A Nebraska teenager was sentenced this week for violating the state's abortion ban after Facebook turned over her private messages between herself and her mother, taking a plea deal for 90 days in jail, and if this isn't exactly what reproductive rights advocates have been warning about for years now, it's definitely the new reality of how having a womb of child-bearing age is now probable cause for law enforcement.
Police in Norfolk, Nebraska went to great lengths to build a case against the teen and her mother, seeking both her medical records — to determine how far along her pregnancy was — and private Facebook messages exchanged between the two.
Nebraska currently bans abortion at 12 weeks gestation; at the time, in April 2022, Nebraska law prohibited abortions after 20 weeks. Telemedicine abortions are also prohibited by Nebraska law. (The FDA has approved Mifepristone and Misoprostol to end pregnancies up to 10 weeks.)
According to messages that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, turned over to police in Nebraska, the teenager spoke about being anxious to end the pregnancy and worried about “evidence” of her illegal abortion being discovered. Burgess admitted to police that she miscarried after taking the pills and, with the help of her mother and a third person, burned and buried the remains.
At the sentencing hearing on Thursday, Burgess told the judge that her family would not have been able to afford a proper cremation or burial, “financial-wise.”
“I wanted to do the right thing, but I didn’t know if what I was doing at the time was the right thing,” the 19-year-old said. “I do regret my decisions very much.”
In addition to 90 days in jail — she had faced up to two years — Celeste Burgess was sentenced to two years probation.
The teenager's mother is facing years in jail after pleading guilty earlier this year in helping her daughter.
Jessica Burgess has pleaded guilty to three charges: Providing an abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, false reporting and tampering with human skeletal remains. It is the first time that anyone has been charged with illegally performing an abortion after 20 weeks in Nebraska, the county prosecutor said. She is scheduled to be sentenced in September.
Putting thousands in jail is the point, folks. They want people to see having a womb means reproduction, and never sex for any other reason, something that has to be controlled and regulated under pain of the carceral state. The message is "If you have sex for any reason other than to reproduce along with a male, there are consequences up to and including prison time."
And sometimes, that choice is made by others. That's the real message. You don't own your own body. Men do. "Maybe you should settle, ladies."
Again, the GOP plan to end of the civil rights era doesn't mean we're going back to the 1950's just on issues of race, folks.