All God’s People: Highlighting Minority Voices that Stand For Life

Human DignityImage of God

A panel discussion led by Kevin Smith, teaching pastor at Family Church in South Florida.

Panel members include:
Cherilyn Holloway, President of Pro-Black Pro-Life,
Annie Tang Humphrey, COO of Save the Storks,
Dr. Sha’ron K. Westbrooks, Ph. D.

Kevin Smith: As we’ve been discussing ways to equip the church, one thing that comes up frequently is making sure we have more voices involved in the conversation, representing the breadth of the church. When I say the breadth, I think about every kindred, tribe, tongue, and nation, and so making sure that we don’t think about issues of life and the image of God just from one particular perspective, whether American or whether particular ethnic group or racial group.

And so, we’re going to engage some conversation around these issues with some different voices, some highlighting some, what in our context would be minority voices, that Stand For Life wants to engage these matters as well.

I’m going to start out with you, Cherilyn. Can you share a little about what you mean when you have said that we need to advocate for racial equity from conception?

How are both of those terms, racial equity, related to pro-life issues?

Cherilyn Holloway: We tend to look at racial issues in abortion only in terms of pregnancy and abortion rates. As a pro-life group, we have to put the emphasis on the word, “life,” and understand that when we’re talking about a specific race group and their numbers and their tendency to participate in abortion choices more than any other group, we have to be willing to then deconstruct the racism everywhere else.

And what we have seen is that we are hyper-vigilant about talking about specifically saving Black babies, but we’ve been very deaf about hearing the needs of the Black community outside of the womb and pregnancy. And so, what we need to do, is we need to tie in the equity of the racial issues that we see in this country and that we have been on the spot for the past three years in particular, and take those and then connect them to the womb.

And I think once we do that, we will have more buy-in, in particular, from the Black community, based on our consistency and our more circular and holistic thinking about the issue.

Kevin Smith: Thank you. This is a global issue and people talk about this on many levels. Annie, you have said in some of your writing that your pro-life convictions were shaped by your mom’s personal story as an immigrant and a single mother.

I wonder if you could share a little bit about those with us.

Annie Tang Humphrey: Thank you for the opportunity to share. My mom and I and my sister immigrated here in 1987. I was 12. My sister was 11. It was a very trying time, very humbling because we essentially had to start our lives all over again. And we shared one bedroom at my uncle and my aunt’s house.

And she struggled to provide for the two of us. And we had to learn a brand new language. I didn’t even know my alphabet then, so it was definitely a struggle from all sides. From a cultural perspective, from an economical perspective, and in the home too, it wasn’t the safest. My uncle ended up being not so godly.

And so with all those struggles, I saw her strength and her faith unwavering in the sense that she would cry herself to sleep, but she would say, “The greatest testing of our faith is often experienced in the darkest hours of our lives.” With that, we were able to push through, and she was able to soar and thrive and blossom. And so she really hit all of the cylinders in terms of overcoming all of the objections, if you will, that the pro-choice side identifies as why you cannot be successful as a mom because of economical, because of cultural, or a language barrier. But she overcame all of those things.

So, with her, she is definitely a role model that says, “I can do it.” And she is not a, she’s a very shy person. She’s very meek, but through her strength, it’s in her faith. And her just, continuing to plow through, to push through, and that steady force of effort to just bring the day-to-day into our existence, and she didn’t mind working 12 hours, 15 hours.

She did not mind, continuing to be dateless because my father was very absent in our lives, and she just focused on my sister and I. She wanted to make sure she doesn’t bring an external force that will upset the apple cart, so she just pushed through. She did not have a man that was with her. She did not have the financial backing.

She did not have the language or the educational background that would define success in today’s world, but she is so successful today. And my sister and I could not be more grateful, right? But the other reason why I felt the need to switch over, change over my career from 22 years in a secular and joining pro-life was because one thing that I did notice that didn’t happen in my mom’s strength, is her voice in an abortion topic or pro-life topic.

Because Asian culture, as a whole, is fairly private. When it talks about sexuality, when it’s a topic about sexuality, abortion, it’s just a very… It has this very shameful context to it. So, because of the absence of those communications, at home, even though we grew up as Christian families, it helped.

It really avoided the topic when it came about my own unplanned pregnancy journey in college. And because I saw my mom’s strength, I saw how much she was dealing with, I interpreted in my own head, I did not want to upset the apple cart. I did not want to bring further burden to her. And this is not one of those things that we want to bring shame to the family.

So, I secretly did a thing and didn’t tell her about it until two decades later. And when she found out, she was just like, “Why didn’t you come to me? Why didn’t you talk with me?” Even though she is my rock and everything, but, in that one thing, I didn’t see that it was okay to burden her with it.

So, I wanted to create a different narrative to allow the Asian community to be more open about topic as such. But also, for my own teenage daughter, I want her to know that she can come to me for all topics. And nothing is off limits. And I think, in those communications, is when we can tackle the abortion issue holistically.

It’s to have a healthy platform that starts at home. Because in the absence of communication, that’s when you give birth to paranoia. And paranoia allows us to do so many things that are unthinkable. So, in order for abortion to be unthinkable, we need to start the communication from home.

Kevin Smith: Wow. A lack of communication leads to paranoia. Wow.

Annie Tang Humphrey: And I was paranoid for many reasons.

Kevin Smith: Yes. Wow.

Sha’ron, as someone whose work has taken you around the world, literally, can you share what it looks like to speak for human dignity internationally? We have a lot of people that come to the United States, and so we often think about it in an immigrant context, but this is a global matter as well.[00:08:00]

Dr. Sha’ron K. Westbrooks: Yes, and thinking of human life in that aspect, I think it’s important for every human being to understand that God created us on purpose, for purpose, therefore every human life without regard to race, gender, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, religious preference, gender, mental intellectual capacity has to be made aware that their life is important.

And so, every human being should treat that life with dignity and respect from the womb all the way to the tomb. So internationally, I’ll take from our Declaration of Independence. We have an inalienable right to live, pursue happiness, free from prejudice, and social injustice.

Stigmas on individuals, and in listening to you so often, people that come from other countries need to understand it doesn’t matter where you come from. That life is important, and it is worthy of existence freely.

Kevin Smith: Cherilyn, let me hone in on your earlier answer. In your region of the country and your engagement for years now, have you found that people are more prone to a tight discussion versus thinking broadly about the issues, because you spoke about trying to speak of it in a holistic manner?

Dr. Sha’ron K. Westbrooks: Right. I think it really depends on background and where an individual comes from. When I was in Afghanistan, it depended upon what little sector you were in. When I was in Saudi Arabia, it depended upon your gender. And when I was in Qatar, it was your gender. In India, it was complexion. And so, when you come to the United States, it’s all of those things.

I think so often we bring with us our experiences and where we come from, and that’s what drives our perspective over everything. Where we come from and our experiences drive us to act and react in the manner in which we act.

Kevin Smith: Cherilyn, you have written about institutional matters, systematic matters, but I think in a lot of people’s minds, when we talk about this issue, they’re perhaps thinking about one particular woman, on one particular street, in one particular clinic.

So why would you suggest, and maybe what are some avenues into people thinking more [00:12:00]broadly as you were speaking earlier?

Cherilyn Holloway: When we think historically about even Margaret Sanger, that’s our go-to on how we know the abortion industry is racist, is the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a eugenicist.

This is not a secret. It’s public knowledge. You can Google it. But I think where we have fallen short is that we have limited ourselves to just that information, and we haven’t opened up the doors and expanded the knowledge. What else was going on in the country simultaneously when these things were happening?

When we think about redlining, which was government-funded housing discrimination that we still see the effects of today, just like we’re still seeing the fruit that Margaret Sanger planted, from the tree she planted back then. We still see the same fruit. These cities are still segregated, and there’s still poverty there.

And where do we go when we want an abortion in the Black community? We go to the Black community because that’s where it is. Because it is all tied together. It is like the human body. If we look at our legal system, if we look at our health care system, we’re touting from the rooftops about infant mortality in the Black community, maternal mortality.

These things are not individual. It is a body that was created for the same purpose, to limit and eventually extinguish the Black race. And if we don’t start stepping back and allowing individuals to come tie those in with the fear of having difficult conversations, being made uncomfortable, you can hold on to your beliefs.

I’m a Christian. I believe that everybody’s made in God’s image. I believe that everyone has the right to life. You’re not going to change that. You’re not going to change that. So, me having a difficult conversation about something, a belief is not going or an opinion is not going to change my belief. And I think that once we all as believers and pro-life advocates and those who care about life in that way, are willing to come to the table and hold on to our beliefs, but lay our opinions on the line and say, help me sort this out.

Even if it makes me uncomfortable, even if it means that maybe my friendship groups will change, maybe some other things that I do at the church I go to may change. We have to be willing to do that. That is how we’re going to change the culture from within to start valuing life if we start to look at a historical perspective of how did we get here?

Kevin Smith: How were these lives valued in the past? And certainly, in American history, you can see how Black lives have been valued, or devalued, in the 19th century. Turning over to the 20th century, you can see how Asian lives have been [00:15:00] valued or devalued. Wow.

Let me ask you a question. Ronnie, can you give some examples of some international work that you’ve done?

Dr. Sha’ron K. Westbrooks: Yes, definitely. In Afghanistan, I laced with the Egyptian Field Hospital to bring Afghan women from their different tribes to a military installation to get health care for the very first time. We had women that walked.

Kevin Smith: Let me clarify. You said, “For the very first time.”

Dr. Sha’ron K. Westbrooks: Very first time. We had women that walked 8-12 miles to see a medical doctor. Now, mind you, it was overcoming a great deal of stigma. Some of them came at the threat of their lives because their husbands control them. But to see them come and get the medical care that they need and even to bring their children to me, that was just life-changing.

Also, to be able to go into communities, where they didn’t let young women go to school. But to build a school, and it was relatively inexpensive. The first schools that we built, they blew them up. The Taliban actually blew them up. And so, we had to engage with them actively to find out why.

Well, they didn’t blow them up because we were letting the young girls come in. They blew them up because we didn’t allow anyone in their community to help build with it. So, I think understanding a culture when you go in and getting appropriate buy-in is how you will move forward. And that’s critical even today.

Coming to the table and getting an understanding as to why certain individuals act or react in the manner in which they do.

Kevin Smith: So, a why issue, we’ve said, there’s racial issues we need to think about when someone might think abortion, when they might not think it is unthinkable or unnecessary, but there are also economic issues, and you’ve written and you’ve thought about employment and pay issues and other things like that sometimes provide economic challenges for women.

What would you say about those issues, work issues, that could inform us thinking about the whole issue of life?

Annie Tang Humphrey: In the workplace, people talk about inequality with minority pay or minority promotions, but when I think about workplace minority, it really isn’t about ethnicity. It’s about women who have chosen life, women who are moms are the minorities, and it’s going to become more minority if the abortion narrative continues at the rate that it’s going.

It’s time that we really rethink how workplaces should accommodate women who are expecting, women who are moms, who are single moms, and who have multiple kids. With the technology that we have today, there’s no reason why a mother and a baby in a boardroom cannot coexist. We pride ourselves in creating great work culture at Save the Storks.

What we do, is that you will see babies on Zoom calls. You will see women who are working remotely but building beautiful impact plans and strategic initiatives to help change the world. There’s no reason why other organizations can’t rethink how they would accommodate women who’s pregnant or who’s decided to choose life because it is that narrative that a woman feel like I had to take a backseat now because I am pregnant or get an abortion so that I can continue with my career path.

It should not be one or the other. She should be able to choose her baby and her career, too, as long as the performance doesn’t suffer. Studies have shown women are multitask masters, so why not give them that leverage, leveraging their skill set so that they can multitask?

They can be there for their babies and their career and drive great results. And the organization, the companies will find that they will have a huge untapped resources to tap into by opening up that channel, to embrace moms with children to coexist in the workplace. Rethink how the workplace can build a different platform for these women to thrive.

And to rethink how interviews should go. Childcare is extremely expensive. That’s just one aspect of the problem to solve. But if we can help with the childcare aspect in a way, why not? So, there’s so many ways to rethink the workplace today. And women who choose life should not be in the minorities.

And that is what’s happening with the way the abortion narrative is trying to paint, that you can only have your career if you don’t choose motherhood. And that should not be the statement at all, because it’s inaccurate. And we need to put the burden also on the employers, too.

Kevin Smith: I saw your mic go up. So, I think you’ve thought about workplace issues. So, did you have a thought on that?

And while you are thinking, or while you’re getting that together, I have, as a pastor, I have seen the aerobics and the gymnastics and the creativity and the innovation and just the thousand things that sisters have had to think about as regards career and work that brothers just didn’t have to think about. And I’ve been amazed. And they’ve come out at certain places and like, wow, but if the brother’s road was, I’ll just use an example of being a principal.

If the brother’s road to being a principal was like this, a sister in the congregation I pastored who was in education, and then she wanted to have three or four years with her kids, and then she came back into this, and then she did. Those are two principals, two high school principals. Yeah, but the road was like, whoo, drastically different. And so, are there ways that can be affected or at least considered?

Cherilyn Holloway: Yeah, just because I feel like there are so many consistencies as we sit here and talk. And this idea that as women, as the life givers, right? There can be no life without us. We were given that superpower, and that we are treated as if that superpower means nothing?

Without women, there are no men. And so, there have been studies that have shown that a woman in the workplace can lay her eyes on her children, are 80% more productive. Why wouldn’t people want that? Because it’s cheaper to offer abortion access. It affects the bottom line. But if we really think about this woman’s movement, I always say, all these years, and we still haven’t solved this as women. We still haven’t.

What we’re trying to do is be more like a man, and we are the life givers, and so when she say, I’m like, yes, yes, this is this is so true. And specifically as Black women, who statistically it’s harder for them to even advance in their careers, are being told in order for this to happen, it has to happen at the blood of your children. Where studies have shown that a Black single mother making less than $35,000 a year is more likely to choose abortion, but a single Black mother making more than $40,000 is more likely to choose life.

Kevin Smith: A five. I’m sorry. That’s just stunning. A $5,000 difference. So, even when a woman is engaging this process like you mentioned, you said something about interviews, flesh some of that out. How does it, what even from the interview process, are they already obstacles?

Annie Tang Humphrey: Yes. So most traditional employers will not accept you to come in for an interview if you have a child with you, right? But why not? In Zoom, especially in virtual Zoom calls, you can’t hear the baby or the baby is there. Certainly, there may be interruptions.

But if you truly want to get to know the talent of the individual that’s sitting in front of you, shouldn’t you look at how she handles everything in this entirety? So, we have done interviews with the babies, with the moms, and some of these employees that we brought on board, they are such superstars because we were able to give her a platform to share who she is and her vision and her talent.

Kevin Smith: Ronnie, yes. And you also have not just corporate experience. You also have military organizational experience.

Dr. Sha’ron K. Westbrooks: As a hiring official and having panels of individuals that have sat on a hiring panel that I’ve, because I’m going to hire someone, there was an instance where we had a young lady come in and you could tell that she was pregnant.

She did the very best in the interview. Her resume was impeachable, but yet I had three men on the panel that did not want to hire her because she was pregnant. They said, “Oh no, she’s going to have the baby pretty soon.” And they had all of this dialogue. And I thought to myself, “Self, if I wasn’t the individual over all of this hiring action, this great woman that we did hire, she was awesome, would not have gotten a fair chance.”

So these biases that we see in the workforce, strictly because we choose to reproduce, doesn’t make us any less effective in our ability to be productive. Now they’ve allotted for men to have time off afterwards. No one thinks about that. No, but it’s always the woman that has the stigma.

Kevin Smith: And I think the culture shifts on things. I remember the time in my pastorate when some of our younger families were beginning to have children. And I remember maternal leave and, father would be paternal, right? Paternal leave, but then I remember, shortly after, like, two to three years later, they, I won’t name the companies, but people, they started drawing back on that paternal leave. And I was like, man, all they did was make a budget line calculation and say, “I guess I don’t think it’s worth it.”

And so, just some broader family implications. I hope we can press people into considering those matters at a broader level. So, what we’ve tried to, how we’ve tried to frame this panel is highlighting minority voices.

And so. as we turn the corner, I’d just be curious, in your own personal experience, how have you felt like your voice has, or has not, been heard? Each of you, I’d be curious with each of you.

Cherilyn Holloway: I’ll start. Yeah, I think that, where God leads, God gives grace. And so, I have had amazing opportunities to actually share on national TV. I was a part of a series on ABC called, Soul of a Nation, where we talked about faith and abortion, and I was able to share my story and share the work that I do and how I came to this place on a national level.

The barriers that I have actually found come from within the pro-life movement, and because nobody wants to talk about the systemic issues. Honestly, you say systemic or, you say anything about biases and people are just like, no, we don’t want to have that conversation because this idea that, keeping it one thing is, it’s going to be how we reach people, has never been proven effective.

And so, God has been gracious. He basically has said, “I will show you the doors in, within the movement that are going to be open for you. You are to walk through those, but I’m going to take your message outside of the movement.” And so even though there has been resistance there, I am grateful for the time prior to doing this that I spent there because I understand, more or less, the pro-life culture and how individuals think, and see this issue from various aspects.

And I’ve been able to meet a lot of people from a lot of different places. And so, I don’t count it a loss, or I don’t count it discouraging. It’s just, it just is.

Kevin Smith: And I think, when you bring up some matters, I’m sure it’s just the reality of getting some new carpet or painting a room is different than taking a whole house down to the studs.

And I think when you lean in on some things, people immediately realize she’s not talking about painting a room. And so then that’s a choice and that’s a consideration. When you’re going to go down to the studs, you got to examine your money, my financing. Can I do this? And you gotta just examine the will to do it.

My wife, her name is Pat. We watch HGTV, and sometimes people’s like, I want a move-in-ready house. I don’t want a fixer-upper. Well, when you bring up some of these matters, it’s saying, “Hey, this is a serious, major overhaul we’re suggesting.” Just wondering, in your context, how has your voice been or not been heard?

Dr. Sha’ron K. Westbrooks: Well, I will tell you, being a female in the military in one of the first organizations where women were integrated into a male unit and organization, very often you find that your voice is minimized. They want to minimize my voice capabilities. And then will convey the only reason why you’re promoted so quickly is because you’re a Black female.

You’ve hit two things. Couldn’t be anything that I did. It didn’t matter what I accomplished. In their mind, they tried to minimize my achievements by putting me into a category of Black female. And I find in society, that is a major piece, too. They will put a Black female in a category. The only reason why you accomplished that is because you’re a Black female.

It wasn’t that I was an airborne soldier, air assault, or had been a drill sergeant, or all these things, accomplishments. And couldn’t be that I’ve earned a doctorate degree. Couldn’t be any of that. It’s because I’m a Black female. And so often they try to minimize the voice. And that’s what I found.

When I was in Saudi Arabia, I was sent there, and I had to set up a local depository account because we didn’t want American currency on the battlefield. So, to minimize that, we set up a local depository account and we used their currency. When I went there, he wanted, the driver, he didn’t want to talk to me, but I was the one to set it up.

So, I said, okay, we’ll leave. We’ll go to the other one. I can understand that because that’s Saudi Arabia. That’s their culture. But to get the same types of treatment here, in the United States of America, the home of the brave, the land of the free, is disheartening.

Kevin Smith: Annie, in your engagement, in your particular context, how do you think your voice has or has not been heard?

Annie Tang Humphrey: I’m actually more of an introvert, so,

Kevin Smith: So, you want your voice to not be heard.

Annie Tang Humphrey: So, usually, I am a more behind-the-scenes type of person. But a couple of years ago when I joined the pro-life movement, I actually had to come clean with my abortion story that has been hidden for so long because it’s just one of those things that they didn’t want to think about, right?

It’s so shameful, nobody knew. It was a hidden secret, and when I finally got in touch with the reality and have to go back in time and travel with that, that’s when I realized, I need to do something in the pro-life segment. We need to make sure that the story is heard, that the redemption story is much more powerful than my broken story, regardless of what my race is, regardless of what my social background may be.

People look at you from the outside with a broken inside. We live in a world where everything is a picture-perfect social media post. I want them to see my broken inside. And that was when my healing journey began. And because of that, they pushed me onto the stage to speak to people, and I was quite terrified, and even sitting here, it’s not a comfort level for me.

But I realized that God challenges us to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and, so yes, I felt like my voice has been heard and that my abortion story didn’t define me. But if my abortion story can help unleash the others to begin their healing journey, and then prevent others from making the same mistakes, then it’s all worth it.

We do live in a world that is very instant-gratification-centric, right? We want a quick fix. We want a move-in-ready, turn-key house. We want everything to be done, ready to go, but, an abortion-healing journey is a long, long road, and the pro-life movement cannot be done without us really getting in for the long haul.

Transformation, though, in the way that the pro-life anatomy needs to be reshifted, reshaped, it’s also long overdue. We need to rethink and reimagine what pro-life should look like. And when we talk about celebrating diversity. It really needs to be a statement that we truly embrace as a pro-life movement, not just an ethnicity, but looking at the way things are done, looking at the way things are being preached, looking at the things that. There’s more than one way to solve an issue, and collaboration in its true form, celebrates diversity.

So, I’m looking forward to that, and I feel like Stand For Life, it’s really beginning to embrace that platform and allowing more doors to open.

Kevin Smith: I am excited to have had the privilege of Standing For Life with three sisters in the body of Christ, and I so like your words that the redemption story is greater than our story of brokenness.

In our church, we use an evangelism tool called, The Three Circles, and one of the circles is brokenness, which results from us failing to pursue God’s design. But that’s not the end of the story. If we will recover and pursue God’s design, we are going back toward Him. And so, I really like that phrase.

And I hope that we will be able to encourage women to find abortion to be unthinkable and unnecessary, but I hope we will do it, number one, by engaging broad voices in the conversation and considering these essential matters that you all have raised. So, thank you so much.

Cherilyn Holloway: Thank you.

Dr. Sha’ron K. Westbrooks: Thank you for the opportunity.