As the battle over abortion rights rages on, Nebraska Democrats claim that Republicans want to put women in jail. Now, they have at least one case to back up those claims. Here is the full story.
Abortion Pills in Her Third Trimester
“I will finally be able to wear jeans.” Those words, sent from a Nebraska daughter to her mother through Facebook Messenger, were at the crux of a recent case that landed both women in jail.
Back in the spring of 2022, Jessica Burgess, now 42, ordered abortion pills online for her pregnant teenage daughter.
The mother then took to Messenger to send instructions to Celeste, now 19, about how to take the pills to end her unwanted pregnancy.
At the time, Celeste was already in her third trimester. What the women had in mind was a violation of the Nebraska law that banned abortion after 20 weeks.
She Burned the Remains
But mother and daughter didn’t stop at just aborting the fetus.
In a move that authorities later said proved the women knew they were breaking the law, the women burned the aborted fetus and tried to bury the remains.
And it seems the two women weren’t the only ones who knew what they were up to. Someone tipped off local police, who launched an investigation into the case.
That investigation led to both women being prosecuted for abortion-related crimes, and it all came to a head this summer.
In June, Celeste was sentenced to 90 days in jail after a judge found her guilty of burning and burying a human fetus.
She was released on September 11 but will spend the next two years on probation.
Jessica, meanwhile, will spend the entire period of her daughter’s extended sentence in prison.
On September 22, Madison County District Judge Mark Johnson sentenced the elder Burgess to one year in prison for each of three counts.
The jail terms for tampering with human remains and falsifying information will run concurrently, so the overall two-year sentence collapses to one.
But Johnson made a point of singling out the abortion charge by tacking that year onto the end of the other combined sentences.
Her Would-Be Grandchild Treated Like “Yesterday’s Trash.”
In handing down the sentence, the judge also scolded Jessica Burgess for treating the fetus of her would-be grandchild like “yesterday’s trash.”
“Our society expects more; it demands more,” Johnson added.
And it’s that sentiment that Democrats worry about as state politicians continue to wrangle over abortion laws more than a year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Republicans failed on their first try to pass a ban on abortions after the 6-week mark. But they got a 12-week ban passed by tacking it onto another bill that bans hormone therapy for trans youth.
Republican-Led Abortion Bans
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a motion to have that new law overturned on the grounds it violates Nebraska’s constitution.
The ACLU argues that all legislative movements in the state are required to focus on one topic.
In the meantime, politicians opposed to Republican-led abortion bans point to the Burgess case as proof that women will end up in jail if conservatives get their way.
And now, mother and daughter are evidence that’s exactly what will happen.
And neither side seems above using them as evidence to support their case.
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