Internet Law

Mom is charged with aiding daughter's illegal abortion after prosecution obtains Facebook messages

  • Print

abortion pills and gavel

Image from Shutterstock.

A Nebraska woman has been charged with performing or attempting an illegal abortion after prosecutors obtained Facebook messages indicating that she had obtained abortion pills for her daughter and then helped bury the fetus.

Jessica Burgess, 41, of Norfolk, Nebraska, was charged for her alleged participation in the abortion, said to have happened after more than 23 weeks of her 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy. Nebraska law bans abortions after 20 weeks.

Publications with coverage include the Lincoln Journal Star, the Associated Press, NBC News and Vice.

Burgess was also charged with performing an abortion as a nonlicensed doctor. She and her daughter, Celeste Burgess, also face three charges relating to their alleged burning and burial of the fetus. Those charges are concealing or abandoning a dead human body, concealing the death of another person and false reporting. Police say the mother and daughter falsely said the fetus was stillborn, and the miscarriage was unexpected.

Celeste Burgess is now 18 and is being tried as an adult.

Police began investigating in April, before Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The 20-week abortion ban in Nebraska had been enacted in 2010 but had not been enforced at the time. The investigation began because of a tip about the buried fetus.

After initially charging the women in connection with the buried fetus, police served a warrant on Facebook for the messages. A spokesperson for Facebook’s parent company, Meta, said in a statement nothing in the warrants received by the company concerned abortion, according to the Associated Press, NBC News and Vice.

“The warrants concerned charges related to a criminal investigation and court documents indicate that police at the time were investigating the case of a stillborn baby who was burned and buried, not a decision to have an abortion,” said the spokesperson, Andy Stone.

Both warrants were subject to nondisclosure orders that have since been lifted.

Police also got a warrant to seize cellphones and laptops belonging to the mother and daughter.

In the Facebook messages, Celeste and Jessica Burgess discussed exchanging some pills and how the daughter should take the second pill 24 hours after the first pill, according to a police officer’s affidavit. Celeste Burgess allegedly talked about how she couldn’t wait to get the “thing” out of her body and confirmed that they would burn the evidence, the affidavit says.

Hat tip to How Appealing, which linked to news coverage.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.