LOS ANGELES, July 10, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – While hopes that a drawn-out divorce process between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes could serve to expose the darker side of the Scientology cult are dashed amidst reports that the couple has come to an agreement, yet another former member of the Church of Scientology has stepped forward to describe her nightmarish life inside a cult she says heavily pressured women to abort their children.
At age 14, Astra Woodcraft pledged one billion years of service to Sea Organization (or “Sea Org”), a religious order within Scientology. Its members say in exchange for a tiny room and three meals of beans and rice a day they were forced to work long hours, deprived of sleep, isolated from outside influences, and subjected to emotional and sometimes physical abuse.
One year later she married a 21-year-old believer in Scientology. Soon she became pregnant. That’s when she said the harassment began.
“You were just expected to have an abortion,” Woodcraft said. “They tried to coerce you.”
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She chose motherhood over the faith of L. Ron Hubbard. When she told a Sea Org member, she says he replied, “Oh, too late for an abortion?”
Years later she vividly remembers receiving numerous telephone calls from her mother, also a Scientologist, trying to convince her to abort her unborn granddaughter.
Woodcraft, now 33, is the mother of Kate, 13. Her husband has cut off all contact with the two.
Sadly, Woodcraft’s story matches that of many others.
In 2010, the St. Petersburg Times revealed more than a dozen Scientologists who say they were forced into an abortion by the religion.
“I was pounded for two days by the top person in my organization ... about how the baby wasn’t a baby yet, it was just tissue and it wouldn’t matter if I aborted the baby,” said Laura Diekman, who adopted Scientology at age 12.
Former Scientologist Natalie Hagemo kept her daughter despite what she described as heavy pressure to abort.
She tells her now-21-year-old daughter, Shelby, “I look at you and I think how many more like you there could have been. And I think about the moms and the dads who had to go through that. And for what?”
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Those interviewed said the religion pressures them by selectively citing the eight “dynamics” it teaches make up a balanced life, suggesting that having a family is a selfish act that prevents them from working for the church’s propagation.
Marty Rathbun, the former second-in-command in the church, had said Katie Holmes’ divorce from Tom Cruise – reportedly because Cruise wanted to send their daughter, Suri, to the church’s headquarters in Clearwater, Florida – could “blow Scientology wide open.”
The publicity over the divorce has put the secretive organization in an unfriendly public spotlight. The day before Woodcraft’s story was published, Kelly Hiatt exposed the intense pressure in the religion’s initiation process, which she went through at its headquarters in Clearwater.
Other media outlets have drawn attention to the unusual relationship the church has cultivated with the Nation of Islam. Its leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, recently said, “All white people should flock to L. Ron Hubbard. You can still be a Christian; you just won’t be a devil Christian.”
As the TomKat divorce fades from view, former members of the group are reaching out, saying help is available. Woodcraft founded the website ExScientologyKids.com to help others tell their story and find hope.