SB News-Press: ‘Different possibilities’ – Goleta councilmember candidly shares his abortion story

First published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on May 7, 2022.

James Kyriaco, a Goleta City Council member, believes men should speak out about their experiences with abortion, how they benefited, the role they played.

So late Tuesday night, as the nation grappled with a leaked draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion overruling Roe v. Wade, Mr. Kyriaco opened Twitter, took a risk and did just that.

Two hundred and eighty characters at a time, Mr. Kyriaco candidly detailed how he didn’t spend “a lot of time thinking about life in terms of its possibilities” in his 20s. And shortly after a tumultuous relationship ended, he learned his former partner was pregnant.

He relived the onslaught of emotions he felt — scared, trapped, uncertain — and carefully described the shame his ex-girlfriend kept internalized from a previous abortion. He prepared to support his former partner, however that might look.

Ultimately, she made the decision to have an abortion. He drove to the nearest Planned Parenthood and waited outside, warily keeping an eye on a “lonely protester carrying a grotesque sign.” After the procedure, he drove her home. The pair went their separate ways.

She got married, became a teacher and started a family, Mr. Kyriaco said.

He also later married, and their “journey together has been filled with many different possibilities.”

“Abortion allows for new possibilities. Different possibilities,” Mr. Kyriaco, now 48, said.

As the draft Supreme Court opinion upended the country this week, many people shared their “abortion stories.” Some have sought to show why abortion should be outlawed, praising others’ decisions to have a child or choose adoption. Others have attempted to destigmatize abortion, explaining how having safe access to the procedure gave them more chances for education, career or a family later in life.

And others have warned of the disproportionate impact overruling Roe would have on people with lower incomes, minorities and other marginalized communities.

Abortion has, at times, been chalked up to a “women’s issue,” but Mr. Kyriaco said it’s important for men to be part of the conversation, too — albeit not necessarily at the forefront.

“While I think women need to be kept front and center in any conversation related to abortion rights and access, I think that it’s important for men to see the relationship between what preserving and protecting those rights and access for women has to their own lives,” Mr. Kyriaco told the News-Press in an interview. “Having more of an ability to become a parent when you are ready and able to do so benefits them in their careers, their own physical and mental wellbeing, their personal and family relationships and economically.”

Mr. Kyriaco shared his story last year before a congregation gathered at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara. At the time, Republican-led states like Florida, Mississippi and Texas were pushing laws enacting stringent abortion restrictions.

“I have felt for some time now that — however anyone might feel on abortion — that it’s important that we be able to talk about it without simply shouting past one another,” Mr. Kyriaco said. “Our society is increasingly getting our news and forming our opinions based on information shared via social media. By looking at issues through these platforms, which function like distorted social mirrors in a sense, we become more polarized and less open to dialogue. As a result, we are losing sight of the individuals who are being prevented from making their own reproductive decisions.”

“The leaked opinion from the Supreme Court reinforces my belief that we all need to share our relationship to abortion in order to truly appreciate what will be at stake as we enter a post-Roe, post-(Planned Parenthood v. Casey) world,” he said.

In September, the Goleta City Council adopted a resolution affirming its support for “reproductive freedom.” The resolution was authored by Mr. Kyriaco.

“We support reproductive freedom and justice and believe that pregnant people — not government — should make personal medical decisions for themselves and their families,” Mr. Kyriaco said at the time, about seven months before the nation’s highest court would signal a dramatic change for abortion access.

Mr. Kyriaco, a founding member of the City of Goleta Public Engagement Commission, can be found on Twitter at @Jkyriaco.

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