The investigations began in late April before the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June when there were concerns over Jessica and Celeste Burgess, a mother and daughter from Omaha, Nebraska and their premature delivery of a stillborn fetus. In June, they faced one charge of a felony for removing, concealing and abandoning a body after a self-medicated abortion. The investigation continued into July after the two were initially charged. Law enforcement managed to obtain exchanges between them on Facebook with a search warrant.
In the Facebook exchange, Jessica Burgess gives her then 17-year-old daughter instructions on how to take the abortion pills that she has managed to obtain. According to court documents written by a detective, the daughter expresses "how she cannot wait to get the 'thing' out of her body" and her excitement in finally being able to wear jeans."
According to National Public Radio, upon discovering and reviewing the texts a month after their initial charges, investigators added abortion-related charges against the mother. The now 18-year-old is also being charged as an adult at the request of her prosecutors.
When the pair were first interviewed, they explained that Celeste had given birth to a stillborn, placing the fetus in a bag before driving a van to the north of town, then burying the body with the help of a 22-year-old man.
The man's identity has not been revealed due to him being charged with only a misdemeanour, pleading no contest to assisting the pair in burying the fetus.
According to court documents, the detective claimed that there were signs of "thermal wounds" on the fetus. The man confirmed this by explaining that the mother and daughter did burn the fetus and confirmed in their Facebook exchange that they would "burn the evidence afterwards." According to medical records, the fetus was more than 23 weeks old and later admitted to buying abortion pills "to instigate a miscarriage."
The story brought to light two separate issues that have been of rising concern. First, many were concerned over the two-faced charges and what it would mean for others wanting to undergo abortions after the overturn of Roe v Wade. Others were worried about the increasing cyber insecurity and law enforcement's use of personal data to incriminate individuals.
Meta has not commented on the case but released a statement claiming, "We received valid legal warrants from local law enforcement on June 7, before the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The warrants did not mention abortion at all." However, Meta has also failed to explain whether the case would have been handled differently if the company knew the case involved an investigation into an illegal abortion.
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