St. Pete Times on Forced Abortions
UPDATED with Scientologist’s reactions below.
The St. Petersberg Times continues their terrific series of articles on Scientology fraud and abuse. This time they focused on how Scientology coerced Sea Org members to have abortions in an article called No Kids Allowed.
Laura Dieckman 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.
Claire Headley 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.
A St. Petersburg Times investigation found their experiences were not unique. More than a dozen women said the culture in the Sea Org pushed them or women they knew to have abortions, in many cases, abortions they did not want.
Some said colleagues and supervisors pressured them to abort their pregnancies and remain productive workers without the distraction of raising children. Terminating a pregnancy and staying on the job affirmed one’s commitment to the all-important work of saving the planet.
Read the full report.
On Monday, they did a follow-up report:
Twenty years ago, when Natalie Hagemo was 19, pregnant and working for the Church of Scientology, she couldn’t wait to be a mother.
She was near the end of her first trimester, she says, when colleagues in Scientology’s military-style religious order, the Sea Organization, began pressuring her to get an abortion.
Two high-ranking officers said terminating the pregnancy would allow her to keep working. They berated her when she said no.
Supervisors told her to hide her expanding belly lest co-workers start thinking it was acceptable to get pregnant. Friends and colleagues shunned her.
Hagemo stood fast and, with her husband at her side, delivered Shelby on Aug. 20, 1990.
Hagemo left the Sea Org but remained an active parishioner and raised her daughter as a Scientologist.
Read the full report.
The St. Pete Times printed Letters to the Editor from Scientologists including this defense of the Organization from Joanie Sigal:
Once again you try to paint an ugly picture of a religious movement that has helped hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of people lead happy and successful lives. So let me address your latest falsehoods.
My experience in Scientology has been incredible.
I have been a member of the Church of Scientology since 1973. I met and married my husband while working for the church. I have raised two sons in the church. They are both practicing Scientologists. They have never taken drugs or abused alcohol. They are ethical and productive members of society. My husband and I have been married 32 years. We are both productive members of society. We both do extensive volunteer work in Clearwater.
THERE IS NO CHURCH POLICY CONCERNING ABORTION. I put that in all caps because I’m not sure that it will come across accurately if I don’t. What’s true about the Church of Scientology is not what any member or former member says. Even what I say is not the truth about the Church of Scientology. What is true is what L. Ron Hubbard wrote or said.
I know countless Scientologists who have children. I know hundreds — if not thousands — of staff members who have children. I know members of the Sea Organization who have raised children within that group.
Therefore your Sunday headline — No kids allowed — is a lie, pure and simple. But it is no less than what I expect from your newspaper.
I thank goodness that there are people in this society who do help others and who take responsibility for their own lives. The people you interviewed obviously don’t do either.
What Joanie leaves out of her bio is that she was the personal assistant of one the ten top Scientology officials who went to prison for Operation Snow White at the time of the espionage scandal. I captured her on tape decades later with Clearwater politicians at the opening of a refurbished alleyway next to Scientology’s property.
And she can be seen hectoring Stacy Brooks about Bob Minton outside a City Council meeting in 2000.