Samuel's Hand: Speculating about the End of the Horror
Commentary - January 21, 2000
By Charles W. Colson
The picture could not have been more poignant. The surgeon was
poised over the woman on the operating table as he performed in utero surgery.
His patient, the 21-week-old baby in her womb, however, was not visible on
camera. Well, not until the baby reached out his perfect little hand and
grasped the finger of the doctor standing over him. For a brief moment,
captured on film for the world to see, that unborn baby, little Samuel Armas,
asserted his humanity in a way no one could deny.
Dr. Joseph Bruner and
his colleagues at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center are pioneers of a
surgical technique to treat spina bifida. "Pioneers" because their patients,
like little Samuel, have not yet been born -- many are even too young to live
outside their mothers' wombs.
Samuel, the baby in the photograph, was born healthy and active five
weeks after his operation. Today, instead of looking forward to life as a
paraplegic, he enjoys the prospect of running and playing like other kids.
These medical advances
are not only miraculous, they may be the most powerful tool in the fight
against abortion. You see, fetal surgery draws inescapable attention to the
patients -- unborn children. And that's precisely what abortion advocates have
In 1983, Justice Sandra
Day O'Connor observed that Roe was "on a collision course with itself." Roe v.
Wade, you see, grounded the right to abortion in the fact that the Court could
not answer the question: When does life begin? But thanks to new scientific
developments, that issue is no longer in doubt.
Technology has shown
viability in increasingly younger unborn children. And not only can we detect
brain waves at 5 weeks, before almost all abortions occur, we can detect and
even repair birth defects.
And our laws are
starting to reflect the emerging consensus that the unborn child is most
certainly alive and human: convictions for child abuse of unborn babies have
been upheld; new labor standards require working conditions that protect unborn
children; and criminal penalties for those who injure an unborn child are
becoming more frequent.
pro-abortionists may attempt to find refuge in the doctrine of stare decisis,
an expression of the common law tradition binding the Court to existing case
law. They used this in the 1992 Casey v. Planned Parenthood decision in which
the Court said that it could not upset 20 years of settled case law. After all,
people depend upon it, they said.
Well, that was the
rationale used to perpetuate slavery. Stare decisis is important, but it isn't
sacred. New evidence and circumstances can clearly justify overturning prior
And that's why we have
great cause for hope on this 27th anniversary of that abominable decision.
Abortions are in decline because people are seeing abortion for what it really
is. If the justices on the Court confront this evidence honestly, they too will
have to recognize the life in the womb and admit that Roe must be overturned.
And if the justices are
just willing to open their eyes, we have a wonderful picture to show them.