Nebraska resident Jessica Burgess has been sentenced to two years in prison after purchasing abortion pills for her teenage daughter and assisting in burying the fetal remains. The sentencing took place on Friday, without a court-ordered psychological evaluation that was previously requested by the judge. Burgess had faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison but could be released in a year with good behavior.
Burgess pleaded guilty in July to charges of tampering with human remains, false reporting, and abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation. In exchange, prosecutors dropped two additional charges of concealing the death of another person and abortion by someone other than a licensed physician.
Advocates express concerns that such cases, criminalizing individuals seeking abortion and those who assist them, may become more prevalent as state abortion bans continue to be implemented. While self-managed abortion is explicitly banned only in Nevada, prosecutors can charge individuals for self-managed abortion, miscarriage, and stillbirth under existing laws.
The case dates back to April 2022 when Burgess allegedly purchased abortion pills for her 17-year-old daughter, Celeste, who gave birth to a stillborn fetus estimated to be 29 weeks’ gestation. The remains were subsequently burned and buried with the assistance of another individual. Prosecutors obtained text messages between Burgess and Celeste, discussing the termination of the pregnancy with pills.
Critics argue that prosecutors are stretching laws beyond their intended scope to criminalize what they perceive as immoral behavior. They believe that the focus should be on the broader issue of criminalizing abortion and stillbirth, rather than getting caught up in debates about gestational age.
The case of Burgess and Celeste is not an isolated incident. In 2012, a Pennsylvania mother was sentenced to jail time for helping her teenage daughter obtain abortion pills. Republican politicians have indicated their intention to target individuals seeking abortions, regardless of whether they seek medical care or self-manage the procedure.
The charges against Burgess and Celeste have raised concerns among advocates, who argue that no one should fear punishment for supporting a loved one in making decisions about their own bodies. They believe that such cases deepen the climate of fear and confusion surrounding abortion access.
In conclusion, Jessica Burgess has been sentenced to two years in prison for her involvement in assisting her daughter’s abortion and burying the fetal remains. The case highlights the ongoing debate surrounding the criminalization of abortion and stillbirth, as well as the potential consequences for those who provide support in such situations.