This article is based on an interview between the author and Aisling Goodison, Head of Training and Development at the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform UK (CBR UK), on Friday, December 20, 2019.
To any stranger on the street, Aisling Goodison (née Hubert) is an ordinary woman from Brighton. She is a Christian, a daughter, a sister to seven siblings, and a wife to her husband, Jake (they recently married). However, in U.K. pro-life circles, she is a dauntless warrior who took on the abortion industry and lobby in 2013 with a private prosecution against two abortion doctors who agreed to sex-selective abortions.
The Journey’s Beginning
Aisling’s pro-life roots began years before she was born, with her parents. Her father frequently spent time outside the local abortion clinic, holding a sign which read “Why kill them when you can love them?”, aiming to change the minds of those going in to have an abortion. He prayed and prayed for an end to abortion in Brighton.
Aisling’s mother also faced some challenging times in her workplace. She managed a local pharmacy, where she dispensed birth control pills. Over time, she became awakened to the fact that most contraceptives can end the life of a new human being. She decided she could no longer provide these contraceptives. When she spoke to her boss, he chose not to challenge her decision, provided prescription numbers did not decrease. So, she prayed with several friends that God would bless the prescription numbers. What happened next was amazing — over a three-year period, prescriptions at her pharmacy increased by 100% (see graph).
Aisling’s own journey started at the age of 15, after being moved by a presentation given by Stephanie Gray (formerly of the Canadian Center for Bio-Ethical Reform — CCBR) at a local church hall. The talk included a video of an abortion procedure and statistics about abortion. This harrowing experience spurred Aisling to begin learning more about the issue and getting involved with pro-life efforts.
Straight after finishing her A-Levels (graduating high school), she went to Florida to participate in a week of the Genocide Awareness Project, which is a mobile display juxtaposing images of abortion with images of past and current genocides, such as the Holocaust and the Slave Trade. Afterwards, she did a three-and-a-half-month internship with CCBR, where she learned about social reformers of the past, such as Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce, and Martin Luther King Jr. Additionally, CCBR canvassed and put on displays three times a day outside colleges, universities, on the highways and streets with the aim of changing minds by providing the evidence of what an abortion is. Here is an article in which Jonathon Van Maren, CCBR’s communications director, gave the reason why they did these types of displays:
“If we do not show the pictures, the victims will remain out of sight — an injustice that is invisible inevitably becomes tolerable; injustice that is visible inevitably becomes intolerable.”
After the internship with CCBR, Aisling came back to the UK and began volunteering with CBR UK (then called Abort67), leading displays, participating in events, , and more.
The Battleground Is Set
Around the time Aisling returned home, in 2012/2013, the UK abortion lobby had been rattled by an exposé released by the Daily Telegraph, revealing videos of several doctors secretly granting permission for illegal abortions based on the sex of the baby. One consultant had told a woman, who wanted to abort her daughter, “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination.” Another said “It’s like female infanticide isn’t it?” and wrote down she was too young instead. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) did an investigation into the claims, finding there was enough evidence to prosecute the doctors who agreed to sex-selective abortions (which did not take place), but it would not be in the “public interest” to do so. Instead, the CPS passed the decision onto the General Medical Council (GMC) since they had authority over what to do with the doctors insofar as whether to suspend their licences – they would not be able to implement any criminal sanctions.
There was concern among politicians about the decision: then-Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, wrote to the Attorney General, and Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry, wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer, asking him to review the decision.
Obviously, pro-life groups were riled up by this decision not to prosecute — so was Aisling. After some time, a series of events led her to make a huge decision which would affect her life greatly.
Signs from God – Part 1
One year earlier, a stranger had spoken with Aisling about something God was laying on their hearts – Aisling was going to have to stand up on behalf of a group of young people, to prevent a genocide. She was going to have to do something which would take a lot of courage. She was going to have to be like Esther in the Bible.
Esther was a young queen who faced King Xerxes, to protect the Jews in Persia from death. The king did not accept unsolicited meetings, but Esther took the risk of death by entering his presence without being asked to try to save her people. It worked and the Jews were saved. Read the full story in the Bible here.
After seeing how the CPS had dropped the case against the doctors, Aisling prayed and decided she would take on the abortion lobby by fighting for justice for the unborn. She was put in touch with Christian Concern, who helped her in the battle. Initially, they pursued a judicial review but ultimately decided to privately prosecute the two doctors.
At the Magistrate’s Court, both judges affirmed there was enough evidence for a conviction, so the case progressed to the Crown Court. At this point, the doctors’ lawyers contacted the CPS, who took over and dropped the case again! The judge ruled Aisling had to pay the legal fees of £36,000 which increased to £47,000 after the High Court ruled against Aisling too, following an appeal. It was as if the legal system was punishing Aisling for the “crime” of trying to battle the abortion lobby and for trying to shine a light on the injustice of abortion.
Aisling had choices to make, because now she knew the cost of standing up for the unborn. She could either refuse to pay the fine and go to jail, try for a settlement, or crowd-fund the money to pay for the cost.
Signs from God – Part 2
As Aisling sat around the meeting table with the rest of the team, trying to decide what to do next, the Bible passage Matthew 16:24-25 stood out to her:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
She wanted to follow God — this meant she needed to take up her cross and follow Him; she would willingly go to jail to defend the unborn. However, she would only do this if she felt peace about it from God. A few days went by, and at work, while she was speaking with colleagues, they told her about the sermon the Sunday before – it was about the same verses Aisling had read recently. At that moment, she felt a supernatural peace flow over her – she knew she could go for it, whatever the sacrifice. That night, she looked at a note on her phone from a few months before which was an account of a dream she had: handcuffs descended from heaven with a gold bar. Engraved on the bar were the words “Tested and Faithful.” The dream was the ultimate confirmation Aisling was going in the right direction by sacrificing everything.
The philosophy Christian Concern have is to carry their clients’ burdens with them (and often for them), for example by paying legal costs. While Aisling was prepared to give up everything to protect life, the decision reached was to go back to court to reach a settlement, so the burden was shared.. The final amount which the doctors and Aisling settled cannot be revealed because of a non-disclosure agreement, but it was still a high price to pay. Christian Concern rallied its supporters, raising enough money to pay off the whole charge. By standing up for the unborn and facing such challenges, opportunities arose for many other people to contribute to the fight for life.
Though Aisling lost the battle against the doctors (and basically the legal system), she has certainly gone on to be in a better-equipped position to fight the good fight.
She is now Head of Training and Development at CBR UK, where she is in charge of training up leaders and developing resources for the average person to be more equipped when talking about the pro-life issue.
The main focus of the work is to set up teams across the country of people who want to educate and shift public opinion. CBR UK’s vision for the next five years is abortion being made unthinkable and, ultimately, to see an end to abortion. There are currently teams in Liverpool, London, Hastings, Eastbourne, Cardiff, Brighton, and Bristol. Aisling is responsible for making sure people are representing the unborn properly. She trains people to do the different aspects of running pro-life events or campaigns, e.g. fundraising, giving presentations, etc.
What’s Happened in 2019?
With the awful imposition of abortion on Northern Ireland, the organisation directed a campaign against Stella Creasy MP, who is pro-abortion, exposing the reality of what she supports and for what she campaigns. She played a huge part in the introduction of abortion in Northern Ireland, and she is trying to use the Domestic Abuse Bill introduced by the Government to advance the abortion lobby’s cause.
The team in Walthamstow faced vandalism by council members, who tore down the displays juxtaposing images of preborn and aborted babies, and who basically banned CBR UK from showing these images anywhere in the area.
Another important campaign last year was the “Changing Minds” video which CBR UK produced. CBR UK team members spoke with members of the public asking them about their opinion on abortion, then showed a video of real-life abortion footage. They then asked whether their views changed after seeing the truth.
The other highlight was when a small group of volunteers went outside Cardiff University’s Student Union to protest against the union’s pro-choice stance adopted after a vote, warning it was exclusionary. It was a very effective campaign, reaching 140,000 people on social media, as well as being placed in local and national media.
What’s Coming Next?
The highlighted resources Aisling mentioned are some courses in the pipeline, to be released in Spring 2020.
One is called Equipped to Educate, which will teach how to make a simple case for life, how to answer an abortion advocate, and how to support those in crisis or unplanned pregnancies as well as post-abortive women, men and grandparents. The other courses focus on team building and presentation training.
These courses will enable the average person to change minds where they are, leading to an exponential growth of the pro-life side, eventually abolishing abortion forever.
The War Is Not Over
Until abortion becomes unthinkable, the abortion lobby and pro-abortion advocates will not stop smearing and lying about pro-lifers. They will continue to label the truth as “dangerous misinformation” without correcting the so-called lies. They will continue to make ad-hominem attacks but shy away from public debates on the topic.
What can pro-lifers do when abortion advocates shout about how we are dangerously spreading misinformation?
Here is a summary of Aisling’s advice:
“Pro-lifers can ask what information is ‘misinformation’. We can ask the pro-abortion advocates to say what happens in abortion when they mischaracterise and try to discredit our evidence. We must keep providing evidence about abortion and the harm it does to women, preborn children and society as a whole.
When you’re advocating for life, have resources on hand. There is an app called “MyBaby Pregnancy Guide” created by EHD.org. Share the reality of abortion at abortionreality.com. There are other pictures and videos on the CBR UK website as well. Keep learning about the issue yourself, and you will be able to defend life better.
Remember — when a society does not want to hear a message, they will hate the messenger. Just like the Abolitionists and Civil Rights Leaders of past centuries, liked reformers are rarely effective, and effective ones are rarely liked. So, keep spreading the truth.”
There are exciting things happening in the UK pro-life movement! With different organizations partnering and supporting each other, we are saturating the culture so changes can happen once people get sick of hearing about abortion.