A lawsuit filed against the Church of Scientology alleges that religious authorities coerced Laura DeCrescenzo into having an abortion when she was 17 years old, during her time working as a member of Sea Org, a religious order of Scientology. The case has been making its way through the court system since 2009.
DeCrescenzo signed a contract to become a member of Sea Org at age twelve, pledging her devotion for one billion years. The commitment included moving away from her parents to stay at a Scientology base in Hollywood. In the lawsuit, she claims that during this time she was falsely imprisoned, isolated from her parents, and severely disciplined.
At age 17, DeCrescenzo became pregnant, and was allegedly forced into having an abortion by religious leaders. She claims that her supervisor pressured her for days to have an abortion with threats of losing her housing, husband, and position with Sea Org.
“I was told by the commanding officer of my organization that… at this point the baby wasn’t a baby, it was just tissue,” she said, also claiming that she was “handled” for two days by her supervisor, who allegedly told her aborting the baby was the “greatest good.” A note from the supervisor, written at the time of the pregnancy, states that DeCrescenzo was”two months pregnant, upset about it and doesn’t want to have an abortion.”
“I never agreed to have an abortion,” said DeCrescenzo. “Did I concede? Yes, I did. Does it kill me every day? Yes, it does.”
According to ABC, the Church of Scientology has denied all allegations, despite acknowledging that policy prohibits active members of Sea Org from having young children. Attorneys for the Church argue that DeCrescenzo was a volunteer, and could have left if she wanted to. Scientology attorney Bert Deixler claims that DeCrescenzo’s stay with the organization was based on faith, not force.
But journalist Tony Ortega, who says he has researched the stories of hundreds of former Scientologists, argues that members of Sea Org are conditioned to believe they could never make it outside the organization. “They’re told you’ll never get a job, you don’t understand how the world works, and they’re terrified. They really are terrified about leaving,” said Ortega.
The lawsuit is currently pending litigation, with parties scheduled to appear in court in June.