. As if testing for strength, the doctor shook the tiny fist. Samuel held firm. I took the picture! Wow! It happened so fast that the nurse standing next to me asked, “What happened?” “The child reached out,” I said. “Oh. They do that all the time,” she responded.

According to Clancy, Dr. Bruner the doctor whose hand the baby touched hasn't talked to reporters in ten years. Dr. Noel Tulipan the neurosurgeon who performed the actual repair to Samuel's spine was interviewed In a Tennessean Newspaper article, Spina Bifida Study Vindicates Vanderbilt by Tom Wilemon, published Februry 10, 2011. When asked about the picture of Samuel reaching from his mother’s womb, Tulipan responded, “I hadn’t really anticipated that was going to happen when it happened. I tried to stay on the sidelines as far as that goes. That’s obviously yet another controversial issue. We never really got into that debate here at Vanderbilt. We tried to sidestep that.” 

Confused by all this? You're not alone. Nevertheless, Michael Clancy's story is compelling and worth reading . The incident changed his views from pro-choice to pro-life. He has shared his testimony around the country and recently released his book Hand of Hope The Story Behind The Picture. His famous 1999 photo was cited during congressional debates on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, enacted November 5, 2003.

When asked her observations of the photo ten years later, Julie Armas said, "I don't care, honestly. What I felt the picture showed is that this is a child engaging in some form of interaction. I'm a labor and delivery nurse, so I understand that Samuel was anesthetized to some degree. So if he reached out, I don't know. If Dr. Bruner reached out, I don't know. The fact of the matter is it's a child with a hand, with a life, and that's meaningful enough." - Fox News, May 2009

Mrs. Armas makes a good point, but its Samuel himself who really drives it home. "It's very important to me," Samuel said of the photograph: "A lot of babies would've lost their lives if that didn't happen." - Fox News, May 2009

Amen, Samuel. Amen.

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb,
   “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, 
    Stretching out the heavens by Myself 
    And spreading out the earth all alone," -- Isaiah 44:24



  1. I remember this photo, but can't remember where I first saw it. People will still choose--out of the hardness of their hearts --to deny the self-directed little life of a baby before birth, and the sanctity of life. I wouldn't want to face God on the day of judgment!

  2. Dena, you're absolutely right. One day we will have to give an account to God for how we chose, including those Christians who chose to remain silent. We are called to defend the weakest of the weak. To come to the aid of the helpless. There is no one more helpless than an unborn child. Alan Gutmacher Institute, a leading proponent of abortion on demand, claims that there have been more than 50 million abortions in the U.S. since Roe Vs. Wade. 50 million! This is tragic. And there are two victims: the baby and the mothers. I have ministered to women who have had abortions. The regret they feel after aborting their child, even years later, is heartbreaking. The good news is that God forgives when we humble ourselves and seek His forgiveness. His grace is sufficient to heal broken hearts and give second chances. As much for the woman who has had an abortion, as to anyone else.


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