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Facebook messages trigger charges for Nebraska mother accused of helping daughter have abortion

A Nebraska mother accused of obtaining an abortion pill for her daughter and then helping her burn and bury the fetus was hit with felony charges after investigators obtained Facebook messages detailing their plan to end the teen’s pregnancy.

The social media interactions between 41-year-old Jessica Burgess and her daughter were turned over to authorities back in June. Detectives questioning the pair requested a warrant for their private conversations after the teen used them to confirm the date of her stillbirth. At the time, the women were only charged with a single felony for removing, concealing or abandoning a body, and two misdemeanors, concealing the death of another person and false reporting.

They initially told investigators the teen, 17 at the time, had unexpectedly given birth to a stillborn baby in the shower early the morning of April 22. The pair said from there, they put the fetus in a bag and then inside a box in the back of their van, and later drove several miles outside of town, where they buried the body with the help of a 22-year-old man.

The mother and daughter’s exchange on Facebook tell a bit of a different story, though. In one of the messages, Burgess tells her daughter that she obtained abortion pills and then goes on to explain how to take them and end her pregnancy. The daughter, meanwhile, “talks about how she can’t wait to get the ‘thing’ out of her body,” a according to court documents.

“I will finally be able to wear jeans,” she says in one of the messages.

In another exchange, they discuss their plans to “burn the evidence afterward.”

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While the alleged abortion occurred before the U.S. supreme court in June overturned Roe v. Wade — essentially stripping away constitutional protections for the procedure — it’s illegal in Nebraska to abort a fetus after 20 weeks, a restriction that was passed in 2010. Prior to Roe’s reversal however, states weren’t allowed to enforce bans until the point at which a fetus is considered viable outside the womb, at roughly 24 weeks.

Based on medical records, the fetus was more than 23 weeks old.

In July, authorities charged Burgess with additional felonies for performing or attempting an abortion on a pregnancy that is past 20 weeks and for performing an abortion as a non-licensed doctor. Her daughter, who is also facing charges, is set to be tried as an adult.

The prosecutor handling the case said it’s the first time he has charged anyone for illegally performing an abortion.

Both women were released on bail are are awaiting trial in Madison County.

The man who helped bury the fetus has also pleaded no contest and is set to be sentenced later this month. He has not been identified.

With News Wire Services

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