18 February 2012
I keep hearing about people who want to have religious exemptions for contraception in medical policies. Few people realize there’s another side to that coin: a religious exemption for coerced abortions.
Well, right, but who would do such a thing you ask?
The Church of Scientology, of course.
I’d previously mentioned Claire Headley’s case, but she wasn’t speaking at the Human Trafficking in Scientology Press Conference I went to two years ago because of that case. There was, however, a similar story.
Laura Decrescenzo talks about joining the Sea Org at 12, being coerced into an abortion despite wanting kids, and how she attempted suicide to get out of the Sea Org:
Maureen Bolstad was camera crew for Gold, here’s some of her story (including some of the conditions she did camera work under). Note that she did what some of the other Gold crew have done for Writers of the Future. Note in particular the circumstances in the second video when she talks about some of the conditions she worked under while severely injured. She is a representative sample of the Gold camera crew filming the Writers of the Future events.
Here’s part of the ruling (currently under appeal) in Claire Headley’s case:
Even so, she [Claire Headley] argues that she is a victim under the TVPA [Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act] because: (1) Defendants coerced her into having two abortions; (2) Defendants placed restrictions on Sea Org members’ ability to leave; (3) Defendants pursue Sea Org members who leave without routing out and attempt to dissuade them from their decision; (4) Defendants discipline Sea Org members who even express a desire to leave; (5) Defendants censor Sea Org members’ communications; (6) Defendants’ discipline of Sea Org members includes sleep and eating deprivation and heavy manual labor; and (7) Defendants attempted to force Plaintiff to divorce her husband. (Pl.’s Opp’n 17-18.)
In contrast to Bollard and Elvig, Defendants here represent that the challenged conduct was doctrinally motivated. (E.g., Defs.’ Reply 10-11, 15-18.) Therefore, inquiry into these allegations would entangle the Court in the religious doctrine of Scientology and the doctrinally-motivated practices of the Sea Org. It would also require the Court to analyze the criteria Defendants use to choose their ministers and the reasonableness of the methods used to enforce church policy and encourage members to remain with the organization and the religion itself. For example, inquiry concerning the pressure Plaintiff allegedly faced after becoming pregnant would require review of Scientology’s doctrine prohibiting Sea Org members from raising children. In order to determine whether Defendants’ means of persuading members to remain with the Sea Org, etc. fall within the purview of the TVPA, a trier of fact must inquire into Scientology’s policies,practices, and scriptures.
The Court rejects Plaintiff’s argument that the challenged conduct was not doctrinally motivated.
The judge is, essentially, full of it. In fact, L. Ron Hubbard’s writings are very much anti-abortion, so you could argue that the theology of Scn is anti-abortion but the current practice, at least for Sea Org members is exactly the opposite, and therefore it is a triable matter of fact as it can’t possibly be doctrinally motivated.
Here’s the background for how Scn prevented Sea Org members from leaving Gold base, including coercion and motion sensors. Here’s the judge’s statement in a hearing (pacer link, which requires a fee):
You submitted evidence that they did believe that the Church did not want them to leave the property, and if they did, that they couldn’t be members of the Church anymore. That’s an entirely different thing from being held against one’s will and being forced to work.
I can’t lather up enough rage for the judge’s complete inability to consider testimony.
A longer history of Scientology and abortion can be found in the Wikipedia article. Possibly the best reference on the change from anti-abortion to the coerced abortion situation, though, is this post about the institution of the “no kids” in the Sea Org when one of L. Ron Hubbard’s kids, Suzette, was pregnant. However, it should be noted that there were coerced abortions before, too, including time in the 60s on the ships with L. Ron Hubbard at the head of the church, but it was not as widespread or among as many people as it later became. So, really, the implied policy has always been more about serving the church’s goals and needs than about the actual theoretical doctrine.