Does the Church of Scientology Force Abortions On Its Pregnant Members?

Scientologists just can't catch a break. People were angry when John Travolta dropped them off in Haiti to touch people. They are accused of covering up child rape. And now, former members are saying they were pressured into having abortions.

The St. Petersburg Times, whose reporters have investigated Scientology for years, have an exhaustive report out today about several former church members who say, as teenagers, they were pressured into having abortions because having children would interfere with their work for Scientology's religious order, the Sea Organization. Since 1996, the Sea Org has had an official "no kids allowed" policy.

Today's story features several women who have filed federal lawsuits against the church and have given sworn depositions saying, among other things, that working conditions within the Sea Organization are equal to human trafficking, and that abortions were forced on them by the church. If true, these would be some of the most damning allegations made yet against the church—an organization has seen its fair share of accusations.

One of the women interviewed, Laura Dieckman, was 12 years old when she left her home, with her parents' blessing, to work for the Sea Organization in California. Four years later she married another Sea Org member and less than a year after that she was pregnant. When she told her bosses that she was pregnant, and planned to keep the baby, she says her boss told her, "Chill, Laura . . . the baby is just tissue at this point." Under pressure from her bosses in the Sea Org, Dieckman says, she had an abortion and was back on the job the next day. These charges are denied by church spokesman Tommy Davis. He confirms the Sea Org's no children policy, telling the paper that "the policy evolved out of respect for families and deference to children,'' because children are "viewed as interfering with the productivity of Sea Org members.''

The Sea Organization—whose members dress in sailor outfits and sign billion year contracts—gets its name from the days when church founder L. Ron Hubbard ran the organization aboard ships. Today it has about 6,000 members, 150 of whom are executives, like Davis.

The Church of Scientology is a frequent target of disgruntled former members and whistleblowers, and the church keeps busy countering the many claims. If the forced abortions are true, well, damn. Below is a video interview with several of the women who are claiming they were forced to give up their unborn children.

Click to view

[Image and video via St. Petersburg Times]