Facebook facilitates prosecution of Nebraska teenager for medication abortion

Self-induced abortion

A 17-year-old girl and her mother were charged with multiple felonies for aborting a stillborn fetus and burying it without alerting authorities.

According to court records, Celeste Burgess and her mother, Jessica Burgess, bought mifepristone and misoprostol to end Celeste’s pregnancy after the state’s legal abortion period of 20 weeks post-fertilization. Celeste and her mother allegedly attempted to burn the stillborn’s body and then buried it.

The state learned the details of the incident through a search warrant served to Meta, Facebook’s parent company, demanding all private data—including DMs—that the company had for the Burgesses. The recovered messages appeared to show Celeste and Jessica talking about taking abortion medication:

Celeste: “Are we starting it today?”

Jessica: “We can if u want the one will stop the hormones”

Celeste: “Ok”

Jessica: “Ya the 1 pill stops the hormones an rehn [sic] u gotta wait 24 HR 2 take the other”

Celeste: “Ok”

Celeste: “Remember we burn the evidence”

Law enforcement then used the Facebook DMs as the basis for a second search warrant to seize electronic devices, including laptops and cellphones, from the Burgess residence.

Jessica is charged with five crimes, including a felony for performing an abortion post-20-weeks fertilization and performing an abortion as an unlicensed doctor. Celeste is charged with three crimes, including a felony for concealing a dead human body.

Religious objections to birth control

A Minnesota jury found that a pharmacist did not discriminate against a woman when he refused her request to fill a prescription for emergency contraception.

Andrea Anderson attempted to obtain an emergency contraception pill in 2019 after her primary birth control method failed. Her doctor sent a prescription to the only pharmacy in her town — McGregor Pharmacy, located about 125 miles from Minneapolis. The pharmacist on duty, George Badeaux, told her that he would be unable to fill her prescription because of his “beliefs” and did not provide her with information on where or how she could get her prescription filled. Badeaux also happens to be a pastor.

Anderson sued, alleging discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act:

The Defendants in this case singled out health care that only people who may become pregnant need—emergency contraception—and refused to provide it. Defendants also tried to prevent Plaintiff from obtaining that care from others by putting delays and obstacles in her path, failing to provide her a reasonable alternative, and in one instance, even apparently deceiving her about where she could obtain care. Plaintiff brings this lawsuit to remedy illegal discrimination based on her sex through denying her service as a result of her pregnancy-related health care needs in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”)…

A jury found last week that Badeaux did not discriminate against Anderson based on her sex, but awarded her $25,000 for emotional harm.

“We are incredibly happy with the jury’s decision. Medical professionals should be free to practice their profession in line with their beliefs,” said Charles Shreffler, Badeaux’s attorney.

“Mr. Badeaux is unable to participate in any procedure that requires him to dispense drugs that have the potential to end human life in the womb. Every American should have the freedom to operate according to their ethical and religious beliefs.”

Badeaux testified that he believes the morning-after pill sought by Anderson, a drug called Ella, has the potential to change a woman’s uterine lining and prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. In his view, that would end a life, he testified.

Pro-choice prosecutor

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended State Attorney Andrew Warren for his decision not to enforce the state’s new 15-week abortion ban or a proposed law banning surgeries for transgender children.

DeSantis claimed at a press conference last week that Warren was neglecting his official duties and was essentially usurping the veto power of a governor by refusing to prosecute those who break laws with which he disagrees.

“State Attorneys have a duty to prosecute crimes as defined in Florida law, not to pick and choose which laws to enforce based on his personal agenda,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “It is my duty to hold Florida’s elected officials to the highest standards for the people of Florida.”

Warren served as the democratically-elected Hillsborough County prosecutor since 2016, when he beat out a Republican incumbent by running on a criminal justice reform platform. His office exonerated a man wrongfully imprisoned for nearly 40 years, declined to prosecute racial justice protesters, and softened a policy on bicycle stops that disproportionately targeted Black people.

His replacement, appointed by DeSantis instead of being elected by the people, Susan Lopez, immediately rescinded many of Warren’s policies: “It is my intention to get this agency back to basics,” Lopez wrote. “The legislature makes the law and we, as prosecutors, enforce it.”