Nebraska Mother Sentenced To Two Years In Prison For Giving Daughter Abortion Pills


Jessica Burgess, a Nebraska mother accused of helping her teenage daughter use pills to end her pregnancy, was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday.

Burgess and her daughter, Celeste Burgess, stand accused of working together to end Celeste Burgess’s pregnancy in April 2022.

According to prosecutors, Celeste Burgess gave birth to a stillborn fetus after the pair bought pills to end the pregnancy. At the time, Nebraska law banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. According to court records, Celeste Burgess’s pregnancy was well past that point.

Police say that the Burgesses buried the fetal remains. According to court documents, an examination of the remains suggested they may have also been burned.

Jessica Burgess pleaded guilty in July to charges of false reporting, providing an abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, and concealing, removing, or abandoning a dead human body. She was sentenced to one year in prison for each charge, but the sentences for false reporting and tampering with human remains will run concurrently, with the sentence for the illegal abortion to be served consecutively with the sentences for the other charges, a spokesperson for the Madison county courthouse said.

Celeste Burgess also took a plea deal and was sentenced to 90 days for concealing or abandoning a dead body earlier this year.

Although the case occurred before the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, it has been seen as a harbinger of how law enforcement may prosecute people for ending their own pregnancies in a post-Roe era – and how giant tech companies could go along with it.

Court documents in the case revealed that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, supplied police with the private Facebook messages that Celeste and Jessica Burgess had sent one another. In one message, Celeste told Jessica: “Remember, we burn the evidence.”

Although most states do not ban people from inducing their own pregnancies – abortion bans typically penalize abortion providers, not patients – abortion rights advocates have long warned that if a prosecutor wants to target someone for a self-managed abortion, they will find a statute that is elastic enough to do so.

Celeste Burgess was released from Madison County jail earlier this month after serving a little more than half of her 90-day sentence, local Nebraska news outlet KTIV reported. At her sentencing, Celeste Burgess said that her family could not have afforded a funeral for fetal remains, according to Courthouse News. (In a financial affidavit obtained by Vice, Jessica Burgess said she had $400 to her name.) Celeste Burgess also reportedly deals with multiple mental health issues and became pregnant due to an abusive relationship.

Jessica Burgess was set to undergo a court-ordered psychological evaluation before her sentencing. However, the evaluation was canceled due to a lack of funding, according to KTIV.

Nebraska law now bans almost all abortions past 12 weeks of pregnancy.