When the Oakland City Council unanimously voted in May to become a pro-choice sanctuary city, Council Member and mayoral candidate Treva Reid candidly mentioned her own experience with abortion — but that opened her to criticism over her own evolving position on the issue.
Now, with the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, Reid said she felt compelled to speak out about the trauma of her experiences and how she came to be a proponent of abortion rights after once supporting an activist who regularly confronted patients outside an Oakland clinic.
In an interview with The Chronicle, Reid said she had her first abortion at 19. Trapped in a physically abusive relationship, she had three more abortions during college — a difficult decision she said she made after worrying she would be beaten to death by her partner at the time.
“It was scary. It was painful. It was difficult,” Reid said. “And it kept me silent.”
“I never thought that I would run for office because of the fear and shame that I had from those decisions way back in college,” she added.
Reid admitted that her feelings about abortion are complex, and that her stance on the issue has evolved.
“What’s evolved is me as a woman of faith understanding the complexity of the issue that women are faced with,” Reid said.
After talking about her experience at the May 17 council meeting, an observer shared a YouTube video posted six years ago showing Reid speaking in support of Walter Hoye, an antiabortion reverend who was jailed briefly for allegedly harassing women outside of a health clinic in Oakland in 2008.
In the video, Reid said her relationship with Hoye and his wife gave her the strength and “strategy” to “speak more passionately, not passively, about the experiences I’ve had and the truth about abortion and the unborn child and the effects of abortion on women.
“When you’ve experienced aborting your children and you’ve realized the magnitude of that decision of you, on your family, your emotional health, your spiritual health, your mental health, and you’ve seen how it’s played a part in taking a part of your life in some respects with relationships around you. It makes it more personal for you and how you move forward,” she said at the time.
Another video posted by a Twitter user showed Reid praying outside of Santa Rita Jail, where Hoye was being held in 2009.
A jury convicted Hoye of two misdemeanor charges of harassing patients. He served a 30-day jail sentence in 2009, but a Superior Court panel overturned the convictions a year later. He later filed a legal challenge to Oakland’s “bubble ordinance” barring protesters from coming within 8 feet of women entering and exiting abortion clinics.
Reid said her comments in the videos were her “processing” her decision out loud and that she has never supported someone standing outside of health clinics, “threatening you, intimidating you.” Instead, she said the only issue she aligned with Hoye on was about openly speaking about abortion in church. She said she split away from Hoye when she realized they “ were so far apart.”
At the time of her abortions, Reid said she felt completely alone — she couldn’t talk to her partner at the time or her parents. Attending a church in Cincinnati where her uncle was the pastor, Reid said she did not know how to deal with expectations from the church not to have sex or the reality of getting pregnant.
She said she was on her own to figure out how to pay for the procedures and used the Yellow Pages to figure out where to go. She felt intense shame.
“I didn’t even know how to tell people that I was getting abused.” Reid said. “I grew up with wearing a mask, acting like everything was OK.”
Reid said she didn’t feel comfortable talking publicly about her abortions until after talking to her daughter about it when the girl was 12. After that conversation nearly 17 years ago, Reid said she realized that no one inside the church, or outside the church, could hurt her because “the life that I did give was standing there ... was proud of me.”
Since then, Reid said she has been surrounded by women who have fought for abortion rights. From 2012 to 2015, Reid worked for state Sen. Nancy Skinner, a champion of abortion rights in California.
Now, she wants to empower the women with similar experiences “in a moment where their rights are being shut down to rise up, to come together, to unite” and not “feel ashamed or intimidated or threatened.”