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.|
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