Teen Prosecuted For Having an Abortion After Facebook Turns Over Her Messages
Nebraska teen and her mother charged with aborting a fetus and burying it after Facebook complies with a subpoena for her direct messages.
A Nebraska teenager is facing criminal charges alleging she aborted a fetus in violation of state law, after authorities obtained her Facebook messages using a search warrant. Seventeen-year-old Celeste Burgess, who is being tried as an adult along with her mother Jessica Burgess, is awaiting trial in Madison County District Court on charges that they broke a Nebraska law banning abortions after 20 weeks.
This marks one of the first instances of a person’s Facebook activity being used to incriminate her in a state where abortion access is restricted — a scenario that has remained largely hypothetical in the weeks following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Nebraska currently outlaws abortions beyond 20 weeks. On Monday, Republican lawmakers in the state failed to secure enough votes to decrease that window to 12 weeks.
Celeste and her mother were charged in July with allegedly removing, concealing or abandoning a dead human body and concealing the death of another person after the Norfolk Police Department received a tip claiming Celeste had miscarried in April at 23 weeks of pregnancy and secretly buried the fetus with her mother's help.
While Celeste told police that she had suffered a miscarriage, they continued to investigate, serving Facebook with a search warrant to access Celeste and Jessica’s Facebook accounts. They subsequently found messages between the mother and daughter allegedly detailing how Celeste had undergone a self-managed abortion with Jessica’s help. There are four states that ban abortion at 24 weeks, and more than a dozen that broadly ban it at the start of fetal viability.
Andy Stone, a Policy Communications Director at Facebook, acknowledged a request for comment but said he could not immediately confirm any details about the incident.
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