Over the years, Scientology has been in and out of the news cycle fairly regularly. Tom Cruise famously came under fire when he claimed that Scientology negated the need for antidepressants — kicking off a bit of a feud with new mother (and postpartum depression sufferer) Brooke Shields.
Aside from that, most Americans only hear about Scientology when another Hollywood convert emerges. The list includes Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, and a whole host of others. But it's one who used to be on that list who's making the headlines now.
Ex-devotee Leah Remini opened up to A&E for the docu-series “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” and a few of the claims Remini and other show participants have made are nothing short of chilling.
For example, a woman on the latest episode told Remini that she had been forced to have an abortion:
And Americans were shocked and disturbed:
But the most terrifying part is that Scientology's alleged ties to forced abortions aren't news. It's just that no one was talking about it:
In June 2010, The Tampa Bay Times interviewed two women who claimed that they too had been forced into abortions. Their stories are reprinted below:
She was just 12 when her parents let her leave home to work full time for Scientology's religious order, the Sea Organization. At 16, she married a co-worker. At 17, she was pregnant.
She was excited to start a family, but she said Sea Org supervisors pressured her to have an abortion. She was back at work the following day.
Joined at 16, married at 17 and was pregnant at 19. She said Sea Org supervisors threatened strenuous physical work and repeated interrogations if she didn't end her pregnancy. She, too, was back at work the next day.
Two years later she had a second abortion, this time while working for the church in Clearwater.
According to The Tampa Bay Times article, the women who refused to have abortions were moved to “less desirable” parts of the organization and ostracized by others:
Women who didn't schedule abortions were shunned by fellow Sea Org members, called “degraded beings'' and taunted for being ”out ethics,'' straying from the order's ethical code.
Some were isolated, assigned manual labor and interrogated until they agreed to abortions, said church defectors, including men whose wives got abortions.
Through it all, the church denied all accusations. In 2010, church spokesman Tommy Davis released a statement:
"There is no church policy to convince anyone to have an abortion, and the church has never engaged in such activity.
The decision to have a child or terminate a pregnancy is a personal decision made by a couple. That applies to all Scientologists.
If any current or former Sea Org member ever 'pressured' someone to have an abortion, they did so independently and that action was not approved, endorsed or advocated by the church.''
Gary Morehead, who worked security for Sea Org before leaving the organization, told the paper that pregnancies were treated like “a slap in the face”:
"There was no plus side to it whatsoever. Never did anyone go, 'Congratulations.'
You're taking a beautiful time in a person's life and you're making it into a complete, utter crime.''
Morehead also admitted that he had taken part in pressuring women to have abortions while he was working with Sea Org.
But now that more and more of their stories are coming to light, the women who claim that abortion was forced upon them are fighting back. Former member Laura DeCrescenzo has filed a lawsuit against the Church of Scientology. Inquisitr reports:
Court documents allege that Laura DeCrescenzo was forced into having an unwanted abortion. She stated that she while she had been using birth control pills, she stopped shortly before falling pregnant at age 17. What measures did the Church of Scientology use to force Laura to have an abortion? They threatened her with expulsion and homelessness, as well as the loss of her job.
According to tenets of Scientology, if DeCrescenzo had lost her job she would be forced to pay what is known as a “freeloader debt” to pay for all of her previous “training.” While Laura remained with the Church of Scientology out of abject fear for the next 12 years, the idea that the church had forced her into having an abortion must never have left her mind.
Claire Headley has also filed a similar suit.
The Church of Scientology has responded to the lawsuits through attorney Bert Deixler, saying that the court has no jurisdiction over the church: "We do not have the civil courts investigate religious practices.'