“You are pregnant” were words I didn’t expect to hear at the start of 2016.

I thought I was going for a routine pap smear at Planned Parenthood like normal, but the appointment was cut short once the news was delivered that I was expecting. My mind was racing.

“How didn’t I know I was pregnant? There had to be signs that I overlooked. What am I going to do now?”

On one hand, I was elated to know that I had finally moved into a healthy space with my womb, but as soon as the reality of my recent breakup set in, I realized that making a decision about this pregnancy wasn’t going to be easy. On top of that I didn’t want to be judged negatively by those that loved me.

After weighing the pros and cons of each of my options, I chose to abort. And even though I had the support of my family and friends for whatever decision I decided to make, I had to face the termination and its emotional consequences alone.

It’s difficult to open up about traumatic experiences, especially when one involves a topic that many feel uncomfortable speaking about. But I have always been someone that believes there is healing within communication. Despite my apprehension to open up about what I was going through, I reached out to someone I knew wouldn’t judge me negatively and could actively assist with my healing.

I called on my sister and Tantric healer, Tiffany Janay. Her work with crystals and within spirituality brought us together and I knew she would be the perfect person to support me within my low moment. Tiffany listened warmly as I told her about my recent decision to end my pregnancy and to my surprise, she opened up to me about her own experience with abortion.

“Children are brought into your life to help you grow,” she said with wisdom.

I was relieved. Not only had she helped normalize this situation by sharing her own personal journey with me, but she also assisted in my healing by making me realize that creating life is powerful and transformative in itself. Then something else magical happened.

As I began to share my story with friends who would call to check in on me, they too would share their experiences with abortion. They each had different, yet common reasons for ending their pregnancies. One woman in college knew that having a child would deter her path. Another knew that being with the man who impregnated her wouldn’t be healthy for her future. A third simply couldn’t afford to raise another child alone. A man admitted to me he had to pay for a few abortions in his younger years, and dozens more who all had various reasons for why they made the decision to abort.

Hearing all of these stories made me think back to the waiting room on the day of my procedure and how crowded it was. At least 25 women waited patiently to end their pregnancies, and this was just one Saturday in the month of February at one clinic in downtown San Diego.

There are millions of women using their autonomy in this way yearly, yet in the African-American community, we aren’t talking about it enough.

And I have to question, why?

Abortion is a topic that is more than often spotlighted when the political climate shifts into election mode, but when media coverage ceases, the topic is left in the shadows. Everyone seems to have such strong opinions about this topic, yet the conversations focused on abortion still remain stigmatized. So many brothers and sisters are suffering in silence with the pain of loss and feelings of guilt, yet those closest to them have no idea.

Again, I ask the question, why aren’t Black people talking about abortion more openly and more often? Especially since African-American women are 3.6 times more likely to experience abortion than any other ethnic group, particularly those who are within a lower income status. In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute, African-American women account for 30 percent of all abortions performed in the US. Talking about abortion not only begins the healing process, but it also helps normalize it.

Women’s sexual health isn’t just about getting tested for STIs, having regular pap smears and checking for breast masses. Abortion is also a service that should be seen as a normal part of women’s sexual health care. As creators, women have the birthright to choose when they will become mothers, and the right to abort should be understood and respected by society instead of shunned.

But there is healing in communication, and the African-American community—collectively and members individually—must work on healing those who are still carrying the emotional scars of harsh judgement and ridicule about their decision to abort.

You’re going to hell.

You shouldn’t have been such a whore.

God will cast you into a lake of fire for being a baby killer.

These are just a few of the lies protesters spew in the faces of women as they walk into clinics for their scheduled appointments. It’s vile, it’s hurtful and downright illegal what they are doing, but this is what a woman has to face when she uses her autonomy in this way in the name of self care.

Every time a woman or a man shared their abortion experience with me, I could feel a shift in their energy and see their shoulders become more relaxed than when we first began our conversation. Some cried while telling their stories, and my embrace was enough to reassure them that there is power and healing within speaking out. Just knowing that they had someone to relate to that wasn’t judging them negatively was enough for them to let go. We need more people within our community who are willing to listen without judgement.

Glamazon Tyomi is a freelance writer, model and sex educator with a deeply rooted passion for spreading the message of sex positivity and encouraging the masses to embrace their sexuality. Her website, www.glamerotica101.com, reaches internationally as a source for advice and information for the sexually active.curious. Follow her on Twitter at @glamazontyomi.