The turning of the calendar page at the end of the year is often a time for reflection on things past, and hopes for what is to come. It’s a hopeful time for many. Despite whatever setbacks and failings might have occurred over the last 12 months, we have a clean slate of sorts, a tabula rasa on which to set about making things right.

But it can be difficult to maintain a sense of optimism when so many of the day’s events would suggest further inroads by the purveyors of the contraceptive mentality.

In the pro-life, pro-family community, we are fond of the “slippery slope” metaphor to suggest the steady decline in respect for human life brought on by abortion, euthanasia and the easy acceptance of all forms of contraception. Perhaps the expression is somewhat overused, but in its own way it remains an apt description for what society can expect when something as sacred as human life becomes a disposable commodity.

Indeed, just before this issue of The Interim went to press came almost giddy news reports of a recycled abortion procedure that will end the life of the unborn child just days after contraception.

The hand-held syringe abortion technique apparently is making a comeback thanks to improvements in early confirmation of pregnancy. Planned Parenthood of course is aggressively promoting the procedure, citing how it reduces “anxiety” and allows abortion-seeking women to get this little business over with, and move on with their lives.

Then we have the ongoing Latimer saga with its implications for the disabled. We applaud the decision by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to challenge the lenient sentence given Robert Latimer in the “compassionate homicide” of his daughter.

Few would doubt there was some element of compassion in what Latimer did in the face of his daughter’s pain and suffering. How would each of us respond in similar circumstances?

But whatever Latimer’s motivations, we must never lose sight of the fact that Tracy Latimer – not her father – was the victim in this case.

It becomes frightening when our courts buy into the compassionate homicide argument, and in effect tell society that some murders just aren’t as serious as others. Consider for example, the views of disabled rights activist Mark Pickup of Beaumont, Alberta. Pickup has cerebral palsy, the same affliction that Tracy Latimer struggled with throughout her short life.

“This is a dangerous precedent for a throw-away society seeking quick-fixes and easy answers for its problems,” Pickup said in response to the Latimer sentencing. “What’s the future for Canada’s handicapped children? Will they be seen as damaged goods to be discarded? Where will they fit in – or will they fit in?

“This dreadful decision is the latest in a series of actions and inactions that will ultimately lead to public policy sympathetic to the killing off of the unfit or decriminalizing the aiding and abetting of suicide, or so-called compassionate euthanasia,” Pickup continued

He says pointedly that it is a “scary time” to be disabled or chronically ill and that at the root of the Latimer decision is the unavoidable fact that the lives of the disabled now appear to be worth less than those of able-bodied Canadians.

Pickup’s anger and trepidation are not just rhetorical devices. We are all too aware of what happens when law and public policy decide that some lives – the disabled, the preborn, the sick and elderly – are not entitled to the same protection as the rest of us.

When one’s personhood, one’s very humanness is called into question, the result usually is death. But despite these and other clouds on the horizon, we remain a community of hope. The new year may usher a new appreciation for pro-life, pro-family objectives, especially when seen against the distortion and falsehood that for decades has colored the pro-choice, pro-contraception argument. Indeed even some of the most ardent pro-abortion supporters have reluctantly admitted that their “empire” is based on fear-mongering, anger and lies.

So here’s to better things in 1998. We can’t expect an easy time of it. But with a steady focus on the ultimate aims of our struggle, coupled with an openness to new ideas and approaches, we will maintain that vital pro-life presence in an increasingly throw-away world.