As states continue to discuss and enact restrictions on abortion access, campaigners are keenly monitoring the case of an 18-year-old woman from northeastern Nebraska sentenced to 90 days in jail and two years of probation for her role in an illegal abortion.
Celeste Burgess, of Norfolk, was charged with concealing or abandoning a dead body after burning and burying the fetus she aborted with her mother’s assistance.
The case highlights the complexities surrounding abortion rights and the legal implications for those involved.
Burgess and her mother, Jessica Burgess, aged 42, allegedly collaborated to terminate the pregnancy well into the third trimester, a violation of Nebraska law that banned abortions after 20 weeks of gestation.
According to reports, in the spring of 2022, Jessica Burgess placed an online order for abortion pills and gave them to her daughter, then 17 years old.
Celeste Burgess pleaded guilty to concealing or abandoning a dead body, while two other misdemeanor charges were dropped as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
During the sentencing, the judge’s order emphasized the need for both probation and confinement.
Punishment and Context in an Illegal Abortion Case
The court deemed probation appropriate but recognized that confinement was necessary to underscore the gravity of the crime and uphold respect for the law.
The case raises questions about the balance between punitive measures and understanding the broader context of the circumstances surrounding illegal abortion.
The Norfolk police initiated an investigation into the abortion following a tip, leading to the discovery of Facebook messages between the mother and daughter.
Prosecutors assert that these messages contained discussions about ending the pregnancy and disposing of the evidence.
The charred fetal remains were later discovered by the police buried in a field north of Norfolk.
The messages revealed Jessica Burgess instructing her daughter on how to take abortion pills, while Celeste Burgess expressed relief about being able to wear jeans after the procedure.
The case comes at a crucial juncture in the national debate on abortion rights.
With the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, state lawmakers are increasingly enacting restrictions on abortion access, leading to heated discussions and legal challenges.
In Nebraska, lawmakers’ attempts to pass restrictive abortion bills have drawn attention, with opponents arguing that such measures could result in criminal penalties for women seeking abortions.
Nebraska’s efforts to impose a six-week abortion ban and restrict gender-affirming care for transgender youth have been met with opposition.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed lawsuits to overturn these measures, claiming that the legislation violates a constitutional requirement that bills should remain focused on a single subject.