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NRL News
Page 20
April/May 2010
Volume 37
Issue 4-5

Baby Samuel’s Photographer Keeps Humanity of the Unborn in the Spotlight

BY Liz Townsend

An extraordinary moment of contact between an unborn baby and his doctor continues to touch hearts and change minds. Michael Clancy, the photographer who captured the image during a fetal surgery in August 1999, also continues to bring his story and his message of forgiveness and hope to audiences around the country.

Clancy will make his third appearance at an NRL Convention this June, where he will speak to the teenage attendees in Pittsburgh. Young people are especially moved by his photo of Baby Samuel Armas reaching out of the womb to grab the hand of his surgeon as he was being treated for spina bifida before birth.

Over the past few years, Clancy has shared his message at about 100 events. The truth he discovered that day—that unborn babies are reactive human beings—has affected his life profoundly.

Clancy tells audiences of his difficult childhood that was marked by abuse, and how it took him years to move from rage and hurt to forgiveness and healing. “I became a Christian, and only three months later I took the picture,” he told NRL News. “I give credit where credit is due—God placed me in that operating room and He has guided my every step.”

After the photograph first appeared in USA Today and The Tennessean September 7, 1999, the reaction has ranged from the amazement and wonder of most people to defensiveness and denial on the part of doctors and pro-abortionists. The surgeon attempted to insist that he actually picked up Samuel’s hand, but the series of photos Clancy took shows clearly that Samuel moved on his own.

Despite these attempts to alter reality, even popular television shows have incorporated stories based on Samuel’s surgery in their episodes. Shows like Scrubs and House featured plots where unborn babies reached out to their doctors during surgery, and The Good Wife used the actual photo during a court case. Clancy shows some of these clips during his presentation.

Even though he claims he is still not entirely comfortable with public speaking, Clancy’s testimony—especially his personal journey from abuse to forgiveness—is always well received.

A lot of people come up to me afterwards and tell me their own stories,” he said. “I’ve heard some terrible stories of abuse. It’s a topic that needs to be spoken about—you won’t heal if things don’t come out. But I also know how important forgiveness is.”

His story has also inspired others to become active in the pro-life movement. During one busy weekend in April, Clancy spoke at annual banquets sponsored by Building Bridges to a Culture of Life in West Bloomfield, Michigan, and by Franklin Right to Life in Kentucky. Building Bridges is a grassroots pro-life group of young people formed after one girl saw Clancy’s photo.

After the event, a woman told me that her daughter was in fifth grade and saw the photo,” Clancy said. “She started a pro-life group at her school, and now hundreds of kids are part of it. It all started from the picture.”

Samuel Armas himself said he is grateful for how the photograph has affected people. “When I see that picture, the first thing I think of is how special and lucky I am to have God use me that way,” Samuel told last year. “I feel very thankful that I was in that picture.”

Samuel is now a healthy, active 10 year old, whose lower leg braces are the only result of his spina bifida. He told that he is proud that his photo gave many “babies their right to live” and forced others to think about abortion.

It’s very important to me,” Samuel said of Clancy’s photograph. “A lot of babies would’ve lost their lives if that didn’t happen.”

Clancy hopes that one day a major media outlet will do an in-depth story on fetal surgery and Samuel’s experience and put to rest any lingering doubts that the unborn baby is a living human being. He said that unborn babies undergoing fetal surgery should receive the proper care as patients in their own right so they do not feel pain during the operation.

But until that day, Clancy said he will continue to speak out and share his unique, first-hand experience of the humanity of the unborn. “I deserve no credit for the picture,” he wrote in a moving testimony on his web site, “It’s God’s picture. He answered my prayer by opening up the windows of heaven, and pouring out such blessing there was not enough room to receive it.”