Dedicated to and in loving memory of the two children I lost to Scientology.
And with that, my vision blurs and the tears start flowing all over again.
If there was one super power I’ve ever wished for, it was the ability to turn back time.
That’s not possible and I’ll have to live without that, but I will never forget.
By far, this will be the hardest part for me to write, well, nothing like diving in headfirst.
Show me someone who has emerged unscathed from Scientology and I will show you a skilled liar. I am the first to admit I have plenty of scars from my time in Scientology, I try to embrace them, learn from them, and use them to learn my own strengths and weaknesses. Quite literally – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
But I will say in all sincerity, my experience in Scientology has been that time does not heal all wounds.
One of my personal scars from my childhood is that I have an extremely deep seated fear of my own grief. I never let it out, squashed it till the ends of the earth from the time I was 5 years old. And any time it threatened to surface, the power of it was so intense, so crippling, it threatened to suffocate me. After all, for as long as I can remember, I was indoctrinated to believe grief is a bad thing, a “dramatization”, a plea for sympathy.
I’ll circle back and fill in all the holes, but I felt it important to get this out.
I first learned of Scientology’s practice of forcing women to have abortions shortly after I arrived at Scientology’s headquarters in September 1991(referred to as Int base), located in the middle of nowhere in Hemet California. I was 16 years old.
One’s life at that compound is entirely, 100% controlled. To an outsider in the real world, I’d imagine it might be hard to understand how that could be possible in today’s world.
I’ve never experienced or heard of anything close to the levels of control exerted on staff members at the Hemet headquarters.
I will detail the levels of control. Suffice it to say, at this point, they were extreme.
I knew it was frowned on for Sea Org members to have children, and I was under the impression, before arriving to the Hemet compound, that if a Sea Org member became pregnant, she would be sent off to a lower level organization, not the Sea Org, and would raise her child to the age of 6 and then return to the Sea Org (and the child would enter and become a member of the Cadet org).
However in the first few months of arriving to the base, I learned this was not the case for women there. Instead, if a woman became pregnant, it was considered a statement that she wanted to leave, and the only reason anyone ever wanted to leave, according to scientology policy, is because the person has committed crimes against the organization. Even discussing having children was forbidden.
And any woman who became pregnant (of which there were many) was instantly on a one way path to abortion, whether she wanted that or not. If she resisted, she was instantly segregated from all other staff, spouse included, and sent to the farthest corner of the property, off the beaten path and where general staff would not come into contact with her while she was “handled” to go through with an abortion. This segregation included having a full time security watch, she was required to do heavy manual labor (such as digging ditches) and made to confess her “crimes” in extensive interrogation. And until she agreed and went through with the abortion, she was not allowed to leave the property for any reason whatsoever, she slept in the same far corner of the property and meals were brought there as well. And life would not return to normal after daring to cause so much “trouble”. She’d be carefully watched for months, given a position where she could be carefully watched and this would be an indelible mark on her general history.
I was inwardly horrified. And trapped. I had already come to the realization that joining the Sea Org was a dangerous one way street. I was stuck and I had no way out. I was leveraged by my parents, and by my absolute lack of real world knowledge or education. Not to mention my fear of the world outside, ingrained in me since I was 4 years old.
I had thoroughly learned the lesson that, in the world of scientology, one follows the path of least resistance, preferably unquestioning, and that anything else carries severe consequences.
I decided I would never have an abortion, never. Which meant I must make sure I never, never, never became pregnant. I have always wanted children, loved children and I knew if I ever wound up in that position, it would, quite simply, destroy me.
Marc and I married in August 1992, I was 17 and Marc was 19.
Before we married, I had a phone call with my mother. The call was monitored, meaning another staff member was present and listening to the conversation. In this call, my mother asked me if Marc and I had discussed if we wanted to have children. I had not been at the base one year by that time, and already this simple question from my mother made me realize we were worlds apart. I could not explain to her that we were not allowed to discuss it, nor that any woman who became pregnant was forced to go through with an abortion, so I avoided her question. This became a repeating pattern with my mother, and she soon came to realize I could not tell her one single thing about my life at the Hemet compound. It was strictly forbidden, as were so many other things. She knew absolutely nothing of my work and life, and she wasn’t even allowed to know where the compound was located, so she had no idea where I was.
Fast forward to early 1994. We had not been paid anything for several months, and I had no money to buy birth control.
Well, soon enough, despite great efforts on my part, the day came where I realized I’d missed my period.
I was 19 at this point.
I cannot begin to describe the torrent of emotions I went through, it was such an extreme clash of contradictory feelings.
But the primary emotion that emerged was simply and only fear.
I knew the first thing I had to do was establish if I was pregnant, which meant I had to go and ask the medical officer to buy me a pregnancy test. After all, the only access I had to buy something I needed was from the “canteen” that was on the property. A small store manned by Sea Org members where you could buy basic necessities such as toothpaste, laundry detergent, deodorant, and other items such as snacks and cigarettes. Pregnancy tests were not stocked.
And I knew that, simply by telling them I needed a pregnancy test, I would have hit the radar and, all of a sudden, my every move would be watched under a magnifying glass.
I thought of telling Marc, but I knew that if I talked to him first, we would both be in serious trouble for “discussing leaving”.
So I had no other option than to go and ask for the test.
The medical officer, Cynthia Rathbun called me to her office as soon as she had the test ready for me.
It was truly daunting to experience the well-oiled machine that instantly rolled out and went into play.
She instructed me to go and do the test and bring it back to her.
Sure enough, it was positive. I was pregnant, in the exact position I had sworn to myself I would avoid at all costs.
Cynthia told me she would arrange to take me to the Riverside Planned Parenthood clinic in Riverside. She went so far as to tell me that an abortion was “no big deal”, a simple procedure that meant nothing.
I was shriveling up inside, mortified, and every ounce of my being was screaming for an escape, and yet I was crippled into silence. I had never, in my 15 years in scientology at that point, dared to cause trouble or say anything other than “yes sir, no sir” and somehow, when I needed courage the most, it failed me completely.
And so it was that I found myself being “groomed” for my trip to the clinic.
Cynthia proceeded with her “briefing”. I was to tell them I wanted an abortion. If they asked if I wanted to discuss it with anyone, I was to say no. If they asked if I wanted to see a psychologist, I was to say no. A staff member from the compound would be my escort, drive me to the clinic and wait for me in the waiting room while I went through with my appointment.
The appointment was scheduled.
For any trip off the property, written approval from at least 5 different people was required. So now I had to present written explanation of why I needed to go to a doctor’s appointment.
And every, single step of this process was grating my soul like a slow, cruel form of unimaginable torture.
And at no point in this process was any “discussion” with Marc allowed. I didn’t want him to get in trouble, and I didn’t want to cause him trouble, so, like a good little android, I did as I was told. I gave him the one sentence explanation that I was pregnant and that the medical staff were arranging for me to have an abortion.
And with every step of this, my heart was breaking into millions of pieces.