Nebraska Woman Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Providing Abortion Pills to Teenage Daughter
In a shocking case that has sparked debate about the potential consequences of the recent Roe v. Wade ruling, a Nebraska woman has been sentenced to two years in prison for obtaining abortion pills for her teenage daughter. Jessica Burgess, 42, pleaded guilty to violating Nebraska’s abortion law, furnishing false information to a law enforcement officer, and removing or concealing human skeletal remains.
The incident came to light when police discovered private Facebook messages between Burgess and her daughter, Celeste Burgess, outlining their plans to end the pregnancy and “burn the evidence.” Prosecutors revealed that Jessica Burgess had ordered the pills online and provided them to her daughter, who was 17 years old and in the third trimester of her pregnancy at the time. The fetal remains were later buried, according to authorities.
Celeste Burgess, who pleaded guilty to removing or concealing human skeletal remains, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and two years of probation in July. Her mother faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison but ultimately received a two-year sentence, with her terms for false reporting and removal of skeletal remains running concurrently.
During the sentencing hearing, Jessica Burgess’s lawyer, Brad Ewalt, requested probation for his client. However, Judge Mark A. Johnson of Madison County District Court denied the request, emphasizing that Burgess had treated the fetal remains “like yesterday’s trash.” The emotional courtroom scene saw Celeste Burgess, who had been released from jail in September, wiping away tears as her mother’s sentence was announced.
Both Ewalt and the Madison County prosecutor declined to comment on the case. The investigation into the Burgesses began before the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022, raising concerns about potential repercussions for those seeking abortions in the post-Roe era. This case has also highlighted the use of private communications as evidence against individuals involved in terminating pregnancies.
The police investigation began in late April 2022, when authorities in Norfolk, Nebraska, looked into allegations of a 17-year-old girl prematurely giving birth to a stillborn baby and its subsequent burial. At that time, Nebraska banned abortions after 20 weeks from conception. In May, Governor Jim Pillen signed into law a 12-week ban.
Initially facing charges of concealing a stillbirth, the Burgesses attracted further scrutiny when detectives asked Celeste Burgess for the precise date her pregnancy ended. Upon noting that she needed to check her Facebook messages for confirmation, a warrant was obtained to access the messages exchanged between her and her mother. Facebook’s parent company, Meta, complied with the warrant, leading to the discovery of evidence suggesting a medically induced abortion and the filing of additional charges.
The case of Jessica Burgess and her daughter has ignited a discussion about the potential consequences for individuals seeking abortions and those who assist them in the aftermath of the Roe v. Wade reversal. As this controversial issue continues to unfold, it raises questions about the complexities surrounding reproductive rights and the limits of personal privacy.