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The advent of fetal surgery has been one of the most hope-filled and revealing medical innovations in recent years. It began around 1980 when surgeons developed a method of draining the bladders of unborn babies while in the womb.
Spina bifida used to be a death sentence for pre-born children like Samuel Armas. Today they open the uterus to perform the surgery well before birth, allowing the baby to develop normally. Many fetal abnormalities are treated in this way, and mothers give birth to babies with little or no need for further surgery.
Unborn baby grasps doctor
Many children and adults are living normal, healthy lives thanks to amazing advances in fetal surgery. One of the most well-documented is Samuel Armas. Here is how photojournalist Michael Clancy tells the story of the awe-inspiring 1999 photograph shown on this page:
“During a spina bifida corrective procedure at 21 weeks in utero, Samuel thrusts his tiny hand out of the surgical opening of his mother’s uterus. As the doctor lifts his hand, Samuel reacts to the touch and squeezes the doctor’s finger. As if testing for strength, the doctor shakes the tiny fist. Samuel held firm. At that moment, I took this ‘Fetal Hand Grasp’ photo.”
Both the photo and the event were life changing in so many unexpected ways. At the time almost no one knew such surgeries were even possible. Once it became known it caused many to re-think their long held beliefs about life before birth and whether illnesses in the womb were necessarily a death sentence.
It certainly was life changing for Samuel who faced death shortly after birth had he not had the surgery. His mom would otherwise be faced with a life or death choice for Samuel if the surgery had not been available.
Samuel Armas with his mom
Unborn babies are alive
The experience has had a profound effect on Clancy, who has become a passionate pro-life advocate. His picture underscores the truth that unborn babies are living human beings whose lives are worthy of protection.
Clancy's photo journalistic career suffered because of the photo. His employers did not want to be drawn into the question of abortion rights and the related question of when life begins. The photo answers the question and editors and others tried to suppress the photo. Time magazine tried to purchase rights to the photo so they could "kill" it. Even the doctor who performed the surgery tried to discredit Clancy by claiming he "staged the photo." The doctor also performs late term abortions.
Dr. Leonie Watson, a pro-life advocate in San Francisco says, “If they can do surgery on a fetus, then it is in fact a baby.” That is a problem for the abortion industry who regularly performs abortions at this stage of development. It explains their extraordinary efforts to discredit Clancy and the truth that his photo portrays.
Surgeons entering the womb to perform corrective procedures on unborn children have seen those babies flinch, jerk and recoil from sharp objects and incisions. Today, surgeons administer pain medication to unborn babies prior to fetal surgeries, because they recognize that these tiny human beings can feel pain.
Surgery now corrects many abnormalities for which babies once routinely were (and still are) aborted. Physicians often prescribe abortion when an unborn baby is diagnosed with spina bifida, for example, even though it is surgically correctable.
But whether or not a fetal abnormality can be corrected, abortion is never the answer. Fetal surgery has revealed the humanity of every unborn child. We must respond by cherishing and protecting each vulnerable unborn life.
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