The Deacon's Bench


Photo: by Michael Clancy

Many of us have seen it, but few of us have heard the story behind this iconic photo of a fetus clutching a doctor’s finger.
But the man who took the picture wants the story to be told — and has become a passionate advocate for life.  The Catholic Standard in Washington has more: 

Ten years ago, the subject of a news photograph – a 21-week-old fetus – reached his arm outside his mother’s womb during prenatal surgery. A photographer captured the image of a tiny hand grasping the gloved hand of a surgeon. In the months that followed the publication of his photograph, Michael Clancy, a freelance photojournalist, found himself deeply committed to the fight to end abortion and having to choose a new career. For Clancy would end up in the middle of a heated political controversy and instead of reporting news, he suddenly became the news.

On Sept. 18, Clancy shared the story behind the photograph as well as his journey toward personal faith with over 40 people gathered at Sacred Heart Parish in Bowie. Sponsored by Defend Life, Clancy used a power point presentation to illustrate the “miraculous picture” of Baby Samuel at the end of a one-hour in vitro surgical procedure to limit the effects of spina bifida. 

“After witnessing Samuel’s struggle,” Clancy said, he came to realize “a child deserves all legal protection.” 

After the surgery, Clancy sent the film to USA Today which published the photograph in September of 1999. Once processed, the film revealed a series of four photos. In the first two, the baby’s hand can be seen reaching out of the surgical incision and in the third photograph the baby’s fingers tighten around the surgeon.

Later the doctor, Joseph Bruner, granted interviews telling the media he posed the baby’s hand for the photographer. “The doctor still claims, he pulled the hand outside the womb,” Clancy noted. In his presentation, Clancy explained exactly where he was standing and described how he saw movement of the woman’s uterus in the moments before pointing and shooting the photographs. “My picture is not posed,” Clancy added.

Clancy, whose pro-life advocacy continued to grow, eventually found that these questions about his credibility ground his photographic career to a halt. Unable to get any photo assignments after publicly speaking out against abortion, Clancy became a full-time advocate against abortion. 

In 2003, Clancy shared his famous photograph and testimony with Congress. Along with Samuel and his family , Clancy helped persuade the lawmakers to pass the law banning partial-birth abortion. Later, the photographer was invited to the White House when the bill was signed into law. 

Today he shares his photograph and the story of his faith in God to persuade others to change their hearts about abortion. “God speaks to people through this photograph,” Clancy said.

You can find more about the picture at the link. 

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