A woman is suing the Church of Scientology, claiming the organization forced to have an abortion when she just 17 years old. Laura DeCrescenzo says she signed one of the organization’s notorious“billion-year contracts” in 1991, when she was 12 years old. She alleges she was forced to abort while part of the “Sea Org,” Scientology’s high level, secretive group of member-employees.

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An L.A. Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that DeCrescenzo’s lawsuit may proceed to trial. She originally filed suit in 2009, but Scientology’s lawyers managed to delay it from entering the trial phase until now.

In the complaint, which we saw via LAist, DeCrescenzo says she was “recruited” into the church at six or seven years old, along with her family, then moved to Los Angeles at 12 to work for the Sea Org. She accuses the Church of illegally allowing her to work in the Sea Org in violation of child labor laws, and says that when she became pregnant, they forced her to abort by threatening to separate her from her husband and saddle her with bogus debt:

DeCrescenzo says in the complaint that she had the abortion in 1996. She told the Village Voice in 2012 that during depositions, Scientology attorneys tried to get her to say she “chose” to abort, a characterization she strongly disputes:

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When she gave an answer about having a forced abortion, for example, she says one of the church attorneys began his next question by saying, “So, when you made the decision to have an abortion rather than leave...”

“I had to stop him. ‘No, I was forced to have an abortion.’ So we ended up going back and forth arguing about that,” she says.

“I think my case is too unbelievable for most people to grasp,” she adds. “It’s almost too unbelievable for me. The fact that I started in the Sea Org at 12 and all that happened, it’s just incredible.”

The complaint says that DeCrescenzo couldn’t reasonably have sued earlier because she was “brainwashed” by the organization. She left the Sea Org in 2004, testifying that she spent time in the RPF, the Sea Org’s alleged prison program for disobedient members, and that she only escaped by swallowing bleach in an attempt to convince her superiors she was suicidal.

DeCrescenzo left Scientology altogether four years later. She’s suing for false imprisonment, emotional distress, illegal violations of wage and hour laws, and forced abortion. A trial date hasn’t been set. Bert Deixler, an attorney for the Church, told OC Weekly the suit was wrongly involving civil courts in the internal affairs of a religious organization.


The Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International, Los Angeles. Photo via AP