August of 1999, freelance photographer Michael Clancy captured a remarkable image: The hand of a 21 week-old prenatal baby holding a surgeon’s finger. Clancy thought the photo might win a Pulitzer Prize. Instead, the picture has generated a lot more controversy than awards.

 The national newspaper asked him to photograph an innovative surgery being performed on prenatal babies with spina bifida. Spina bifida is a condition where the baby’s body fails to properly enclose the spine during prenatal development. Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have developed a corrective procedure that begins with opening the mother’s abdomen along the bikini line, withdrawing the uterus, and placing it on top of her stomach. Operation on the baby commences after the doctor cuts a hole in the uterus and drains the amniotic fluid. The surgeon encloses the spine by stitching the skin around it using sutures thinner than a human hair. The amniotic fluid is then returned to the uterus and the womb is placed back in the mother’s body.

What Clancy saw that day was to change his life forever.   He has now becomes a pro-life advocate and what took place that day continues to challenge everyone who has seen this photo .  Life does not begin when one is actually born but takes place from day one.  We are more than just some skin and bones, but uniquely made and created for a purpose. 

 Psa 139:13-14   For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully [and] wonderfully made: marvellous [are] thy works; and [that] my soul knoweth right well.


The picture is that of a 21-week-old unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas, who is being operated on by surgeon named Joseph Bruner. The baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and would not survive if removed from his mother’s womb. Little Samuel’s mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta. She knew of Dr. Bruner’s remarkable surgical procedure. Practicing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, he performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb. During the procedure, the doctor removes the uterus via C-section and makes a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr. Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon’s finger. Dr. Bruner was reported as saying that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile. The photograph captures this amazing event with perfect clarity. The editors titled the picture, “Hand of Hope.” The text explaining the picture begins, “The tiny hand of 21-week-old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas emerges from the mother’s uterus to grasp the finger of Dr. Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the gift of life.” Little Samuel’s mother 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”

 Samuel was born by C-section 15 weeks after the surgery and although he has had multiple surgeries since, he has avoided many of the more serious problems of spina bifida. Billy Godwin, pastor of the Armasas’ Atlanta-area home church, Ephesus Baptist in Villa Rica, reports, “Samuel is bright, extremely active and very gregarious.”

 While some parents may choose to abort a spina bifida child, abortion was never an option for the Armases. “Our convictions are grounded in beliefs established through our upbringing and through what the Bible clearly says is wrong or right,” Alex said. “Abortion is wrong. Life in the womb is God-created, even with birth defects. God doesn’t make mistakes, whether creating a child with spina bifida, Down syndrome or even more severe issues. It is still a life that has just as much a right to live as any ‘normal’ unborn child. “Children are a true blessing from the Lord,” Alex added, “and have been an answer to prayer for us.” The Armases believe that what was said about the blind man in John 9 is true of their situation -– that Samuel and Zachary were given to them that “the works of God should be manifest in [them].” –30—- J. Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention


 For a quick photos of Samuel Alexander Armas resources from the various sources click  or go to sharing

Box account to download.

  1. Lyn Leahz says:

    God bless you! I’m a huge pro life advocate! Thank you for this post! I have an abortion clinic right down the street from me, and it always saddens me greatly every time I drive past and see women going in there..they come out, oftentimes, crying.

  2. Lyn Leahz says:

    For pics of baby samuel as a kid, and with his parents, go here and scroll down!

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