Nebraska Teen Gets 90 Days in Jail Over Abortion

Prosecutors say mom helped her daughter end pregnancy at 24 weeks' gestation
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 10, 2022 2:00 AM CDT
Updated Jul 21, 2023 1:00 AM CDT
Nebraska Woman Charged With Helping Daughter Have Abortion
Protesters line the street around the front of the Nebraska State Capitol during an Abortion Rights Rally held on July 4, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb.   (Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star via AP, File)
UPDATE Jul 21, 2023 1:00 AM CDT

Celeste Burgess, the Nebraska teen who was charged after authorities said she and her mother conspired to terminate her 24-week gestation pregnancy with abortion pills last year, was on Thursday sentenced to 90 days in jail and two years of probation. Burgess, now 19, had pleaded guilty to illegally concealing human remains, the New York Times reports. Her mother, Jessica Burgess, now 42, pleaded guilty this month to violating Nebraska's abortion law, furnishing false information to a law enforcement officer, and removing or concealing human skeletal remains. She'll be sentenced in September and could get up to five years behind bars.

Aug 10, 2022 2:00 AM CDT

A Nebraska woman has been charged with helping her teenage daughter end her pregnancy at about 24 weeks after investigators uncovered Facebook messages in which the two discussed using medication to induce an abortion and plans to burn the fetus afterward, the AP reports. The prosecutor handling the case said it's the first time he has charged anyone for illegally performing an abortion after 20 weeks, a restriction that was passed in 2010. Before the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, states weren't allowed to enforce abortion bans until the point at which a fetus is considered viable outside the womb, at roughly 24 weeks.

In one of the Facebook messages, Jessica Burgess, 41, tells her then 17-year-old daughter that she has obtained abortion pills for her and gives her instructions on how to take them to end the pregnancy. The daughter, meanwhile, "talks about how she can't wait to get the 'thing' out of her body," a detective wrote in court documents. "I will finally be able to wear jeans," she says in one of the messages. Law enforcement authorities obtained the messages with a search warrant, and detailed some of them in court documents. When first interviewed, the two told investigators that the teen had unexpectedly given birth to a stillborn baby in the shower in the early morning hours of April 22. They said they put the fetus in a bag, placed it in a box in the back of their van, and later drove several miles north of town, where they buried the body with the help of a 22-year-old man.

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In early June, the mother and daughter were only charged with a single felony for removing, concealing, or abandoning a body, and two misdemeanors: concealing the death of another person and false reporting. It wasn't until about a month later, after investigators reviewed the private Facebook messages, that they added the felony abortion-related charges against the mother. The daughter, who is now 18, is being charged as an adult at prosecutors' request. The 22-year-old man has pleaded no contest to helping bury the fetus on rural land his parents own north of Norfolk in northeast Nebraska. He's set to be sentenced later this month.

(More abortion stories.)

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