A former Scientologist who says she was forced to abort her unborn baby settled a lawsuit with the religious group Monday.
Former member Laura DeCrescenzo’s case has drawn international attention because of her accusations against the Church of Scientology. DeCrescenzo and the religious group have been in an on-going legal battle for years.
The AP reports the two parties reached a settlement Monday, less than a month before the scheduled trial. The settlement terms are confidential, according to the report.
DeCrescenzo accused the religious group of forcing her to abort her unborn baby at age 17, falsely imprisoning her and forcing her to work long hours from the time she was 12. She said she escaped in 2004 after faking a suicide attempt.
“I believed that if I took any action against the Church of Scientology — whether filing a lawsuit or even speaking negatively about the Church of Scientology — that I would be subjected to severe retribution, including significant financial penalties and loss of my family,” she said in a statement this week.
After more than a decade, however, she decided to file a lawsuit to expose and challenge Scientologists’ allegedly heinous practices.
DeCrescenzo said her parents were members of the group, and, starting at age 12, she left home and became a member of the Church of Scientology International Sea Org. While there, she alleged the church leaders forced her and other young people to work long hours in harsh conditions, and coerced several young women to abort their unborn babies.
DeCrescenzo said she married a fellow Scientologist when she was 16 and became pregnant at 17. Later, she said she was coerced into aborting her unborn baby.
“I was told by the commanding officer of my organization that, she immediately started telling me at this point the baby wasn’t a baby, it was just tissue,” DeCrescenzo said, previously. “I never agreed to have an abortion. Did I concede? Yes, I did. Does it kill me every day? Yes, it does.”
She accused Scientologists of forcing members to work 100 hours per week and issuing “severe punishments” to keep people under their power.
“There are two very different versions of Scientology. There is the Scientology as presented to the outside world and there is a different Scientology in which Plaintiff lived and worked for approximately 13 years,” her lawsuit states.
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Other former Scientologists also have accused the group of forced or coerced abortions. In 2015, LifeNews reported former Scientologist Samantha Domingo said she and other women were treated like “criminals” when they became pregnant and wanted to keep their babies. She said the religious leaders eventually succeeded in manipulating and coercing her to abort her unborn child.
“I bought into it. I had an abortion to prove I wasn’t this evil person, this Satan that everybody was saying I was,” Domingo said.
Domingo said she can never forgive herself for killing her baby.
“I murdered a child, that’s the way I look at it, and it will forever live with me that I murdered a child. I will never forgive myself for that, I will never be able to rewrite it,” she said.
In 2016, former member Claire Headley told documentarian Leah Remini a similar story. Headley said she and other women she knew were forced or coerced into having abortions — and one woman had six. She and her husband, Marc, another former Scientologist, said they both were abused by the religious leaders and later left the religion.
“It’s a heavily guarded property, and a lot of secrecy and a lot of control.… You’re not allowed to make phone calls without permission or someone listening.… People would escape frequently,” she recalled.