The case of Celeste Burgess, a Nebraska teenager who took abortion pills to end her pregnancy and disposed of the fetus with her mother’s help, has resulted in a 90-day prison sentence for the teenager and a potential five-year prison sentence for her mother.
Burgess pleaded guilty to illegally concealing human remains after having an abortion when she was approximately 28 weeks pregnant, which was beyond the 20-week limit set by Nebraska law at the time.
Her mother, Jessica Burgess, faces charges for helping her daughter in the illegal abortion procedure. The investigation into the mother and daughter began in June 2022, before the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to abortion and allowed states to determine their own abortion regulations. At that time, Nebraska had banned abortions after 20 weeks of conception. Subsequently, Nebraska lawmakers passed a stricter abortion ban at 12 weeks after conception.
According to court documents, Celeste Burgess was in her third trimester when she consumed the abortion pills, making the procedure illegal under Nebraska law. Initially, she told authorities that she had delivered a stillborn fetus, but later, evidence showed that she had taken abortion pills and discussed how to dispose of the evidence in Facebook messages with her mother.
In May, Celeste Burgess pleaded guilty to a felony charge of removing or concealing human skeletal remains. Two other misdemeanor charges against her were dropped. She will serve three months in jail and face two years of probation. Her mother has pleaded guilty to providing an illegal abortion, making false statements to authorities, and tampering with human skeletal remains. Her sentencing is scheduled for September.
The case has garnered attention from abortion advocates as several states have restricted abortion access following the 2022 Supreme Court ruling. Late-term abortions are relatively rare, with the majority of abortions happening before the 13th week of pregnancy, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.