Grasping Little Samuel’s Hand

  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. Pictures like this, and the medical advances they herald, shatter the very foundation established to legalize the horror of abortion. That's why, as we mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade today, I am increasingly confident that Roe's days are numbered. 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 three and a half months 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 long dreaded. 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. Now the 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 decisions. 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.


Chuck Colson



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