The controversial Church of Scientology is coming under criticism from multiple women who all say they were forced to have abortions. The Church has been a source of debate since its founding by American science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard.
Adding to the debate, the Church of Scientology is now facing accusations from scores of women who say they are been pressured or coerced into having abortions against their will – and Laura DeCrescenzo, a New Mexico resident, is leading the way with a lawsuit against the “Church.”
The Village Voice newspaper has a lengthy article on her struggle:
All told, over the three years she’s been suing Scientology for the way she was treated as a young Sea Org employee — including, she alleges, being forced to have an abortion at 17 so she could keep working extreme hours without interruption — she’s been deposed a total of four and a half days.
Just keeping up with what’s happened to her lawsuit since she first filed it in 2009 has also been exhausting — the case has been to state and federal courts, to a state appeals court, and now back to a state trial judge, and it’s still a year from an actual trial date. And, as our legal expert Scott Pilutik tells us, DeCrescenzo still has serious hurdles to overcome to even reach that jury trial. But a year ago, Pilutik explained to us that the consequences of this single case are enormous for Scientology, which helps explain why the church is fighting it so hard.
If Laura DeCrescenzo can get her story heard in court, the result could be devastating.
DeCrescenzo has talked at length about the brainwashing she underwent during her time in what many people consider to be a cult. The brainwashing was so extensive that “Church” of Scientology members tried to talk her into thinking she had made the decision to have an abortion.
Also, she says, she constantly has to battle the church attorneys during the depositions over terminology. “They’re always trying to put words in my mouth.”
When she gave an answer about having a forced abortion, for example, she says one of the church attorneys began his next question by saying, “So, when you made the decision to have an abortion rather than leave…”
“I had to stop him. ‘No, I was forced to have an abortion.’ So we ended up going back and forth arguing about that,” she says.
“I think my case is too unbelievable for most people to grasp,” she adds. “It’s almost too unbelievable for me. The fact that I started in the Sea Org at 12 and all that happened, it’s just incredible.”
DeCrescenzo isn’t the only woman who has left the church and alleged to have been forced to have an abortion.
Maureen Bolstad, former Sea Org (a division of the “Church:) member, said in a 2009 interview on KESQ TV News: “If a woman gets pregnant, and does not abort the child, then they are declared a suppressive person. Because,it kind of started out gradually. At first, the thing was, the Church of Scientology International did not want to pay for child care.”
Claire Headley, another former member, filed suit as well.
“In particular, Plaintiff complains that she worked long hard hours for illegal wages, was forced to have abortions to keep her job and was subjected to violations of personal rights and liberties by Defendants for purposes of obtaining forced labor,” he legal challenge says. “The goals of this case include stopping the practice of ordering female employees to have abortions, stopping the practice of oppressive child labor and clearing the path for workers of Scientology organizations to obtain the compensation due them under state and federal labor laws. Plaintiff seeks payment for her work at minimum wage, overtime pay, a permanent injunction against forced abortions and other remedies authorized by law.”
“In the course of, and by reason of her employment with Defendants, Plaintiff was ordered to have abortions, at her expense, and in fact coerced and intimidated into having abortions to keep her job with Defendant. Plaintiff is informed and believes that Defendants continue to ignore labor laws and coerce pregnant workers into forced abortions,” it continues.
Tera Hattaway, former staff member for the Church, swore in an Affidavit in April 2001, “Within a month or so of joining staff I discovered that I was pregnant. At the time I was approximately 22 years old, upset and uncertain as to how to handle this. I was afraid and needed someone to turn to so I confided in Melanie, thinking I needed to let my ex-boyfriend know, as I truly did love him very much and we did have intentions to marry in the future. Melanie’s very strong advice and pressure was to abort the baby. She had gone on to say that at this point in my life it is better to do the greatest good for all. That spending my life “clearing the planet”which means basically to get the planet saved from insanity, would be the greatest good, in other words, a far more noble endeavor than leaving staff to raise a child.”
And Jenna Miscavige-Hill, another former member, talked with ABC’s Nightline program about her experience.
Hill said that “if you get pregnant when you’re in the Sea Org you either have to leave, or you get an abortion. I know women who have had up to four abortions.”
Some critics of the “Church” of Scientology says the evidence is enough to warrant a massive investigation by state and federal authorities and for the IRS to reconsider its decision long ago to allow the Church to hold 501(c)3 nonprofit status. With articles like the one in the Village Voice, the “Church” is likely to face significantly more pressure.