PHOTO: Unborn fetus grasps surgeon’s hand

This breathtaking picture was captured by photographer Michael Clancy during an emergency surgery  at Vanderbilt Medical Center back in November 1999. It was published in the USA Today and dubbed by editors “Hand of Hope”, but received little press in the months and weeks that followed. It began recirculating among many Tumblr blogs this year.

The picture depicts a mere 21-week-old fetus with spina bifida being operated on by surgeon Joseph Bruner.  The procedure involved removing the uterus from the mother’s womb and making a small incision to operate on the unborn child. As Dr. Bruner was completing the surgery, a tiny hand reached through the incision and firmly grasped onto his finger. Dr. Bruner later said this photograph captured the most emotional moment of his life.

The operation was 100% successful and the baby, now known as Samuel Alexander Armas, was born in perfect health. His mother later said they “wept for days” when they saw the picture. She said, “The photo reminds us pregnancy isn’t about disability or an illness, it’s about a little person.”

While Clancy’s image was never nominated for any awards or covered widely by the mainstream press, it was reportedly brought to the table during congressional debates about the Partial Birth Abortion Act back in 2000. James Baldwin once said that, “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by answers.” What questions does the photograph bring up for you?

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