June 14, 2010
Women Say Scientology Forced Them to Have Abortions
Lawsuits in federal court also allege labor law violations.
The St. Petersburg Times reports that two former members of the Church of Scientology’s elite Sea Organization leadership group have filed lawsuits in federal court, alleging that the church violated labor laws and forced them to abort two children.
Claire and Marc Headley filed separate actions in January 2009. In addition to the abortions, the Headleys allege that the Church created a working environment that constituted forced labor and violated human trafficking laws.
According to the Times, Claire Headley testified in a May 28 court filing that the church threatened her with “heavy manual labor and … interrogation” if she did not have an abortion after finding out she was pregnant in 1994. In 1996, she became pregnant again, and she alleges that she was not even allowed to contact her husband before having an abortion.
She told the paper, “I'd already promised myself the first time that I would never, ever go through with that again,” but with the church pressuring her and her husband cut off from contact, she felt that a second abortion was “inevitable.”
"I don't remember saying, 'I will' or 'I will not,'” she said. “It was more like the apathetic path of least resistance. I know I never said, 'I want an abortion,' because I did not have the strength to say that.”
The Times report includes video interviews with Headley and other women who say they went through the same thing. Sunshine “Sunny” Pereira, a former Sea Org staffer who says she handled pregnancy cases as part of her job, says she had two abortions of her own in 1994 and 2001.
In her video interview, she told the Times that the church made pregnant Sea Org staffers feel that their work was too important to abandon for a child.
"They put you in this position where you're weighing the lives of all these people you're supposed to be saving against this one little tiny speck of nuisance that's growing inside of you, and make it seem so unimportant," Pereira said.
The Church of Scientology denies that they have ever forced anyone to have an abortion.
Church spokesman Tommy Davis told the Times that people who want to have children “receive assistance from the church, including immediate prenatal care, medical care, financial assistance and even help in finding housing and employment upon departure from the Sea Org.”
Davis released sworn statements from ten women who said Scientology leaders supported them during their pregnancies.
The Church has moved to dismiss the Headley lawsuits. A hearing on the motions is scheduled for July 26.