As I clicked out of Tuesday’s video detailing Planned Parenthood’s tissue harvesting enterprise, the image burned in my mind was the tiny, well-formed hand clearly visible in the clinic’s dissecting dish. You don’t have to be a medical professional to know what you are seeing is a hand. There’s five tell-tale fingers, a slender wrist, and a forearm. It’s already so developed at eleven weeks that you can tell it is a right hand.
If that baby had been allowed to live for a few more months, it would have come out of the womb with a grasping reflex. Even premature babies can have such a strong grasp that they can support the weight of their whole bodies with their tiny hands. That hand was made to curl tightly around its mother’s index finger.
Later, the baby would have used that hand to hold onto bigger hands to steady herself as she took faltering steps. Once she could walk confidently, she would still need to hold onto her mother’s hand when crossing the street or when approached by a big dog.
Her hand would need holding on the first day of school, in fact, she might only have let go with tears. After that, her hand wouldn’t need to be held as often. There might be times when it was jerked away. As the little girl became independent, maybe even a bit ungrateful sometimes, her mother would think wistfully on the days when that hand grasped hers.
But others would hold her hand. Friends would hold it on the playground, and then boys on the school bus. Perhaps one would have grasped it so tightly that she would have been able to feel the throb of his pulse.
Her hand would have held paintbrushes and cell phones and TV remotes. It may have been good at throwing a softball, playing the piano, or decorating cakes. Or perhaps its only claim to fame would have been that it gave terrific back rubs.
That hand might have become a nurse’s hand. It would have been welcome at a hospital bedside. It could have comforted one whose mind was gone, whose own hands could no longer hold a comb or a knife and fork, but whose aging body still needed to be held and stroked.
The human hand is amazingly versatile. It can injure or soothe, assault or defend. It can take lives or save them.
The hand we see in the video will never do any of these things. It will never reach out to hold another hand comfortingly in a time of pain or fear. And no one’s hand will ever reach for it, just as no hand was there to hold it as the baby died.